The past month has been surreal for Sounders FC forward Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez.
Ocampo-Chavez, 17, won the Golden Boot as the Sounders Academy U-17s became the first-ever MLS side to win the Generation adidas Cup Champions Division, defeating global development powerhouses like River Plate, Flamengo, West Ham United and Valencia CF. Eight days later, the kid from Merced, Calif., inked a Homegrown Contract with the Sounders First Team. And last week, he helped guide the United States U-17 Men’s National Team to a second-place finish at the 2019 Concacaf Championship, tallying four goals and one assist as the Stars and Stripes secured qualification for the 2019 U-17 World Cup in Brazil.
Leyva (left) and Ocampo-Chavez (right) with the U.S. U-17 nataional team in Florida | U.S. Soccer
“It’s been great playing alongside him through Sounders Academy, Tacoma [Defiance] and now with the national team representing our country,” Ocampo-Chavez said of Leyva. “It’s a dream come true for any kid, especially at our age. Getting a Homegrown contract is a dream come true for every kid, too. I love playing with Danny.”
AOC, or ‘Fonz’ as his teammates and coaches call him, is incredibly grateful for all that he’s earned since he first donned a Rave Green jersey back in 2016. Hailing from a farming community in Central California, the past month has been incredibly rewarding for the Ocampo-Chavez family, who had to their only son leave home at the age of 14 to pursue his dreams of playing professional soccer.
“Before GA Cup, my mom asked me what it was I told her about the tournament, and how you play the best European and South American clubs, and how it was very important for MLS club,” recalled Ocampo-Chavez. “My parents are very happy with me. They’re very humble… My sister is also very happy with me for signing a Homegrown deal and representing our country. They always send me videos and photos of me playing when I’m on TV.
“When I signed a Homegrown [deal], people from back home started texting me saying congratulations and that they can’t wait to see me on the field. That really motivated me.”
The United States hasn’t produced many strikers quite like Ocampo-Chavez. A No. 9 who likes to play off the center back’s shoulder and is clinical in the box, he often watches film of Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy as he seeks to refine his game.
Despite his undeniable talent, Ocampo-Chavez has had to fight for every second of playing time he’s received for both club and country throughout the past year. With the Academy, he found himself in a battle for minutes with Tacoma Defiance forward Alec Diaz, who bagged over 30 goals for the U-17s and U-19s in the 2017-18 season. He didn’t even start in the USSDA national championship match against Atlanta United, though he did manage a goal and two assists as a substitute in the 5-1 rout. And for the United States, he faced a stern challenge from FC Dallas prospect Ricardo Pepi to solidify the No. 9 role in head coach Raphael Wicky’s system.
According to Ocampo-Chavez, that competition helped motivate him to accelerate his development, and it has also informed his positive approach to training with the First Team.
“As a young player, it’s a learning experience to fight for your position,” he said. “You have to work hard and can never feel secure in your spot. Now that I’m on the First Team, I have to compete with Raúl Ruidíaz and Will Bruin. They’re really experienced and I’m just starting [out], so I feel like I should be learning from them. That’s going to help me a lot.”
A fully-fledged First Team player, he refuses to rest on his laurels, and his objectives for the rest of the 2019 season are crystal clear.
“With the Defiance, I want to score lots of goals, of course,” said Ocampo-Chavez. “With the First Team, I want to train hard and show them what I’ve got.”