Sota Kitahara no Xbox 2019-02-26
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Seattle Sounders Academy U-17s qualify for Generation adidas Cup Champions Division

The Seattle Sounders U-17s are the reigning champs of the Generation adidas Cup Premier Division, but they’re entering the final phase of the 2019 competition, which will take place from April 12-21 with a chip on their shoulder.

Last season, the U-17s missed out on the top tier on goal difference before sweeping aside all-comers as they defeated the New York Red Bulls 2-1 in the Premier Division final. For the first time in club history, the young Sounders have qualified for the GA Cup Champions Division, an event that featured storied international sides like Spain’s Real Madrid, France’s AS Monaco, Argentina’s River Plate and Brazil’s Flamengo in 2018.

“The boys are excited,” said U-17 Interim Head Coach Ryan Faithfull. “There are some big foreign clubs coming to the tournament, and they’re relishing the opportunity to play against those teams.”

Entering the second phase of qualifying perched atop Group A, the young Sounders rotated their lineup for the first match, a 2-1 loss to the LA Galaxy, and nearly grabbed an equalizer in the final minutes.

Sota Kitahara playing against the New York Red Bulls in the 2018 Generation adidas Cup Premier Division final | Andy Mead

In the final qualifying match, center back Eric Kinzner powered the Rave Green to a 4-0 win over the San Jose Earthquakes with an old-fashioned defender’s hat trick, scoring twice from corner kicks and once from the penalty spot. Tacoma Defiance midfielder Ray Serrano also found the back of the net, ensuring a comfortable victory for the Rave Green against a quality side.

“With anything we do, we set the bar high,” added Faithfull. “We want to win every game possible and perform as best as we can. The boys are really excited to show what they can do against some of the biggest clubs in the world. They want to stake their claim and put themselves on the map.”

Throughout the past four years, Sounders Academy teams have shown time and time again that they’re capable of defeating some of the best international clubs in the world.

Attacking midfielder Alex VIllanueva impressed in the final phase of GA Cup qualifying | Quinn Width

Now that they’ve secured passage to the Champions Division, they aren’t resting on their laurels. Facing off against clubs that have developed World Cup and UEFA Champions League winners, the young Sounders intend to show they belong at the highest echelons of the international game.

“I think it’s great playing against higher level teams, like Real Madrid,” said U-17 midfielder Sota Kitahara, who played up an age group on the team that won the 2018 GA Cup Premier Division. “It’s a good experience for us at our age because I think we’ll have a good chance of going to the final four or winning it.”

The U-15s also wrapped up GA Cup qualifying but failed to advance to the final stage, as only four MLS teams across the competition can progress in the younger age bracket.

Fielding a team with several 2005s, the team kicked off the weekend by soundly defeating the Earthquakes, with midfielders Juan Alvarez and Connor Tollan grabbing goals. In the next match, a 3-1 defeat to LAFC, Seattle carved out several high-quality scoring chances, but were denied by a string of impressive saves. Despite giving up three goals by the 45th minute, the young Sounders battled through adversity, adapting to their opponent’s high-pressing scheme and breaking lines in possession.

Finally, the youngest members of the youth system wrapped up the event with a dominant 2-0 win over Real Salt Lake, with forwards Austin Brummett and Oscar Rincon each tallying a goal.