The Sounders U-17 and U-19 squads put a bow on 2018 over the weekend with a robust showing at the annual DA Winter Showcase in Florida.
Despite the absence of key attacking players like winger Marlon Vargas, attacking midfielder Danny Robles and striker Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez – the latter two were with the U.S. U-17 national team for the Nike Friendlies – the U-19s collected three wins from three matches against opponents that all lead their respective conferences midway through the regular season.
“We had three very difficult opponents,” said U-19 Head Coach Michael Morris. “So, on the surface level, coming out of the showcase with three wins against three first-place teams is a major takeaway.”
In the first match against Chargers SC, the young Sounders showcased the squad’s immense depth, rolling out a rotated side that dismantled a strong opponent. Facing the reigning USSDA national champions, New York City FC, a brace from Alec Diaz saw Seattle secure a marquee win. They then wrapped up the weekend with a 1-0 win over Philadelphia Union in a match where the Rave Green bossed possession, with Diaz once again scoring the decisive goal.
With three wins over some of the top-ranked teams in the DA, the U-19s are now ranked third in the nation. But Morris, who understands the quality of the group, is quick to caution that the young Sounders need to improve the execution of their pressing scheme and other elements of their game model to truly earn that designation.
“New York controlled large portions of the match, so I can’t give the guys enough credit for finding a way to win in a challenging environment,” said Morris. “But that game was a huge learning moment for us because we didn’t control possession or control the match. So, while we got a result, it was massive learning point for us because need to improve.”
The U-17s kicked off the weekend with a draw against a dynamic Orlando City SC squad. While 12 of 16 players that featured for OCSC were born in 2002, Seattle rolled out six 2003’s, one 2004 and one 2005. Despite dominating possession against a much older side in Shattuck St. Mary’s on matchday two, the young Sounders struggled to breakdown their low defensive block and eventually lost 1-0 on a penalty kick in the 75th minute. With the cameras rolling for their final match against New England, the Rave Green took an early lead in the 14th minute courtesy of a fantastic solo effort from Ray Serrano.
Center back Blake Malone and holding midfielder Peter Kingston were instrumental in posting a goals-against average of .67 for the U-19s. Against an athletic Union side looking to hit on the counter, Kingston completed 98% of his passes.
Squaring off against strikers three years his senior, center back Angel Martinez impressed for the U-17s with his composed quality on the ball and reading of the game. Central midfielders Danny Leyva and Sota Kitahara covered a ton of ground and helped Seattle control all three matches with their defensive acumen and intelligence going forward.
- Sounders FC 3 vs. Chargers SC 1 | November 29
- Sounders FC 2 vs. New York City FC 1 | November 30
- Sounders FC 1 vs Philadelphia Union 0 | December 2
- Sounders FC 2 vs. Orlando City SC 2 | November 30
- Sounders FC 0 vs. Shattuck St. Mary’s 1 | December 1
- Sounders FC 1 vs. New England Revolution 1 December 3