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UW links with Sounders Academy paying dividends

The Seattle-area school and the club's academy have found their connections mutually beneficial.

In his third season at the University of Washington, Head Coach Jamie Clark has guided the Huskies to a No. 3 ranking in the NSCAA polls and this week they will take on Stanford and California in two of the toughest tests they have faced in this young season.

At 6-0-2, the Huskies trail only California and Notre Dame in the polls and they have done it with the help of six players from the Sounders FC Academy system, as Clark has taken advantage of that local pipeline to stock UW with native talent.

“When you’ve got one of the best academies in the country in your backyard and a school that’s appealing to a lot of those kids, it’s a match made in heaven,” Clark said. “It keeps a lot of the best players here and we are the benefactor of two great situations. It’s a great youth development scheme run by the best-run MLS team, so you know it’s going to produce player after player.”

Clark’s focus has been on bringing impact players from the Academy, and while he has been very successful with the players he has recruited to Washington, Thursday night the Huskies will see two familiar faces when they meet the Stanford Cardinal in Palo Alto, California. The 2012 Pac 12 Freshman of the Year Aaron Kovar and 2013 USSDA National Player of the Year Jordan Morris, both of whom are Sounders FC Academy alums, will make for some difficult competition for the Dawgs.

The Huskies will combat them with some Academy products of their own.

Junior forward Darwin Jones has two goals in his first season at UW, including the overtime game-winner last week against Southern Methodist University. In his freshman season at Highline Community College in 2011, he had 15 goals and 10 assists to earn All-Conference honors.

“He’s an electric talent and he’s got a great attitude,” Clark said. “He’s willing to work and learn. He’s brilliant and he’ll be one with some interesting decisions in his future.”

Sophomore defender Ian Lange was a regular off the bench in his freshman season for the Huskies and has added more to his game in his second collegiate season to move into the starting role. He scored once in the 2012 season in 15 appearances, with just two starts, and this year has started seven of UW’s eight games, scoring two goals already on the young season.

“He’s realizing that even though he can get out of situations, he can be more effective if he plays sharper. He’s been our engine running the team,” Clark said. “If he keeps playing this way and keeps doing all of his habits correctly, I think he has a huge future ahead of him.”

Michael Gallagher was a regular starter on defense last year, starting 18 matches as a freshman. This year, though, he has moved into a defensive midfield role where Clark hopes he can see more of the ball and be more influential in the match.

“Long-term, this is a great move for him. It gives him some flexibility and forces him to be sharp,” Clark said. “He’s not the biggest guy, but he’s got great feet, so that’s possibly where he is going to end up.”

Goalkeeper Ryan Herman has been a story of patience for the Huskies. Playing behind senior Spencer Richey, a preseason All-American this year, Herman hadn’t played a match in his first two years at UW, redshirting in his first year in 2011. Now in his third year with the program, Herman got his opportunity when Richey fractured his leg against UConn in the fourth game of the season. Since entering the fray, Herman has a 0.61 goals against average while posting two shutouts.

“He’s been ready and we’ve known it, but when you’re sitting behind potentially the best goalie in the country, you have to be patient,” Clark said. “It is a testament to him because he’s prepared and trained like he’s going to get his chance and sure enough it’s come and we haven’t lost a beat with him back there.”

Freshman Dom Dismuke has come off the bench in four matches for the Huskies, making the move from forward to a wide midfield role because of the wealth of forwards UW has available. Additionally, the Huskies added Jim Oganga after one season at Highline Community College, but he has yet to suit up.

With that talent, along with several other key players from outside the Sounders FC Academy, the Huskies have bright prospects for the 2013 season and will be battle-tested with the depth of the Pac-12 conference. After facing Stanford on Thursday night, UW fill meet top-ranked California on Sunday, with both matches on the Pac-12 Network.

Kickoff against Stanford is scheduled for 7 pm PT, with the California match on Sunday starting at 11 am PT.