United States U-14 national team Head Coach Clint Peay has called in three standouts from the Seattle Sounders Academy U-15 squad — midfielders Reed Baker-Whiting, Josh Hardin and Antonio Herrera — for a West Regional Talent Identification Mini-Camp in Carson, Calif., from Jan. 17-21.
As part of an initiative to increase the U.S. youth national team player pool, the federation will hold three, 80-player regional camps to further evaluate and scout the top talents from across the country. Each region is further divided into smaller territories, with the Western camp featuring teams comprised of the best players from the Northwest, Southwest, Los Angeles and Northern California.
All four Sounders named to the Northwest roster are playing up a year on the club’s U-15s.
“I think people look at our current crop of older players that have done really well, winning the national championship and being ever-present in national teams, as a strong generation,” said Sounders FC Director of Player Development and Academy Director Marc Nicholls. “But we’ve been convinced that we have a real plethora of talent throughout the pipeline behind them. So, to have four players, who are all playing up a year with our club, invited to this event gives us a lot of confidence that the club is on the right track.”
Josh Hardin runs down the right wing in a 3-0 win for the U-15s over the Portland Timbers | Quinn Width
The slew of call-ups is a strong indicator of the club’s successful youth programming initiatives, as all four players spent multiple cycles in the Sounders Discovery Program prior to joining the Academy on a full-time basis. Despite being so young, the trio of Academy standouts has already amassed significant experience in the global game, leading the young Sounders to a quarterfinal berth at the International Champions Cup Futures tournament and winning the 2018 Youdan Trophy.
“For a few years now, we’ve had really stable youth programming that’s allowed us to make more informed decisions, which has led to a better, more competitive player pool,” added Nicholls. “That has allowed us to raise the bar.”
A creative, pacy winger, Hardin has tallied three goals and six assists in 11 appearances with the U-15s this season. At the Youdan Trophy, he showcased his uncanny ability to create chances, tallying eight assists against some of the top prospects in England.
Baker-Whiting, a clever player who typically lines up on the left in Seattle’s 4-2-3-1, is in his third year in the Sounders youth system after excelling in SDP. Herrera, meanwhile, has enjoyed plenty of success as a No. 10 for the young Sounders, compiling two goals and one assist in 470 minutes of action this season.
In addition, there are 10 players at the camp who come from the club's SDP Program:
Wyatt Nelson (Seattle United)
Levi Bieber (Washington Premier)
Braden Ferreira (Pac NW)
Jaggar Judkins (Washington Premier)
Diego Salgado (Seattle United)
Alex Hall (Pac NW)
Farhan Moustafa (Washington Premier)
Clemente Esquivel (Pac NW)
Derek Johnson (Pac NW)
Michael Luande (Washington Premier)