The Seattle Sounders U-17s are champions of the Generation adidas Cup Premier Division.
Fighting through adversity all match, the young Sounders overcame a 1-0 deficit inside the first 10 minutes, as well as a questionable straight red card to star attacker Ray Serrano in the 29th minute, to defeat the New York Red Bulls 2-1 in the tournament final.
The reigning champs of the GA Cup Champions Division, the Red Bulls jumped out to an early led through a penalty kick in the 9th minute. But the Sounders battled back, equalizing in the 13th minute courtesy of winger Marlon Vargas. Left-back Connor Drought dribbled past two defenders and cut the ball back for Vargas, who calmly controlled the pass before rifling a shot off the underside of the crossbar and into the back of the net for his third goal of the week.
Though they controlled the match after drawing level, Seattle was reduced to ten players after Serrano received a questionable red card for a 50-50 challenge in midfield. With the match in the balance, goalkeeper Conrad Lee, a 15-year-old trialist from New Hampshire, kept the score even with a fantastic free-kick save in the two minutes before halftime.
Despite New York’s numerical advantage, Seattle played well throughout the second half. Looking for a win in regulation time, Head Coach Chris Little brought on striker Alec Diaz for Azriel Gonzalez in the 59th minute. Just two minutes later, Diaz grabbed the game-winning goal on an assist by Vargas, bursting into the box and firing a shot to the back post.
For the third time in two years, this special group of Sounders Academy players have won an international tournament. With a vast majority of the Starting XI playing key roles in the Rave Green’s consecutive Youdan Trophy titles, defeating the likes of Everton FC and Newcastle United, the core of this team has plenty of experience in high-pressure matches. At the 2016 edition of Youdan Trophy, Azriel Gonzalez won the Golden Boot while Robles was awarded the Golden Ball. With so much big-game experience throughout the team, it’s no surprise the Sounders were able to battle back and win the Premier Division.
Strength in Depth
Most teams are weakened when they make substitutions, as there is a significant drop-off in quality between the Starting XI and bench players. But that’s not the case for Seattle. The first two substitutes, Sota Kitahara and Danny Leyva, are regulars with the U.S. U-16 National Team and can consider themselves unlucky to not start the GA Cup final. Diaz, who secured the title for the Sounders, has scored 17 goals in 19 matches across all competitions for the U-17s this season. The final substitute, center back Elias Katsaros, is a consistent starter for the U-19s at just 16-years-old.
The Marlon Vargas Show
Every player on the squad had a stellar showing at GA Cup, but Vargas deserves plenty of praise for the team’s title-winning run. Contributing two goals and three assists in the lead-up to the tournament final, Vargas scored the equalizing goal against the Red Bulls and even managed to pitch-in with a match-winning assist. A dynamic and creative attacking player, the 17-year-old dazzled against New York, routinely dribbling past defenders and creating chances from nothing. With three goals and four assists from just five matches, Vargas was named Premier Division Player of the Tournament.