One of the down sides of MLS growing at such a rapid pace, both in terms of on-the-field product and quality player development, is that rosters can be depleted for matches played during international windows. That rings especially true for the Sounders, as eight players are currently in camp with their respective national teams.
But the upside of the league’s growth is that players who’ve come through elite, high-class youth systems are afforded meaningful MLS minutes, which accelerates their development and sets them up for future success.
“When things are challenging,” Sounders FC Head Coach Brian Schmetzer said in an interview with Sports Radio KJR on Tuesday night, “it’s an opportunity for young players on both sides of the ball to show their respective coaches what they can do.”
When the Sounders take on the Montreal Impact on Wednesday (4:30 p.m. PT; JOEtv, YouTube TV, 950 KJR AM, EL REY 1360 AM), the match could feature MLS debuts for two of the top prospects from the youth system, Homegrowns Danny Leyva and Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez.
Asked whether the shortage of first-choice players could strengthen the team in the long-run, as it holds the potential of increasing the squad’s depth toward the end of the campaign, Schmetzer singled out Leyva.
“A kid like Danny Leyva, I’ll tell you as well, he might see his first action as a Seattle Sounder as well,” said Schmetzer. “That’s opportunity for these young guys…. If the game needs it, I’m not afraid to play him,” he added. “He’s earned it.”
Leyva, 16, has risen through the ranks quickly in recent months, parlaying his dominant displays with the Sounders U-17s at Generation adidas Cup into a breakout run with the U.S. U-17 Men’s National Team in the Concacaf Championship.
Leyva made his CenturyLink debut during a preseason friendly with Uruguay's Club Nacional | Charis Wilson
“All of his experience with the youth national team – he played in a couple of really big tournaments against kids that are already pros coming from Europe and stuff,” said Schmetzer when asked what has made Leyva ready for this opportunity. “He’s getting acclimated to the speed of the game at our level. And I think he’s catching up. I think he’s done well.”
Later that evening, Sounders FC General Manager Garth Lagerwey was asked whether Ocampo-Chavez, who won the Golden Boot at GA Cup and also enjoyed a strong showing with the U.S. U-17s, could make the bench for midweek fixture with so many players away on international duty.
“He absolutely will be on the bench, and Danny Leyva will be dressing [for the match],” Lagerwey said on Sounders Weekly. “I think both of those kids have an opportunity, given the numbers, that they may make their debuts.”
The Sounders will take on the Impact today in their final regular season match before the international break, returning with a home game against the Vancouver Whitecaps on June 29. The team will also host the Portland Timbers on June 12 at Cheney Stadium in the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup.