The Sounders Academy U16 team returned from Sheffield, England this week. In addition to gaining experience on the international stage, the young Sounders came back with the Youdan Trophy, Golden Boot and Player of the Tournament awards in tow.
The 4-1 win over Newcastle United FC in the second game of group play proved to be the catalyst for Seattle bringing home the Youdan Trophy. This same Newcastle side won the Neuville Sur Saone Tournoi International in France last year, while Seattle finished in 11th place.
After a decisive 3-0 win over FAB Academy in the opening match, Seattle was 1-0 down at halftime against an impressive Newcastle side. An avalanche of four second-half goals saw Seattle run out 4-1 winners, and the boys walked away full of belief.
An exciting 3-3 draw with Charlton Athletic saw Sounders finish top of their group move onto the semifinal against a strong Wolverhampton Wanderers side.
The young Sounders jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first half against Wolverhampton. Seattle had a throw in that found Golden Boot winner Azriel Gonzalez in the box, and he struck a twisting, no look volley that beat the keeper but crashed back off the far post. The Sounders managed to slot the rebound past the goalkeeper.
Wolverhampton leveled the score before the interval with a lightning-quick counter down the left-channel.
A deflected shot shortly after the restart gave Seattle a 2-1 advantage. Within ten minutes, Gonzalez put the game to bed with a composed finish on the break. After a Wovlerhampton corner, center-back and team captain Khai Brisco sprinted the length of the field before squaring the ball for Gonzalez to bury beyond the outstretched goalkeeper.
“We felt that every game was slightly harder from the first to the last,” said Academy Director Marc Nicholls. “The boys had to raise their game at each point. It was a really good test for the group.”
The final against FC Basel proved an especially tough task, with the Swiss side dominating possession for long stretches of the game. However, a fantastic play by goalkeeper Noah Thomas saw the tie swing in Seattle’s favor.
FC Basel was awarded a penalty kick toward the end of the first-half. Not only did Thomas save the spot kick, but he also collected the rebound and struck a precise punt up field that fell to Gonzalez in space, and he duly chipped the Basel goalkeeper with his first touch.
Sounders defended extremely well for the remainder of the match, and ultimately won the title game by a score of 1-0.
A number of players put in impressive performances in Sheffield. Captain Khai Brisco defended with aplomb and was an effective leader for the young Sounders. Striker Azriel Gonzalez scored five times, recording decisive goals in every single match, and even managed to record a pair of assists.
Meanwhile, Player of the Tournament Danny Robles operated as the number ten, and always managed to impact the game with incisive passing and relentless defensive pressure.
“The team played well, but it wasn’t just the fact that they got results. They went into games with a desire to play a style of soccer that is progressive,” said Academy coach Wade Webber. “In really all departments, it was pleasing for the staff to know that we can do well against quality foreign opposition, which is a hurdle in of itself.”
Just like how the Newcastle match provided a spark for the rest of the competition, the young Sounders winning such a prestigious international tournament will only lay the foundation for future success.