Azriel Gonzalez 170128
Jane Gershovich

16-year-old Academy product Azriel Gonzalez earns first USL assist in S2 victory

TUKWILA, Wash. – 13 games into their 2017 season, Seattle Sounders 2 has already seen a couple of young faces notch some notable milestones.

First it was 17-year-old defender Sam Rogers, who opened his professional scoring account in S2’s 3-2 defeat against San Antonio FC at Starfire Sports Complex back on April 25.

On Saturday, it was Azriel Gonzales’ turn. The 16-year-old Sounders Academy product tallied his first professional assist in the 60th minute of S2’s 3-0 romp over LA Galaxy 2, heading a cross that was tapped home by teammate Irvin Parra for the game’s first goal.

“It was good for the kid to come in and get an assist like that,” S2 head coach Ezra Hendrickson said after the game. “At halftime, we talked about the weak side winger always getting on the back post when there’s a cross coming in and he did exactly that. Denso [Ulysse] was crossing from the right side and he came in back post, the ‘keeper misjudged the ball, he put it back across and Parra was there for the tap-in.

“It worked like we talked about.”

Like Rogers, Hendrickson noted that there’s an undeniable learning curve that comes with having a high school-age player on a professional roster. There are many things he has to learn as he continues his development.

“He’s a good player. He’s a very technical player,” Hendrickson said. “He’s learning still. When you come into a level like this, he’s coming from U-16 to play with us. The level is a little bit faster. You can see sometimes he’s still a little bit slow on reactions, a little bit slow on the ball, getting caught on the ball and stuff.”

But Hendrickson was quick to add that he feels that Gonzales’ innate ability has resulted in a skill set well advanced beyond his years – something that makes the transition easier from the Academy level to the professional one.

“Once you have that ability, it’s a little easier for you,” Hendrickson said. “The other things, we’ll teach him. He’ll learn the game. Training with us, he’ll learn the speed of the game. Not just his physical speed but the mental speed of the game, where you go with the next pass, how you’re going to use your options.”

Parra, who was S2’s standout performer on Saturday with two goals and assist, said he’s been impressed with the development of his young teammate, likening it to his own experience he had trying to pave his way in professional soccer at the same age in Germany.

“He’s a very talented player, he’s on the U-16 national team,” Parra said. “He’s got a great future ahead of him. He just needs to keep doing what he’s doing and good things will come his way.”