It was only 11 days ago that the Sounders U16 team finished 5th in the country at the US Soccer Development Academy Finals and only a couple of weeks before that the Sounders U18s were eliminated from the Playoff groups in Frisco, Texas. But the Sounders Academy didn't get much of a break before preparation for the new season began.
On July 21 (last Thursday) Seattle conducted trials for next season's U18 team and the next day the roster was announced. It should be a pretty familiar team. Of the 25 players, 5 are players returning from this season's U18 team who are still eligible and haven't gone off to college. That's supersub Dom Dismuke and key player Aaron Kovar along with three players who were primarily subs last season: Kurtis Pederson, Justin Solomon, and Travis Strawn. The other U18 players have mostly moved on to the college game, notably including DeAndre Yedlin who'll play for Caleb Porter at Akron as well as Ryan Herman to Santa Clara and Sean Okoli to Wake Forest. There are also some players staying closer to home, including Drew White to UW, Evan Robicheau to SPU, and Jeremy Wentzel to Shoreline. Chase Hanson and Darwin Jones are the only players I wasn't able to find future plans for. Jones in particular would be one to keep track of since he's been a pretty dynamic and prolific scorer as a youth player.
The bulk of the new U18 roster will be made up of players who played for the U16s last season. There are 14 graduated players in all and the list includes every player that had at least 10 starts for the U16s last season except for Michael Steele (who had 13 starts, but hasn't graduated. It's possible he still has U16 eligibility as he's on the U17 GA Cup roster). Graduated players to keep an eye on include Keenan Townsend — who was an excellent keeper for the U16s and is likely to take over that position for the U18s — and Jesse Klug, who led the team in scoring with 14 goals in the regular season.
The remaining 6 spots on the new U-18 roster are taken up by these newcomers:
- Austin Curtis - Moved from Colorado this season to play for Bonney Lake HS. The Tacoma News Tribune says he's already the school's best player. May have already been in the Sounders system as a midseason 'transfer' though I don't think he appeared for the team.
- Jordan Kollars - Plays for Central Kitsap HS and made the All-Narrows Second Team as a midfielder. Helped lead the Wolves to another state tournament appearance. Probably a lot of ferry rides in his future.
- Josh Gehrke - Plays for Seattle Christian HS and was MVP of the Nisqually League this season. Started 16 games for the Crossfire U16s last season as a defender.
- Jimmy Oganga - Kenyan exchange student and Thomas Jefferson HS player played for the Crossfire U18s last season and the U16s the season before (and even scored a goal playing up for the U18s that propelled them to the national championship game in 2010). Fast midfielder most likely a winger in Sigi's system.
- Sawyer Preston - Midfielder started 10 games for the Crossfire last season and was KingCo All League Second Team for Eastlake HS.
- Mikhail Doholis - Vancouver (WA) forward played club soccer for Eastside United in the Portland suburbs and scored the goal that won Eastside the USYS national championship in 2010. Was a resident at the US Soccer Bradenton Academy in Spring of 2010. Played for Union HS in Vancouver and helped lead the Titans to a league championship and made the GSHL All-League first team.
The next three players all moved into the Sounders system from cross-lake rivals Washington Crossfire
And finally, a player that might have the most upside of the incoming class:
On Monday the U-17s (which is made up mostly of this season's U16 team) started play in the GA Cup and they lost their first match 0-1 to the Philadelphia Union. Tuesday was match 2 and the Sounders had a thrilling comeback fall short as the scored on the last kick of the game to tie Sporting KC 2-2, but ended up losing in penalties. Their last group match is against FC Dallas today.
Finally, Wednesday the 'pre-academy' (which are basically U-15s and are likely to make up the bulk of the U-16 team next season) team played their first match and beat the New York Red Bulls 1-0. Their next match is against the LA Galaxy, who took home the U-16 championship this season.