When the Seattle Sounders hosted Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday night, supporters got a glimpse of not only the future of the club, but the potentially bright future of U.S. Soccer.
It was a head-to-head matchup between one of the top clubs in North America and one of the premier soccer institutions of the global game. And three of the top prospects on the U.S. U-17 men’s national team – Sounders Homegrowns Danny Leyva and Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez and Dortmund talent Giovanni Reyna – received significant minutes at CenturyLink Field.
“I think this kind of opportunity for these young players was unheard of a decade ago and probably even five years ago,” said Sounders FC Director of Player Development and Academy Director Marc Nicholls. “To have three young players that will hopefully be playing [at the U-17 World Cup] in Brazil for the U.S. team in October to get this opportunity to play against each other for two storied clubs is really promising. I’m really excited to see what the future holds for all three of them.”
Leyva wins back possession from 2014 FIFA World Cup winner Mario Götze | Corkey Trewin
Caveats about this being a friendly during Dortmund’s preseason aside, the presence of three of U.S. Soccer’s top prospects playing their respective first teams is symbolically significant.
Leyva, 16, has made four appearances for the Sounders as a box-to-box midfielder across the MLS regular season and U.S. Open Cup, including three starts. Not only has he adjusted to the higher level of play, but he was one of the top players on the pitch in the Sounders’ 1-0 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps and the 2-1 loss to the Portland Timbers in the U.S. Open Cup.
His fearlessness in possession, tactical IQ and technical acuity were all on display his 90 minutes against a Dortmund side that included Mario Götze, Mats Hummels, Lucas Piszczek, Marco Reus, Jadon Sancho and Paco Alcácer.
“Danny Leyva was playing in midfield against a top opponent and he wasn’t afraid,” said Sounders FC Head Coach Brian Schmetzer. “His body language was always, ‘Here, give me the ball.’ Some of the senior guys need to watch him and say, ‘Here’s a kid who’s enjoying his soccer.’”
Ocampo-Chavez, 17, injected pace, energy and verve into the match when entered as a substitute at halftime. The young striker, who has three MLS appearances, including a start against the Columbus Crew, nearly scored a wonderful goal off a long-distance strike. Sounders FC center back Jonathon Campbell scored from the subsequent corner kick.
“Dortmund has Hummels, Reus, Sancho and some of the best players in the world,” said Ocampo-Chavez. “It was a great experience for me, especially since I’m young.”
Ocampo-Chavez forces Dortmund goalkeeper Roman Bürki into a full-extension save
The young striker, whose friends and teammates have dubbed ‘Fonz’, said that playing alongside his longtime Sounders Academy teammate, Leyva, and against his U.S. U-17 teammate, Reyna, was an amazing experience.
“Leyva is a great friend of mine and my teammate,” he said. “Reyna is my national teammate and a great friend. It just put a smile on my face playing against a friend of mine, knowing he’s doing great things. It was special.”
The fact that two massive clubs were willing to test top American prospects in match played in front of 37,722 supporters certainly demonstrates the significant strides made in player development over the last decade.
“I think [people] underestimate U.S. Soccer,” added Ocampo-Chavez. “They’re sleeping on us. We have great players, especially young players, right now who are all in Europe like Alex Mendez (SC Freiburg) and Uly Llanez (Wolfsburg).”
The Sounders will host the Portland Timbers on Sunday at CenturyLink Field (6:30 p.m. PT; FS1, YouTube TV, 950 KJR AM, El Rey 1360 AM | TICKETS) with the 2019 Cascadia Cup on the line.