Sounders on Campus: Henry Wingo, Washington roll into NCAA tourney Sweet 16

SEATTLE -  The University of Washington booked its placed in the Round of 16 in the NCAA Tournament on Sunday night with a resounding 4-1 win over New Mexico.

After falling behind on a goal in the 22nd minute, the Huskies battled back to level the score just seven minutes later before adding three more after the interval.

A pair of Sounders Academy alumni, Handwalla Bwana and Henry Wingo, manned the wide positions in a 4-4-2 formation that enabled the Huskies to maintain possession for a majority of the match.

Washington’s dominance paid off in the 29th minute. Senior Justin Schmidt whipped an in-swinger with his left foot that sailed over the head of the Lobos goalkeeper and curled into the goal at the far post.

While Wingo had a quiet first half, Bwana spent a majority of the opening 45 minutes popping up all over the final third and taking on defenders. He forced the Lobos ‘keeper into a fine save in the 20th minute and gave his marker a headache with his close control and ability to ghost past defenders.

Normally a dominant central midfielder, Wingo lined up out on the right. The tactical change paid dividends as he beat defenders at will on the dribble.

“I’m very comfortable playing inside or out wide,” Wingo said after the match. “I haven’t played there since freshman year for the most part, but I’ve been practicing there every day [this past week].”

One minute into the second period, Wingo handed the Huskies a deserved lead with a brilliant pass from the right flank. A perfectly timed run saw him latch onto a through ball before curling a cross on the floor behind the Lobos back line for an easy tap in from forward Scott Menzies.

“We didn’t even want halftime to come,” said Wingo. “We were just so excited to get back on the field and keep the momentum going. I think everybody was just confident and we knew we were going to score.”

Just 60 seconds later, the Shoreline native nearly set up a third when his no-look slipped pass in transition put forward Elijah Rice through on goal, but his chipped shot skipped narrowly wide of the far post.

In his first college season, Bwana has drawn plenty of praise for his passing and creativity on the ball. However, his clever movement off the ball has flown under the radar. In fact, his decoy run in the 57th minute forced a New Mexico defender to drop and cover him, which created the space for Rice to shoot from the top of the box for the Huskies’ third goal.

Redshirt junior Beau Blanchard came off the bench to wrap up the scoring with a fantastic solo effort. A former teammate of Sounders FC striker Jordan Morris at Eastside FC, Blanchard skipped between two defenders and drove into the box before curling a shot beyond the outstretched Lobos goalkeeper.

“We have the most talented group in the nation probably,” said Bwana. “But the difference for us is the work rate. We just work and work.”

That blend of ability and effort will be tested in the next round when the Huskies will take on an undefeated Denver University side. Bwana and Wingo will face off against fellow Sounders Academy products contains three Sounders Academy in forward Ryan Schaefer, center back Tobi Jnohope and left back Tosh Samkange. 

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