It was not their best played match. A team that normally dominates in the attack just could not finish. The stout Montreal Impact defense held Seattle Sounders FC's U18s scoreless, something that had only been done once on the entire season. They even had nine matches on the year when they scored more than three goals. Montreal played well, and Seattle didn't finish.
But the Academy isn't just about winning. It's not even just about playing in the USSDA at the U18 and U16 level. It is about developing boys into soccer players and men (that last point is kind of key as a vast majority of players will not go pro).
Despite transitions in their staff the Academy did some amazing things this year. They started a U14 squad that uses futsal as a primary training device. They brought in players with backgrounds outside of the Greater Puget Sound (Chaffin, Rojas, Frago). A dozen players are headed off to college. Both the U18s and U16s made the Playoffs.
Several players played at the Reserve level with a few more being on the bench for official MLS Reserve League matches.
|Academy Player||at Chivas USA||v Colorado||v Orange County||at Salt Lake||v Galaxy II||Total|
Many others, including several U16 players participated in Reserve scrimmages against local colleges and FC Edmonton.
Every year the squad gets less direct tactically. This year there were stretches of play that used a 4-1-4-1, but the 4-1-3-2 was more prominent. Wingers are sometimes inverted and sometimes not so that they can develop what is best for themselves.
All of the kids from the lowest official team to the top also know that their dreams are attainable. Whether it is Yedlin with the full United States National Team or Morris/Okoli with the US U21s Seattle's youth soccer players can see a future not just in Rave Green, but in Red, White and Blue.
There's been a powerful winning tradition at the Academy level. They are regularly in the Playoffs, but don't yet have a title. The team is not thinking about just results though.
"Sometimes I think we have to look at that we might have to sacrifice some results to get better development of players," Sporting Director Chris Henderson told Sounder at Heart after Monday's First Team training session. "We need to develop players for the First Team. With what DeAndre's done in such a short period of time it's all those kids just thinking 'I want to get in there. I want to get a chance with the First Team.' Look at those Reserve games and training with the First Team and getting the 14s playing with the 16s and the 16s with the 18s always thinking about the development. I think if you do the right things you are going to win also, but sometimes you may be sacrifice some results."
Now with dozens of HGP eligible players scattered through colleges around the country and tryouts for the 2014/15 USSDA season underway the next wave of the The Future is on its way. There may not be another Yedlin. But there could be a Morris, a Jones, a Schweitzer, a Chaffin, a McCormick, a Rojas, a Mansaray, a Westra, a French...
When people ask what is wrong with American soccer development there are a lot of things that could be the answer, but there are also a lot of changes in place from just ten years ago. Just now Sounders FC have players that spent a full four years in their system. It will be five years before someone comes through it with six years in the youth organization. In a world of instant gratification Seattle soccer fans may just need to wait to see that roster stacked with homegrown talent throughout.