Every Sounders FC supporter knows the history of first team players suiting up for the United States Men’s National Team. From DeAndre Yedlin’s breakthrough at the 2014 World Cup, Jordan Morris’ goal against Mexico and Clint Dempsey’s Copa America there are countless moments when the Rave Green have excelled in the red, white and blue.
At the youth level, a number of Sounders Academy standouts are beginning to make a name for themselves for both club and country.
U18 left back Jake Morris and central midfielder Habib Barry recently returned from U.S. U19 duty with head coach Brad Friedel. Meanwhile, U16 striker and Youdan Trophy Golden Boot winner Azriel Gonzalez just wrapped up his second camp with the USYNT U16s.
Morris and Barry were among 20 players named to Friedel’s roster for the Stevan Vilotic Tournament in Serbia, Serbia at the beginning of September. While both players are starters with the Academy and have experience training with S2, the global stage is an entirely different beast.
“The speed of play is much faster,” said Morris. “People on the ball are much better. They have much more technical ability, on and off the ball, so it just brings the quality of play up.”
As an Academy system that prides itself on developing technical and autonomous soccer players, the young Sounders were well-equipped for the international game. Morris came off the bench in the opener against Serbia and performed well enough to earn a start in the 2-1 win over Hungary, while Barry made the starting XI versus France. Both players return to the Sounders with invaluable experience and rave reviews from American soccer legend Friedel.
“Friedel is awesome, he’s really a great guy,” said Morris. “He gives you a lot of individual feedback and tells you what he feels.”
When Morris and Barry returned from Serbia to begin the USSDA season, Gonzalez joined up with the U16 YNT for a second international training camp. The 15-year old striker started both friendly matches against the Juventus U16s and Sacramento United U18s.
“It was a great experience. The first time I went I was kind of just getting to know the guys and trying to gain confidence,” said Gonzalez. “This time I was more confident and getting on the ball more.”
It certainly showed on the field. Gonzalez found the back of the net against the Italian champions when he pounced on a defensive mistake and scored with his left foot. He followed up the goal with a brace against Sacramento, including a cheeky first time chip over the goalkeeper on a break away.
Now in his third season with Seattle, Gonzalez credits Sounders Academy with priming him for the step up in quality at the national team level.
“My coaches have been playing me up a year a lot,” said Gonzalez. “Last year I was even playing with the U16s, so I think I have already been getting a taste of what it’s like. They’ve been preparing me really well for these experiences.”
All three Academy standouts will be back in action for double headers against California Academy sides Pateadores and Strikers FC at Starfire Stadium this weekend.