After squeaking through the group stage and the quarterfinals with extra-time winners, the Sounders Academy U17s soared through the GA Cup Champions Division semifinals with a resounding 4-0 win over West Ham United on Thursday at Toyota Stadium. Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez took a stranglehold on the Golden Boot race with a hat trick — putting his total at six goals — and the elimination of his closest competition in West Ham’s Kai Corbett. Academy centerback Elias Katsaros also turned in a star-making performance with a goal, an assist and excellent defense throughout the match.
West Ham started on the front foot, with the Sounders struggling to get out of their own half thanks to some uncharacteristically bad touches from Danny Leyva. West Ham weren’t able to make any good chances out of their pressure though.
The Sounders soon put the bad start behind them when Leyva put in a free kick to the back post. It found Katsaros who headed it back across goal where Ocampo-Chavez finished the chance with a diving header to put Seattle up 1-0.
West Ham immediately started applying pressure again and almost scored on a Corbett free kick in the 11’, but Lee got down to his right well to parry it aside. Just two minutes later it looked like Corbett had evened the match when he headed in a nice early cross at the back post but the AR put his flag up and it was waived off.
Soon after the Sounders stretched their lead to two. Ray Serrano got the ball in the corner and did some nice work to get free and send a low cross into the box. Danny Robles made a solid near post run to free space in the box which Ocampo-Chavez occupied well. The ball found its way to him and he swept it easily past the West Ham keeper.
Then the rout was on. Katsaros headed in a Leyva corner at the back post at 20’. Then Ocampo-Chavez got his hat trick four minutes later when his shot from outside the box snuck under the arm of the West Ham keeper to make it 4-0 with the game only a third gone.
Corbett almost got West Ham on the board again at 28’ when Leyva got too casual on the ball and the West Ham forward picked his pocket. Corbett’s shot beat Conrad Lee but Katsaro filled in behind him and blocked the shot with his chest to keep the Sounders’ shutout intact.
The rest of the first half was relatively calm but we did get to see the tournament’s temporary sub system for head injuries when Lee was subbed out of the game to be checked for a concussion and returned to the game minutes later.
The Sounders came out firing in the second half and almost added their fifth in the first minute of the half when Robles found Ethan Dobbelaere free in the box. His right-footed shot looked destined for the top corner but a West Ham player got out just in time to block it.
Things slowed down again quickly but the Sounders showed some nice one-touch passing near the top of the 18 a couple of times but weren’t able to fashion a chance. Things got a bit dangerous with West Ham clearly frustrated. Robles was the victim of what could have been a red card tackle that moved his shin guard all the way to the back of his calf. A yellow card was given and Robles survived uninjured,
At 51’ Corbett again almost got his opening goal on a wide free kick. He sent a whipping ball into the near post and looked to have beaten Lee but it struck the post and stayed out.
The win makes the Sounders the first MLS side to send their Academy team to the Champions Division final since Real Salt Lake made the final in 2014 when it was known as the international. The Sounders will face the winner of the Valencia CF and Dinamo Zagreb semifinal in the final on Saturday.
Seattle Sounders FC Starters: GK: #23 Lee; Defenders: #44 Kitahara, #40 Atencio, #37 Katsaros, #45 Villanueva; Midfielders: #34 Leyva, #33 Hegardt, #21 Serrano Lopez, #35 Robles, #39 Dobbelaere; Forward: #28 Ocampo-Chavez
West Ham United Starters: GK: #13 Jinadu; Defenders: #14 Woods, #5 Thomas, #6 Nsumbu, #2 Greenidge; Midfielders: #15 Heale, #8 Nebyla, #3 Wilson-Esbrand, #10 Chester, #11 Kileba; Forward: #9 Corbett