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Sounders bolster development, academy ranks

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Three people officially join the staff, while another gets a promotion.

The Seattle Sounders officially announced that Henry Brauner, John Hutchinson, and Jorge García Valera have been added to the team’s technical staff, and Gary Lewis has been promoted to Academy Director. Brauner and Hutchinson are actually returning to the Sounders organization after spending time with U.S. Soccer and Western United FC of the A-League, respectively.

Brauner, who formerly served as the head of Sounders FC Academy recruiting in 2017 and 2018, will serve as the Director of Player Development. In this role he’ll oversee and guide all players in the Sounders development system, from the Sounders Discovery Program, up through the academy, to Tacoma Defiance. Brauner left his position with the Sounders Academy in 2019 to work in US Soccer’s Development Identification Department. While talent identification will still surely be part of his job, Brauner’s focus will shift to nurturing and maximizing the talent within the pipeline.

Hutchinson, like Brauner, spent 2017 and 2018 in the Sounders organization as an assistant coach, then head coach of S2, now Tacoma Defiance. Hutchinson left his position as head coach of the USL side to take an assistant coaching job with a newly formed A-League side, Western United FC. Hutchinson will fill a newly created role as the First Team Development Coach, an opportunity for him to use his experience working with young players at S2 as he now helps to facilitate the growth of young players who have progressed to the Sounders first team and prepares them to take advantage of their on-field opportunities.

“John’s job is going to be a mix of first team and Defiance,” Sounders GM Garth Lagerwey said at YachtCon V: Homecoming. “We’re going to form this group called an elite training group. We’re going to bring our best prospects together, and we’re going to have them interact directly with the first team staff. So we have some cool, creative ideas on how to take this next step, to really push these kids forward so we can take advantage of all the investment and all the time we’ve put in over the five years.”

Gary Lewis most recently worked as the Sounders Academy U-17s head coach, and will now step into the Academy Director position that was left open when Marc Nicholls left to join Charlotte’s MLS team. Lewis has extensive experience in the youth side of soccer, having started his career coaching the U-6 and U-9 teams in the Liverpool FC academy. Since his start he’s worked with the Everton academy, had another stint with Liverpool’s academy, and a four year stretch with the Philadelphia Union Academy, where he served as head coach of the U-14 and U-17 teams. He holds a USSF A License, a UEFA A License, and FA Academy Managers License.

Jorge García Valera joins the club as a Video Analyst for the first team. Originally from Valencia, Spain, García Valera most recently worked with Marcelo Bielsa at Leeds United, but has also worked at Atlético de Madrid C.F. and Levante U.D., among others. García Valera will head up all video work with the first team coaching staff.

With the exception of García Valera, these hires have been made with a focus on the team’s development pipeline. It’s an indication that the organization wants to continue to grow and ensure success at the academy level, while also making sure that players are given the best opportunity to succeed at each level of the developmental system, whether that’s playing with Tacoma Defiance or signing with the first team and playing at CenturyLink Field.