The Sounders Academy U-15 and U-17 teams returned from Carson, California, this weekend after a strong showing at the Generation adidas Cup. Touted as a showcase for the future stars of Major League Soccer, the GA Cup pits the youth academies from every MLS club against each other in a year-long competition.
“The GA Cup has always been really good for our teams, as we get a measure of where we’re at against top MLS teams and pretty soon against top international teams,” said U-15 Head Coach Sean Henderson. “We have consistently gotten better year-after-year, both in the way we play and also with results, so it’s nice to see we’re moving in the right direction.”
In recent years, the Sounders have used the GA Cup as a platform for evaluating some of the brightest talents in the pipeline against the top players from around the country. Standouts such as Sam Rogers, Azriel Gonzalez and Ray Serrano have all used the event as a launching pad for professional careers, accelerating their development by rising to the occasion against elite competition.
The Academy holds the philosophy that if you’re good enough, you’re old enough. Given that the youth system is meant to develop local players for the First Team, they feel it’s important to push these immensely talented players out of their comfort zone. With that in mind, two of the top players from the U-15s -- midfielders Danny Leyva (14) and Sota Kitahara (14) -- played up for the U-17s at GA Cup, with their stellar performances on the pitch vindicating that decision.
“I think we were often the better team -- we created the better chances and the levels of the individual players were very good,” said U-17 Head Coach and Sounders Academy Coaching Director Chris Little. “It’s a 2001 tournament but we had Danny and Sota, who are both 2003s, and we also had six or seven 2002s. So I think that while our performances were very good, we probably had the youngest team at the event.”
The highlight of the weekend came on Saturday when both teams shipped four goals past Real Salt Lake in a pair of dominant wins. Ray Serrano, who recently signed a pro contract with Sounders FC 2, bagged a brace for the U-17s, while U-15 midfielder Charlie Holmes put in a fantastic shift off the bench, scoring one goal and assisting another in just 20 minutes of action.
For the U-15s, the GA Cup saw several breakout performances from midfielder Edgar Serrano, who captained his side in a challenging environment. Serrano, a deep-lying midfielder and metronomic passer, caught the eye of several U.S. Youth national team coaches with his composed, intelligent displays.
“Edgar was fantastic, one of the best players of all the games I watched at that age group,” remarked Henderson. “He turned some heads and continues to have a good year for us.”
On the final day of the event, the U-15s went toe-to-toe with the LA Galaxy, arguably the best U-15 side in the country. With a lineup consisting of five guys who were playing up a year, the young Sounders carved out a 1-1 draw on the Galaxy’s home soil. Facing an attacking onslaught in the first half, goalkeeper Holden Crook produced several stunning saves to keep his side in the match.
The full results from the weekend are listed below.
Sounders FC 2 vs. Sporting Kansas City 3 | February 16
Sounders FC 4 vs. Real Salt Lake 1 | February 17
Sounders FC 1 vs. LA Galaxy 1 (3-4 on penalties) | February 19
Sounders FC 4 vs. San Jose Earthquakes 0 | February 16
Sounders FC 4 vs. Real Salt Lake 0 | February 17
Sounders FC 1 vs. Sporting Kansas City 1 (5-4 on penalties) | February 19