The Seattle Sounders Academy U-17s won the 2019 Generation adidas Champions Division, defeating Spanish side Valencia CF 1-0 in the final on Saturday in Frisco, Texas. As the reigning champs of the GA Cup Premier Division and the only MLS club to even advance to the tournament’s title match, they have etched their names in history as the first North American side to win the event.
With the match seeming destined for penalties, Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez’s cross found the head of Ray Serrano, who guided his shot past the goalkeeper with only seconds remaining in the second period of extra time.
Make no mistake, this is a massive benchmark for the Sounders, who had to go through Brazilian side Flamengo, Argentine powerhouse River Plate and England’s West Ham United to even reach the Champions Division final.
Undaunted by the occasion, Seattle raced out of the gates in the title match. Sounders First Team midfielder Danny Leyva nearly opened the scoring inside the first minute, but Valencia’s goalkeeper stood tall to deny him on the doorstep.
The Sounders controlled the first 10 minutes before the La Liga side clawed its way back into the match. Both teams traded spells of intricate possession as they tested each other out. It looked as if the Rave Green had drawn first blood in the 20th minute, when Danny Robles’ shot crashed back off the crossbar and Ocampo-Chavez calmly dispatched the rebound, but the GA Cup Golden Boot winner was whistled offside.
It was a similar story in the second half, as both teams traded control of the match. Valencia struck the woodwork twice, but the best chance of the afternoon fell to Ocampo-Chavez. The Tacoma Defiance forward pressed Valencia’s goalkeeper into a mistake but was unable to put the ensuing shot on frame.
Extra time was a nervy affair, with both teams vacillating between cautiously playing for penalties and pushing numbers forward to find a winner. But in the dying embers of the match, Ocampo-Chavez, who won the Golden Boot with six goals and one assist in six matches, whipped in a cross that Serrano calmly redirected past the goalkeeper for a historic victory.
Experience Pays Off
The Sounders Academy staff believes it’s critical to take young players out of their comfort zone by playing them up an age group and against international players. Five of Seattle’s starters on Saturday are already under contract with the club on either the First Team or Tacoma Defiance, playing significant minutes at the professional level.
Throughout the past couple of years, the players on this U-17 team have beaten the likes of Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur, Everton FC, FC Basel (twice), Celtic FC and Saprissa. So, when the Sounders took on some of the best teams in the world at this tournament, they weren’t flustered by the famous crests on the front of their opponents’ jerseys.
The young Sounders just won the GA Cup Champions Division by defeating some of the best young players in the global game.
CAMPEONES, CAMPEONES!!! 🏆 pic.twitter.com/OhXgMvYq9F— Sounders FC Academy (@SoundersAcademy) April 21, 2019
When facing top talents from around the world, soccer turns into a weak-link game. Players who are out of their depth are found out quickly and exposed. This is why Seattle’s historic run is so incredible, as every player on the squad stepped up and showcased his top-notch quality.
Valencia, who defeated Seattle 1-0 in the group stage’s opening match, was on the only team to defeat the Rave Green. The Sounders bounced back from that disappointing loss by rattling off four wins and four clean sheets for a rematch against the Spanish side in the title game. Determined to make a statement in the final, the young Sounders got their redemption.