The Seattle Sounders Academy U-15s wrapped up 2018-19 USSDA season last Saturday, defeating the Portland Timbers 1-0 at Starfire Sports.
With the shutout win over their Cascadia rival, the young Sounders finished the regular season unbeaten, posting a 16-0-3 record with a +46 goal-differential as they qualified for the first-ever U-15 DA playoffs in June.
“It was a good year for the group,” said U-15 Head Coach Dan Lock. “I think the boys have done really well. Having playoffs for the first year added a bit of pressure for them, which is good, because they knew they had to win the division [to qualify]. I thought we had a good balance between getting results and playing the right way. We really solidified our identity.
“We’ve got four 2005s, so a lot of the weeks we had a third of our starting lineup who were U-14s. That’s something we’re trying to do throughout all age groups in the Academy, pushing young players up.”
U-15 forward Oscar Rincon, who played up with the U-17s at Generation adidas Cup, has 18 goals in 18 games this season | Quinn Width
The U-15 USSDA playoffs in June will feature the first-place teams from the seven regional divisions across the country, as well as one wildcard team based on the highest points per game.
Ranked fifth in the country, the young Sounders won’t be overawed in the playoffs. Many of the players on the roster competed in the ICC Futures Tournament against the likes of Chelsea FC and Liverpool FC, while several others have already won the prestigious Youdan Trophy twice. In fact, the 2005s on the U-15 roster are in San Diego, Calif., this week playing back in their own age group at the Manchester City Cup.
With the team performing so well in league play, instilling a culture of humility and hard work has been paramount to maintaining the club’s lofty standards. According to Lock, the club’s objective of moving top talents up to higher teams has helped foster a healthy ethos of at training.
“This year we’ve had Austin [Brummett], Oscar [Rincon], Reed [Baker-Whiting], Angel [Martínez], Taka [Sasaki] and Juan [Alvarez], so six players, get minutes with the U-17s,” said Lock. “A third of our roster has been rewarded with training opportunities and minutes with the U-17s. That’s an extra incentive for them. It creates that competitive environment.”
Sounders Academy has made a name for itself on the national stage at the USSDA playoffs in recent seasons. The U-19s finished third in 2017, narrowly missing out on the championship match after falling to the LA Galaxy in extra time of the semifinal. And last year, the U-17s won the club’s first national championship.
With such a rich history of postseason success at every level of the club, the Academy placed added importance on the U-15s featuring in the inaugural edition of U-15 USSDA Playoffs.
“We made [qualification] a priority,” said Sounders FC Director of Player Development and Academy Director Marc Nicholls. “Having something on the line, with the potential to play in a national final, it adds a little more gravity to the league season. Dan Lock has done a wonderful job with the team. The way they play, they truly epitomize what we want to see.”
Beyond the accolades, Lock has been most impressed with the spirit of the group. The players are still very young, so it’s important that they continue to work hard day-in, day-out if they hope to make it to the Tacoma Defiance or First Team down the road.
“I think one of the most impressive things about the group is their character and togetherness as a team,” said Lock. “They’ve really embraced a sense of professionalism on and off the field. They’ve really embraced an element of humility, which has been great to see.”