Academy Best of 2016: Young Sounders receive plethora of U.S. Soccer call-ups

The Sounders Academy firmly put its stamp on the United States Youth National Team setup in 2016. Across all four USSDA squads, a total of 14 prospects from the Rave Green youth system earned call-ups to represent the Stars and Stripes. Another noteworthy facet of the Sounders’ international involvement is that players from virtually every position on the pitch earned national team invites.

GOALKEEPER

Trey Muse (U-18) earned his first call-up to the U-18 Men’s National Team this fall after a series of impressive performances in USSDA league play. The young No. 1 produced a series of stunning saves in the Sounders’ Cascadia Clash against the Portland Timbers in October as Seattle held on for a 2-1 victory. Shortly afterward, Muse received his first invite to U-18 camp.

DEFENSE

A pair of left backs were capped by the U.S. in 2016. Akron defender-turned-midfielder Nick Hinds represented the United States in international tournaments in Serbia and Germany with the U-20s. After receiving his first and only call-up to a U-15 BNT camp, Hinds worked his way back into the international picture after joining Sounders and impressing with his dynamic, two-way ability.

Meanwhile, summer signing Jake Morris (U-18) received call-ups to three separate youth national teams in 2016. Despite being just 18, the buccaneering fullback has joined the U.S. U-18s, U-19s and U-20s in the past year, earning significant minutes on all three squads.

Sam Rogers (U-18) was called into the U.S. U-18 camp after impressing with the Sounders U-16s at last year’s edition of the Generation adidas Cup. Formally a holding midfielder, Rogers has converted to center back for the Rave Green U-18s and captains the squad.

Right back Ben Huynh (U-16) returned to the Sounders this season after spending the spring semester with the U.S. U-17 residency program in Bradenton, Fla. Huynh turned plenty of heads with his refined technical skills and ability to read the game.

MIDFIELD

A pair of Sounders Discovery Program products, holding midfielder Sota Kitahara (U-14) and attacking midfielder Danny Robles (U-16), earned call-ups last year. With the new program entering its second full year, Kitahara and Robles’ rise to prominence is indicative of the accelerated development that SDP can offer.

Alongside Robles, midfielder Josh Atencio (U-14) received an invite to U.S. U-15 BNT camp in November. Atencio’s ability to shield the back four and go box-to-box earned him a regular starting berth with the Sounders U-16s this past season.

Two central midfielders from the U-18s were involved in the U.S. setup in 2016. Kei Tomozawa (U-18), a mobile technician recruited from HG territory, Hawaii, was called into U.S. U-18 camp with teammate Rogers after pulling the strings for the U-16s at GA Cup.

Deep-lying midfielder Habib Barry earned an invite to play for Brad Friedel’s U-19s in the Steven Vilotic Tournament in Serbia in September, where he made the Starting XI for the match against France.

FORWARD

Local striker Alfonso Ocampo Chavez (U-14) broke onto the scene with a series of imperious displays during GA Cup qualifying. A series of match-winning performances while playing up two age groups for the U-16s earned the young forward an invitation to the U-15 YNT camp in November.

Winger Stirling Russell (U-18) was called into the U.S. U-18s last January with teammates Rogers and Tomozawa. A dynamic wide player, Russell impressed the USSF scouts with his dribbling ability and willingness to take on defenders.

Forward Azriel Gonzalez (U-16) has become a mainstay for the U.S. U-16 National Team. The young attacker is incredibly versatile and can line up centrally and out wide. This versatility, as well as his penchant for scoring crucial goals, earned Gonzalez three call-ups in 2016.

After originally committing to play at UCSB, the speedy striker Milo Barton (U-18) opted to join the Sounders in an effort to further develop his game. His performances in the Rave Green youth system warranted a call-up for Friedel’s U-19s.