A pair of players from the Seattle Sounders Academy U-15 squad, center back Eric Kinzner and midfielder Danny Leyva, has been called up to the United States U-16 men’s national team by Head Coach Shaun Tsakiris for the upcoming Torneo Delle Nazioni in Gradisca d’Isonzo, Italy. Running from April 19-May 2, the young Yanks will face Italy, Libya and Croatia in the Group Stage, with the top finisher advancing directly to the tournament semifinal. The rest of the field contains international powerhouses like England, Mexico and Portugal.
This is Leyva’s third call-up since joining the Sounders in August, and the second for Kinzner after participating in a U.S. U-16 training camp back in March.
“We’re really pleased that Danny and Eric will get some new international experiences,” said Sounders FC Director of Player Development and Academy Director Marc Nicholls. “They’ve worked hard and are deserving of their call-ups.”
While the pair traveled divergent paths to the Sounders organization — Leyva was signed from Heat FC of Nevada and Kinzner came from Federal Way FC and through the Sounders Discovery Program — their time spent in the Rave Green youth system has them well prepared to take full advantage of these unique international experiences.
“Danny has been a player who has been at the top of his position in this country for a little while, so it’s not a surprise that he’s there,” said Sounders Academy U-15 Head Coach Sean Henderson. “It was Eric’s first time getting called in for the last camp, and he did really well to earn another trip. It sounds like he’s done well enough to be a potential starter for that group.”
Leyva, a box-to-box midfielder who has spent plenty of time with the Sounders U-17 squad, is one of the top prospects for both club and country. Since signing with Seattle over the summer, the Las Vegas native has been a revelation in midfield, tallying 11 goals and 12 assists in just 1780 minutes of action for the U-15s and U-17s.
“Danny is really a complete player for such a young guy, and you don’t often say that about a 15-year-old,” said Henderson. “But he has a lot of the things that we look for and like in players: technical ability, tactical understanding, the right mentality toward the game and a willingness to learn. He’s an exciting player that we have high hopes for.”
Eric Kinzner with the Sounders U-15s | Quinn Width
Kinzner, meanwhile, is a hybrid of an old-school center back and a more modern, ball-playing defender.
“He’s still kind of developing his style, but he’s that prototypical big, strong center back that can tackle, head the ball and do really well in his 1-v-1 matchups,” added Henderson of Kinzner. “So he has all of that, but he’s also good on the ball. He’s very much like Sam Rogers in that he’s a big kid, but he’s technically good on the ball and can hit a long pass.”
International experience is a key component for the Sounders Academy in developing elite players. In order to prepare for the rigors of the professional game, the consistent high-level competition, both in training and matches, is a catalyst for development, forcing players outside of their comfort zones and pushing them to new levels.
The full schedule and roster for the tournament can be found here.