Leyva and Ocampo-Chavez, both of whom recently signed Homegrown contracts after impressing with the Tacoma Defiance and Sounders Academy U-17s, are in Lakewood Ranch, Fla., with the U.S. U-17 men’s national team at the Concacaf Championship, which serves as the qualifying event for the 2019 U-17 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
In a squad littered with some of the top prospects in the U.S. Soccer pipeline, the pair has stood out among the top performers for a side that finished atop Group F, appearing in all three wins against Canada, Barbados and Guatemala.
“They’ve both done well,” said Sounders FC Director of Player Development and Academy Director Marc Nicholls. “I think the whole U.S. team was quite poor in the first half of the first game [against Canada], but since then Danny has been very good. He looks to be a lynchpin of the team.
“It’s been good for Alfonso to compete,” Nicholls added. “He’s had to compete for minutes and his place, which is the reality if he wants to make it at the First Team [level].”
A metronomic, box-to-box midfielder, Leyva started the first two matches for the U.S., setting the tempo and breaking lines with his passing. Ocampo-Chavez is coming off a Golden Boot performance at the Generation adidas Cup Champions Division, where the Sounders U-17s became the first MLS side to win the prestigious event, and has maintained his excellent form with two goals.
“Alfonso only has one start, but he’s got two very good goals,” added Nicholls. “In the GA Cup, he scored two with his right foot, two with his left and two with his head. He’s already got one with his left foot and one with his head. It was a really a nice moment when Danny provided the assist.”
The U.S. entered halftime down 2-0 to Canada in the opening match of the group stage before storming back for a 3-2 win. In the next match, a 6-1 drubbing of Barbados, Ocampo-Chavez scored a goal courtesy of a wonderful first touch to settle a long ball and a composed, clever finish underneath the goalkeeper.
The pair then linked up for the third goal in the young Yanks’ 3-1 win over Guatemala, putting a bow on a promising display as they prepare for tougher competition in the knockout rounds.
The U-17s face Guadeloupe in the Round of 16 on Thursday at 3 p.m. PT. All four teams that reach the Concacaf Championship semifinal advance to the U-17 FIFA World Cup.