With all the attention on the Academy alums lately (post-season tournaments do that) it is easy to forget about the Academy itself. Saturday the older Academy teams took on two men's sides. At the U-16 level they played against West Sound on field 4 at Starfire. Samba took on the U-18s inside the stadium.
The Academy is in a slow chunk of league play so some friendlies are a good way to get extra matches for the kids. It is also a way to challenge them putting them against men rather than boys. Since most players signed as HGPs are not fully developed physically this is a challenge that a few could eventually face in their pro careers.
Here are some brief notes on the players from that Saturday match. For the U-16s it was my first time getting a look at them so take these as a mere snapshot rather than scouting.
Westra (Left Back) - his crossing is a bit long, but was able to get physical with the much older West Sound players. He likes to cut in rather than stick wide. Very willing to get forward. Kees reads the game well already playing up an age group and regularly starting.
Samkange (Center Back) - imagine being just 16 and facing either a well over 6 foot tall skillful header of the ball or a 5'10ish brute. Samkrange did that and for the most part succeeded. The goal against was from someone just that much taller and on a set-piece. Tosh was willing to dribble out of trouble and mixed in short passes quite well.
Hernandez (Left Mid) - the moment of the match was not a goal, but a 70 yard bomb that was about one yard too hard as Hernandez went over two lines and was near perfect in putting a forward 1-on-1 with the keeper. It was a stunning pro quality pass by a 16 year old.
I certainly have to watch more U-16 action so that I can get more time seeing how they play.
Seattle's playing a 4-1-4-1 at this level and that's probably because it is filled with attacking midfield talent. There are as many potential pros on the current U-18s as there were on the previous three iterations combined. The reason for that is simple, most of these players have several years in a professional academy, not just one or two.
Olsen (Forward) - playing up top by himself this year David works that line well. It stretches the defense and can make quality connecting passes. He's still the player that got about 20 goals last year while mostly playing up, but his on ball skills are much stronger now.
Prado-Huerta (Left Mid, Winger, Forward) - back in the academy system IPH is fitting into the style of play quite well. His slicing runs either threaten on goal or go wide for him to insert a cross.
Wingo (CAM) - great at threading passes and taking distance shots to keep the opposing layers honest. Henry's ball skills continue to improve and his willingness to track back and support the CDM are vital.
Rojas (CAM) - already with a man's build the he seeks the ball out and finds spaces for easy receipt of the ball with time to turn. He keeps his head up and looks for ways to keep attacking. He has a background with pro coaching prior to his year with the Sounders.
Chaffin (Right Wing) - Tall, fast, well built Chaffin's crosses were dangerous. Probably the best long passer of the attacking group. A threat in the air if he wasn't serving the ball. Another from outside of the Sound with some pro training in the past.
McCormick (CDM) - marshals the defense and transitions well. Duncan has extensive experience with the Reserves and looks to be developing into a ball-winner/passer type. Probably more an Evans than an Alonso.
Havens (Left Back) - loves to get forward, maybe a bit much. His recovery speed is great. Good medium passer of the ball.
Crichlow (Right Back) - he's been with the Reserves a bit. Willing to body much larger players. One of the better long passers on the team.
Frago (Winger, CAM) - came on in the second half. Malcom always wants the ball. He moves to spaces, cuts aggressively and expects rapid interchanges. He can ladder the ball up the pitch with another player and not turn it over. Fast and willing to go to goal aggressively. Great use of angles. He was with Saprissa and at a Qatari academy in the past.
The center backs and keeper were tested so infrequently against a side several years older it was impossible to judge them. Other subs didn't draw the eye as much as Frago, but that is more due to the way he controls a game than any lack in their part.
One thing is certain. Seattle needs a USL PRO team sooner rather than later. They can stock that level of talent, there is no doubt.
The next home games in the USSDA league are not until February 22nd, 2014 but there may be more friendlies over the winter.