The Seattle Sounders Academy 2004s returned from Orlando, Fla., this week after reaching the quarterfinals of the International Champions Cup Futures tournament. Facing off against some of the top youth teams from the United States and Europe, the young Sounders acquitted themselves well as they produced several promising performances.
“It was a good experience to play in a high-level tournament against some of the top academies in Britain,” said Head Coach Dan Lock. “We got some good performances and results, including beating Liverpool, drawing with Celtic and then narrowly losing to Chelsea.”
The squad, which will be the U-15 team for the 2018-19 U.S. Soccer Development Academy season, was one of the youngest in the competition, fielding five players from the 2005 birth year. Having competed in Manchester City Cup and ICC Futures, the youngest players in the pipeline will have already defeated the likes of LAFC, Club Tijuana and Liverpool FC before they’ve even kicked a ball in the league.
“We’re going into our first year as a full-time academy team, and we’ve already played against some of the most established academies in Britain,” said Lock. “There were some moments where you could see the [Sounders] DNA in our style of play. Now we just need to do it on a more consistent basis.”
Despite the young side, the Rave Green were able to execute a brand of high-pressing, attack-minded soccer that has become the norm for Sounders youth sides. While the players have spent several cycles together in the Sounders Discovery Program, playing against elite competition in a tournament format was a critical experience for a group that has only played a handful of meaningful matches.
With wins against some of the premier youth teams on the planet, the young Sounders will be able to hit the ground running in the DA, which will enable them to focus on expanding upon their strengths as they continue to refine their playing style.
“That’s why we do these tournaments, so we can start integrating them so when we get into league season, it’s easy to be more consistent,” added Lock. “The big challenge for the boys is to continue building on that.”
Sounders Academy U-15 midfielder Austin Brummett | Quinn Width
As a feeder system for the First Team, it was also important for the 2004s to be exposed to the demands of representing the Sounders badge at a highly professional event.
“A lot of the off-the-field stuff was really good for the boys to understand our expectations for how they behave and conduct themselves: the professionalism, their preparation and their recovery,” added Lock. “The way they represented the Sounders was really impressive, we got a lot of compliments from the tournament organizers and some of the other teams about how the boys conducted themselves on and off the field.”
One of the questions that Sounders Academy coaches always ask themselves when competing in competitions such as the ICC, which are comprised of the top academies from around the world, is whether they had the best players on the field. At the ICC, the answer was a resounding yes.
Defender Angel Martinez, a 2005 who played two years up on the U-15s this season, was one of the most consistent performers in the competition. Striker Austin Brummett, who garnered plenty of experience for both club and country this season, bagged two goals and two assists against Liverpool FC and the Virginia All-Stars, while midfielder Antonio Herrera, another 2005, turned plenty of heads with his creativity in the final third.
With five players from this group competing in Youdan Trophy next week, they’ll bring a level of international experience that belies their age as they look to win the competition for the third consecutive year.