The Sounders FC Academy U-16 and Sounders Discovery Program U-12 squads returned home this week on the back of some truly impressive displays at Generation adidas Cup. Billed as a showcase for the future stars of Major League Soccer, both sides navigated some tricky ties against domestic and international competition in Frisco, Texas.
The Rave Green youth teams were drawn into groups alongside clubs with rich histories of player development. The U-16s qualified for the Premier Division and squared off against New York City FC, Pumas UNAM (Mexico) and Saprissa (Costa Rica) in group play, while the SDP team faced the likes of the Houston Dynamo, Malaga CF (Spain), the New York Red Bulls and the New England Revolution. Both Sounders teams earned draws in the group stage against the eventual divisional champions, NYCFC and Malaga, respectively.
Since the purpose of GA Cup is to showcase development, the Academy staff is understandably excited about how some of the top prospects in the club performed against elite competition from around the globe.
“GA Cup was a great experience and a success for us,” said Academy Technical Director Marc Nicholls. “We played really well against foreign opponents and we feel we’re closing the gap with Mexico. Overall it was a really good level of competition for our young teams.”
After a commanding display in the group stage that saw the U-16s narrowly miss out on a spot in the Premier Division semifinals, the young Sounders faced off against a pair of Liga MX sides in Chivas de Guadalajara and Monterrey.
In the match against Monterrey, the young Sounders pushed the game to extra time with a last-gasp equalizer from midfielder Cam Martin. Defensive midfielder Josh Atencio won back possession in the middle of the park and quickly shuttled to the ball to the feet of fellow USYNT U-15 teammate Danny Robles. The shifty No. 10 put striker Alec Diaz through on goal with a clever no-look, left-footed pass, and Martin was on hand to tap in the rebound from Diaz’s shot. The match went to extra time but the boys eventually fell to Monterrey on penalties.
“We had the third-youngest team at the whole tournament and we were able to play some really good games, and it was an invaluable learning experience for the boys to play against international teams,” said U-16 head coach Chris Little. “Each game was a good litmus test for us and presented a different kind of challenge.”
Not to be outdone, the SDP U-12 squad garnered several marquee results in their first showcase together. The blend of technical acuity, tactical understanding and attacking flair from so many young players foreshadows the bright future of player development in Seattle.
A fine early goal for 1-0 and then.......... pic.twitter.com/DTVZpW4kjL— Sounders FC Academy (@SoundersAcademy) April 14, 2017
“I think the format of GA Cup — 7-v-7 games and the great environment — is incredible and challenges our young guys,” said SDP coach and Director of Programming Brayton Knapp. “I think it was a big step forward for our Academy to test ourselves against top competition at the youngest age groups.”
The youngest members of the Rave Green youth system went 3-1-2 at GA Cup with the sole loss coming against Toronto FC. Standouts from local clubs like Seattle United, Washington Premier and Pac NW came together and helped lead SDP to a seventh-place finish.
With so many bright talents on display at GA Cup, the future of the club appears extremely bright.
Sounders Academy U-16
- Sounders FC 0 (4), New York City FC 0 (5) | April 7, 2017
- Sounders FC 2, Pumas UNAM 1 | April 9, 2017
- Sounders FC 2, Saprissa 0 | April 11, 2017
- Sounders FC 1, Chivas de Guadalajara 4 | April 13, 2017
- Sounders FC 1 (1), Monterrey 1 (4) | April 15, 2017
Sounders Discovery Program U-12
- SDP 0, New England Revolution 0 | April 13, 2017
- SDP 1, Malaga CF 1 | April 13, 2017
- SDP 3, Houston Dynamo 2 | April 14, 2017
- SDP 3, New York Red Bulls 1 | April 14, 2017
- SDP 0, Toronto FC 2 | April 15, 2017
- SDP 1, Philadelphia Union 0 | April 15, 2017