Former Tacoma Defiance left back Alex Villanueva has signed with Orange County SC of the USL Championship, ESPN reported. Sounder at Heart confirmed the report, while also learning that it was a free transfer. Villanueva had been on trial with both the Columbus Crew and LAFC this preseason.
It’s a similar situation to the one facing Ray Serrano, who was allowed to join Louisville City without a transfer fee. In both cases, the Sounders essentially decided to allow promising young players to leave for free in order to further their professional aspirations. By not requiring any transfer fee, the Sounders are at least able to retain their MLS rights if they were to choose to return.
Villanueva is probably a bit closer to MLS ready than Serrano. The 19-year-old actually made two appearances for the Sounders in 2021 after being signed to two separate hardship contracts. With Defiance, he showed some real promise as a left wingback, logging two goals and three assists in about 1,900 minutes.
In OCSC, Villanueva joins the reigning USL Championship winners. Although their 2022 roster has not yet been finalized, their 2021 roster included a host of former MLS players, including former Sounders Ugo Okoli and Darwin Jones.