Sounders FC Academy at USSDA Winter Showcase

Goalkeeper Paul Christensen excels in win for U17 USMNT as fellow Sounders cheer him on.

LAKEWOOD RANCH, FLA. — It was a mixed weekend for Sounders FC Academy as they competed in the US Soccer Development Academy Winter Showcase. The U18’s struggled, losing two intense matches and tying their final game, while the U16’s continued their success with three strong victories. The weekend was highlighted by the US U17 Men’s National Team winning the Nike International Friendlies after a 3-1 victory over Brazil on Sunday, thanks in large part to keeper Paul Christensen, a Sounders FC Academy product.

On Friday, the Sounders squads were pitted against Kendall Soccer Club from Miami. The U18’s got in a hole early as Kendall took a 2-0 lead in the first 20 minutes of play. Ike Crook cut the lead right before the half when he scored on a header in the 39th minute on an assist from Stefan Bangsund. Kendall came back immediately, however, scoring right after the second half kick in the 40th minute. The Rave Green immediately dialed up the pressure and scored in the 45th when Bangsund volleyed in a cross from Sam Langston, but that would be the last score of the day as Kendall emerged with a 3-2 edge. Things got messy late in the game as a melee broke out about 30 yards from goal as the Sounder U18’s were pressing forward. The scuffle resulted in red card ejections for Sounders Michael Gallagher and Ian Lange.

The U16 Sounders took down Kendall 2-1 on goals from David Olsen and Duncan McCormick. Olsen got the Rave Green on the board in the 31st minute with a nice finish on an assist from James Nosack. In the 53rd, Kyle Bjornethun dribbled up the right sideline past two defenders and crossed to McCormick for the goal. Kendall would score on a defensive miscue in the 68th, but Sounders FC locked it up from there on out to prevent an equalizer. Saturday’s matches saw Sounders FC on the pitch with fellow MLS youth academy FC Dallas. 

The U18 game featured a matchup of two USSDA Division Winners from last year, and the teams didn’t disappoint. After no scoring in the first half, Dallas picked up two goals early in the second half and held a 2-0 lead through 70 minutes. However, in the 71st, Rave Green striker Dom Dismuke came alive. Dismuke, who has eight goals in nine USSDA matches this season, picked up goals in the 71st and 85th minutes on assists from Nick Raskasky and Austin Curtis, respectively. The score remained 2-2 until the 90th minute when Dallas picked up a late-winner on a scramble in the box. The Sounders battled tough in 3-2 loss despite missing the players that received red cards on Friday.

In the U16 game, Sounders FC scored three first half goals and cruised to a 3-0 win over FC Dallas, led by a goal and an assist from Olsen. McCormick scored first on a penalty kick in the 25th minute after a handball in the box. Olsen scored in the 29th on a pass from Michael Steele and assisted Miguel Medina’s goal in the 37th. Keeper Connor Adkisson gets the clean sheet for Seattle.

After two strong performances over the weekend, U16 defender Jalen Markey was called up to play with the U17/18 Select Team, an all-star team that played in front of US U18 Men’s National Team coach Richie Williams, as well as numerous other scouts and Development Academy Technical Advisors. Markey, who started and played a full 90 minutes for the “Red” side, came up huge in a 1-1 tie against “Blue” on Saturday night. After Paul Arriola (Arsenal FC) put Blue up 1-0 with a goal in the 11th minute, but Red responded in the 61st when Markey accurately placed a cross in the box for Benji Lopez (Real Salt Lake AZ), who rose up and headed in the equalizer.

The teams were off Sunday and went to watch fellow-Sounders FC Academy player Paul Christensen start in goal for the US U17 Men’s National Team against Brazil in the final game of the Nike International Friendlies. Christensen, a Woodinville resident and member of the Sounders FC Pre-Academy squad, is living in Florida as part of the US Men’s National Team residency program. His three saves helped the US win 3-1 and clinch their first ever championship in the tournament. With all the scoring occurring in the first half, Christensen was able to handle Brazil’s increased offensive pressure in the second 45, most notably securing a save on a late-opportunity for Brazil from 15 yards out.

The Monday games concluded the weekend with the Sounders FC teams facing the McLean Academy. The games were played simultaneously at 11:15 a.m. on fields next to each other, with Head Coach Dick McCormick and Sean Henderson coaching the U18 game, and Technical Director Darren Sawatzky and Billy Crook coaching the U16 game. The U18's tied the match 1-1, getting an unassisted goal from Jordan Schweitzer. Markey was called up to play on the U18 team from the U16 team as a reward for stellar play. 

The U16’s beat McLean 3-2 despite going down twice in the game. After McLean scored first in the 15th, the Sounders answered on the kickoff with a goal from Olsen, assisted by Medina. At 1-1, the Rave Green gave up another goal on a defensive miscue, allowing McLean to go up again 2-1. In the 71st minute James Molyneux-Elliot scored an equalizer on an assist from Bjornethun. The game ended in explosive fashion in the last minute, with Olsen scoring again for the winner after a Mark Matula run down the flank, giving the Sounders a 3-2 win. Olsen highlighted the weekend for the U16’s, finishing the weekend with four goals and an assist, while McCormick (two game-winning goals), Bjornethun (two assists), and Medina (goal, assist) also came up big.

The Sounders FC Academy teams play next on December 17th against the Vancouver Whitecaps in another MLS youth academy showdown.