Alec Diaz may have started the game on the bench, but that didn’t stop him from turning in a star performance in the Sounders U-19s USSDA Playoff opener on Monday. Diaz’s second-half brace allowed the Sounders to pull out a 3-2 win over New Jersey’s PDA.
Diaz’s production at the academy level made him a good bet under the circumstances, having scored 14 goals in 12 appearances during league play with the U-19s this season, and more than 30 goals in 35 games between the U-17s and U-19s last season. He also has three goals in about 700 professional minutes spread over two seasons with the Tacoma Defiance.
After falling behind on a penalty late in the first half, the Sounders got on the board when Marlon Vargas used some impressive footwork to score off a rebound in the 70th minute. Then, as the game approached its end, the Alec Diaz Show began in earnest. First, having fallen behind to PDA for a second time, Diaz tied the game up when he received a ball from Connor Drought in the box under pressure in the 82nd minute. He spun away from two defenders and made enough space for himself to rifle a shot over the ‘keeper from about a yard to the left of the penalty spot.
Another great turn by Diaz, this one resulting in a goal. Nice play by Connor Drought to set it up too. pic.twitter.com/rgPE4MFPQL— Jeremiah Oshan (@JeremiahOshan) June 17, 2019
To round out the comeback and put his stamp on the game, Diaz scored again in the 87th minute. This time it was a well-worked counterattack that led to Diaz putting the ball in the back of the net, as fellow Tacoma Defiance players Danny Robles and Marlon Vargas took the ball from midfield into the box where Robles laid the ball off for Diaz around the top of the box and he placed his shot well into the bottom corner to give the team a 3-2 lead and their first win of the tournament.
Diaz just gave Sounders their first lead. pic.twitter.com/6rzIWYbC8x— Jeremiah Oshan (@JeremiahOshan) June 17, 2019
Diaz easily could have had a hat-trick with a goal earlier in the half, if not for a nice couple nice saves from the PDA goalkeeper. On the first, Diaz took a feed from Robles at the top of the box, hit his defender with the old razzle-dazzle as he dragged the ball through the space behind him and in front of his defender and spun to fire a clear shot destined for the top-left corner.
Sounders just equalized through Marlon Vargas, but this turn by Alec Diaz that created the corner was very very nice. pic.twitter.com/8mYDdkiq9D— Jeremiah Oshan (@JeremiahOshan) June 17, 2019
Diaz also got loose on a breakaway late in the match, but some deft defending forced him wide where the goalkeeper was able to make another nice save.
This performance from Diaz was yet another in a string of strong performances in important games, as Diaz also scored the winners as the U17s won the DA Playoffs and the GA Cup last year. He’s often gone relatively unheralded, likely the result of playing the same position as rising star, Alphonso Ocampo-Chavez and being a year older. Diaz earned his first ever call-up to a US Youth National Team camp earlier this year when Tab Ramos chose him for a U-18 camp in February. It looks like Diaz is ready to step out of the shadow and shine.