Marlon Vargas GA Cup final
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Ranked No. 2 in the country, Sounders Academy U-17s look for strong finish at USSDA Playoffs

The Sounders Academy U-17s will head to Oceanside, Calif., this weekend for the group stage of the USSDA playoffs. As the No. 2-ranked team in the country, the Rave Green are the top seed in a tough Group C, which also contains Pateadores, Sporting Kansas City and Concorde Fire. Despite the difficult matchups, the young Sounders, who scored 115 goals from 33 regular season matches and recently won the Generation Adidas Cup, remain firm favorites for the quarterfinals.

For both the U-17 and U-19 divisions, the group stage and quarterfinals will take place at the SoCal Sports Complex from June 18-26, with the semifinals and final occurring at the Swope Soccer Village in Kansas City, Missouri, on July 8 and 10, respectively.

Only the top finisher from each group will advance to the quarterfinals.

How They Got Here

Competing in the Northwest Division of the USSDA, the young Sounders ran riot through the league all season long, rattling off a 27-3-3 record. With three professional players on the roster -- Marlon Vargas, Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez  and Ray Serrano have all signed with S2 -- the U-17s possess a wealth of attacking talent, scoring 140 goals across all competitions this season. While the goals will grab the headlines, the team has compiled an impressive defensive record as, they conceded just 43 goals from 48 matches.

The team plays an incredibly progressive brand of soccer, pressing opponents high-up the pitch and stringing together intricate passing combinations in the final third. Outside of the run of play, the Rave Green are lethal from set-piece situations. With such a balanced squad, the Rave Green were able to finish the regular season with a 16-point lead over the Northwest Division’s second-placed team, Vancouver Whitecaps.

No strangers to high-pressure tournaments, the core of this group has won the Youdan Trophy and GA Cup, as well as a third-placed finish at Manchester City Cup, all in the last 12 months.

Ones to Watch

With elite talent permeating throughout the entire roster, it’s difficult to pick key players from this U-17 squad.

From an attacking perspective, the team is loaded with difference makers. Vargas, Serrano, Alec Diaz each scored over 20 goals across all competitions this season, while attacking midfielder Danny Robles contributed 13 goals and 14 assists. Forward Ocampo-Chavez, a mainstay with U.S. Youth National Teams, has nine goals and three assists from just 819 minutes with the U-17s and U-19s.

The U-17s celebrate their GA Cup title while being honored at CenturyLink Field. | Mike Fiechtner

Strength in Depth

While the attacking group alone would make the U-17s favorites to advance from Group C, the squad possesses fantastic players all over the pitch. Peter Kingston and Josh Atencio routinely boss the midfield in the double-pivot, while U.S. Youth National Team prospects Danny Leyva and Sota Kitahara, both eligible for the U-15 team, will compete for time as well.

The back line is jam-packed with players equally capable of stifling opponents and initiating attacks with line-breaking passes. Center back Blake Malone, 17, has started three matches for S2 this season, while the two goalkeepers, Bobby Harraka and Conrad Lee, blend elite shot-stopping with defensive organization, aerial dominance and composed distribution.

Coach’s Take

“The preparation for the group has been really good, the boys finished the season strong, especially the 6-3 win over Sacramento Republic,” said Sounders Academy Coach Dan Lock. “The expectation is, as the No. 2 seed, to be successful. We want to go and win. We’ll take it one game at a time, and the most important thing is the first game, and then getting out of the group.”