Leyva Debut
Charis Wilson

Danny Leyva puts in sterling performance in first MLS start in rivalry win over Vancouver Whitecaps

SEATTLE — On Monday, Seattle Sounders Homegrown midfielder Danny Leyva played 120 minutes with the Academy U-19s in the national quarterfinal of the USSDA playoffs.

On Saturday, he made his full debut for the Rave Green at CenturyLink Field, making him the third-youngest player in MLS history to start a match. And in the 60th minute, the 16-year-old Academy alum scored a picturesque goal, perfectly lofting a shot from distance over the heads of three defenders and into the back of the net.

The goal was later disallowed after Video Review, but it took no shine off a sterling performance from Leyva, who completed 87.2 percent of his 47 pass attempts, recorded one key pass and led the team with four interceptions.

“[I] just [had] a lot of adrenaline when we walked out,” said Leyva. “I was very happy in the stadium. I wanted to thank all of the fans. It was a great sight and a great atmosphere.”

The 2019 season has been a whirlwind for the kid from Las Vegas. After earning a First Team contract, he led the Sounders to a first Generation adidas Cup Champions Division title, helped the U.S. U-17s qualify for the World Cup and made his MLS debut as a substitute against the Montreal Impact. He made his first First Team start on June 12 when he started against the Portland Timbers in the U.S. Open Cup.

Leyva has amassed some incredible accomplishments this year, but his composed, mature performance in a 1-0 win over a Cascadia rival takes the cake.

“I think [Leyva] has some attacking flair,” said Sounders Head Coach Brian Schmetzer. “I think some of his passing was very clean. I was, again, just really impressed with the kid. And kudos to him. Kudos to [Assistant Coach] Gonzo [Pineda] because he does a lot of work with all the midfielders. It’s been, as a soccer fan, great to see.”

It’s not easy for any player to take control of a match in their first First Team start, let alone a 16-year-old Homegrown in a derby. But his performance on both sides of the ball garnered respect from his more senior teammates.

“[Leyva is] a good player,” said right back Kelvin Leerdam, who scored the game-winning goal in the sixth minute of eight minutes of stoppage time. “He sees the game…The coach gave him confidence to let him play 90 minutes, I think that says enough.”

Forward Justin Dhillon, who signed with the First Team on Friday, put in a solid shift up top in his inaugural start, while 17-year-old Homegrown forward Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez also recorded his first MLS minutes.

“[Dhillon] showed us that he wants [it],” said Leerdam. “Hopefully he gets another chance and grabs it with both hands.”


Seventeen-year-old forward Ocampo-Chavez impressed in his MLS debut | Charis Wilson

Leerdam also heaped a lot of praise on Ocampo-Chavez, who has followed a similar trajectory as Leyva in recent months.

“Alfonso came in and had a few dribbles,” Leerdam added. “He won a few free kicks in the opposing half. It’s a good start for him. It starts with that one game, and this was his first game in MLS. Hopefully for him, there’s going to be many more.”

With three youngsters from the Academy and Defiance impressing in a heated rivalry match, it’s safe to say the future of the First Team is bright.

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