Sounders FC Academy enjoyed a bit of a mixed weekend in the second week of the season, with the underlying performances not necessarily lining up with results.
U-19: Sounders FC 0 vs. Crossfire Premier 4 | September 9, 2017
U-17: Sounders FC 4 vs. Crossfire Premier 1 | September 9, 2017
U-16: Sounders FC 8 vs. Pac NW 1 | September 9, 2017
U-15: Sounders FC 2 vs. Crossfire Premier 2 | September 9, 2017
In the first match of the weekend, the U-19s found themselves 2-0 down inside two minutes, conceding the first goal from a free kick and the second off powerful shot from outside the box. Despite the early deficit, the Rave Green managed to play their way into the game, with midfielders RJ Stretch and Dylan Teves controlling the tempo and carving out a few quality chances. Ultimately, two second-half Crossfire goals against the run-of-play put the tie to rest.
Later that day, the U-17s put their in-state rivals, Crossfire Premier, to the sword with a dominant display full of attacking verve. The young Sounders tallied four goals for the second match running, with Ray Serrano, Marlon Vargas and Blake Malone getting on the score sheet. The first goal came from the team pressing from the, resulting in Serrano receiving the ball in the box and dispatching his shot. He then completed his brace 15-minutes later when Vargas played a clever, slipped pass behind Crossfire’s back line for Serrano, who rounded the goalkeeper and finished into an empty net. Malone added a third after the break with a powerful header from a corner kick. Vargas wrapped up the scoring when he picked the ball off of Crossfire’s defensive midfielder, dribbled past two more defenders and finished from close range.
In a pre-season friendly, the U-16s shipped eight goals past youth partner club, Pac NW. Five players -- Davis Noblat, Kevin Soltys, Keegan Yorke, Ethan O’Brien and Drew Harris -- found the back of the net in a comfortable win. Lined up in a 3-4-2-1 formation, Andrew Tran pulled the strings going forward from his central, deep-lying midfield position, tallying two assists on the afternoon.
In the final match of the weekend, the U-15s battled Crossfire Premier to a 2-2 draw in their first official match of the season. The young Sounders took an early lead, with defender Nico Rei McMillan finding the back of the net in the 2nd minute off a clever, no-look, flicked assist from Danny Leyva. Crossfire found an equalizer in the 20th minute, leaving the score level entering halftime. After the break, Leyva and substitute Josh O’Brien played a lovely 1-2 combination in the box for the go-ahead goal, resulting in a picture-perfect half-volley finish from the former.
Sounders FC U-17 vs. Vancouver Whitecaps U-17 | 1:00 p.m. PT, Starfire Sports Field 11
Sounders FC U-15 vs. Vancouver Whitecaps U-15 | 3:30 p.m. PT, Starfire Sports Field 2
Sounders FC U-19 vs. Vancouver Whitecaps U-19 | 3:30 p.m. PT, Starfire Sports Field 11
U-16 midfielder Drew Harris earns the honor this week after entering the match against Pac NW and promptly tallying a second-half hat-trick. Harris, who joined the Rave Green youth system from youth-partner club Eastside FC, showcased his athleticism by consistently running in-behind the opposing defense.
Last season, the Academy staff made the decision to have their teams come up through the system playing the same formation as the First Team. The thinking behind this ideological switch is that, as a pipeline from the youth-ranks to S2 to the First Team, developing players in the same system would help to ease the transition to the professional game.
This season, the club has switched things up a bit by training and playing in a few different formations. While they still largely play in First Team Head Coach Brian Schmetzer’s favored 4-2-3-1 system, three of the four squads played in a 3-4-2-1 over the weekend, while the U-17s lined up in a 4-3-3. In order to develop well-rounded, intelligent, problem-solving players, the staff feels it’s important to have players try out different systems. And in doing so, they’re developing players with a much more holistic tactical understanding of the game.
“It was a mixed weekend. The U-15s played very well in what was their first competitive match together as a new team. I felt that that they learned a lot in the match and just missed out on edging out in a good game. The U-17s had a comfortable win against Crossfire by dominating possession, playing good soccer and creating good scoring opportunities. The U-19s match was a bit strange. Crossfire deserved to win on the day, but they dug themselves a hole by going 2-0 down early on. When we started to look dangerous, we conceded on the counter. But it was an important lesson for the group in terms of how we approach the match, and an excellent learning opportunity for the match against for Vancouver.” -- Sounders Academy Technical Director Marc Nicholls.