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2015 Sounders U23 season preview

The PDL season begins on Saturday vs. Calgary Foothills FC.

Luis Esteves returns to the U23's for a fourth season.
Luis Esteves returns to the U23's for a fourth season.
Chris Coulter/Sounders U23

A club whose roster has included players such as DeAndre Yedlin, Jordan Morris, Aaron Kovar, Darwin Jones, and Sean Okoli in past seasons is set to begin its 2015 season. The Sounders U23's are coming off a 5-7-2 record last season in the PDL Northwest Division, finishing in 5th place.

Darren Sawatzky is entering his third season managing the U23's. With 7 signings already announced and more expected to be announced soon, we can probably expect to see some players who played under him with the Sounders Academy and/or for the Tacoma Stars this past winter, in addition to various college players eager to show that they have a future in pro soccer.

Roster

Thus far, 7 signings have been announced for the 2015 season, including returning players, former Sounders Academy players, and one new face.

Guillermo Delgado

Delgado is a Spanish striker/attacking midfielder who played in Getafe's youth system before coming to the United States to play for the University of Delaware Blue Hens. In 2013, he earned the Colonial Athletic Association's (CAA) Rookie of the Year award and was named to the first team all-CAA, in addition to being named one of the top 5 Freshmen in the country by Top Drawer Soccer. He also finished the season tied for 5th in NCAA Division 1 in goals scored.

As a sophomore, Delgado was named a third team All-American by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) and third team Best XI by Top Drawer Soccer, in addition to winning the CAA Player of the Year award. He was also named one of the 15 players to watch in PDL this season by TDS.

Luis Esteves

Esteves is a player that fans that have followed the U23's for the past few years should be familiar with. 2015 is his fourth consecutive season with the team. He has played for New Zealand's U17 and U20 national teams and represented New Zealand at the 2009 U17 World Cup.

He spent his first two seasons at the University of Mobile before transferring to St. John's University last year. Mobile appeared in the NAIA national championship game in his freshman season in 2012. Earlier in 2012, Esteves helped the Sounders U23's win the PDL Northwest Division and the Western Conference Championship. He was also the leading scorer for the U23's in the 2014 PDL season.

Joey Gjertsen

Thus far, Gjertsen is the only 2015 signing that has MLS experience. The Tacoma native spent 3 seasons playing for the San Jose Earthquakes after spending 5 seasons in USL with the Vancouver Whitecaps and the Montreal Impact. Most recently, Gjertsen played indoor soccer for the Tacoma Stars, scoring 9 goals in the 2014/15 WISL season.

Isidro Prado-Huerta

IPH is an alumnus of the Sounders Academy and a potential HGP signing for the Sounders. In the 2014 season, he helped Highline Community College win its first Northwest Athletic Conference (NWAC) title since 2004. Prado-Huerta led the conference in assists. He was also HCC's second leading scorer.

In 2013, Prado-Huerta led Thomas Jefferson High School to a WIAA 4A state title, winning the 4A MVP award for his efforts. In the previous fall, he started a match for the Sounders reserves against the Timbers reserves. If you're interested in his performance in that match, you can watch an archived stream of the game.

Matthew Reinikka

Reinikka is another alumnus of the Sounders Academy. He currently plays as a CB for Davidson College. In 2014, Reinikka led the Wildcats in minutes played and started all 18  of the team's games in his freshman season. Davidson managed to keep a clean sheet in 7 games with Reinikka on the back line. If Davidson College sounds familiar, that's where former Sounder midfielder Alex Caskey went to school before the Sounders drafted him in 2011. Reinikka decided to attend Davidson after talking with Caskey about his time at the school.

During his 3 seasons with the Sounders Academy, Reinikka was the captain of each of his U16/U18 teams. He also captained his Crossfire Premier side in his final season before joining the Sounders Academy.

Jordan Schweitzer

Schweitzer is both a Sounders Academy alum and a returning Sounders U23 player. 2015 is Schweitzer's third consecutive season with the U23's. He currently plays as a defensive midfielder for the University of Denver, where he will play his senior season this fall. Like Reinikka, Schweitzer captained each of his U16/U18 teams with the Sounders Academy, in addition to his previous youth team. Schweitzer is one of several Sounders Academy products entering their senior season in college soccer this fall, so it's certainly possible that we could see him play for S2 next year.

Derek Johnson

Johnson is entering his third season with the U23's. In 2013, he trained with the team and played in some reserve games but didn't make an appearance in the PDL until last season. In 2014, Johnson scored 1 goal in 362 minutes for the U23's. In the 2014/15 indoor soccer season, he was the leading scorer in the Western Indoor Soccer League (WISL) with 14 goals. He added 9 goals and 2 assists in 8 games for the Tacoma Stars in the Major Arena Soccer League (MASL), finishing the season as the team's leading scorer.

Jonathan Campbell

Campbell is a defender and former teammate of Sounders FC 2's Andy Craven. Campbell is entering his senior season at the University of North Carolina, where he has been a starter in each of his 3 seasons. This will be Campbell's 5th season in the PDL, having spent the 4 previous seasons with the Carolina Dynamo. He started playing for the Dynamo ahead of his freshman season at North Carolina. He was one of the first signings current Sounders Academy Techinical Director Marc Nicholls made when he was named head coach of the Dynamo in 2011.

Campbell led his high school team to 2 consecutive state titles and won the North Carolina state player of the year award. He was also in the US U17 residency program and started for the U18's against Germany in 2010. He also participated in the 2012 U19 Junior Cup in Germany. During his time at North Carolina, the Tar Heels have consistently been ranked as one of the top defenses in college soccer.

Schedule

Sounders U23 opens the PDL season this Saturday, when they host Calgary Foothills FC at Sunset Stadium in Sumner. Throughout the season, the team will once again primarily play its home games in Sumner with the exception of one game in Tumwater and another in Bonney Lake.

The Northwest Division looks quite a bit different this season, with all of the changes coming from north of the border. The Victoria Highlanders and Vancouver Whitecaps U23 are both gone, with Calgary Foothills FC joining the Northwest Division for its first season in PDL. Those changes mean that 2 of the 3 playoff teams from the Northwest Division are now gone, but they also mean that the division only gets 2 playoff spots, as it now has only 7 teams.

The U23's will be hoping to improve on their 5th place finish last season, the club's worst finish since rebranding from the Tacoma Tide. Perhaps watching rival Kitsap Pumas progress to the PDL Championship Game last season will provide a bit of extra incentive to improve on last year's record.

Date Time Opponent Location
May 24 1:00 PM Calgary Foothills FC Sunset Stadium, Sumner
May 29 7:30 PM Lane United FC Bonney Lake High School
June 5 7:30 PM Puget Sound Gunners Sunset Stadium, Sumner
June 12 7:30 PM Kitsap Pumas Sunset Stadium, Sumner
June 16 7:30 PM Washington Crossfire Redmond High School
June 19 7:00 PM Lane United FC Willamalane Center, Springfield
June 21 3:00 PM Portland Timbers U23 McKenzie Stadium, Vancouver
June 26 7:30 PM Portland Timbers U23 Tumwater High School
June 28 1:00 PM Calgary Foothills FC Hellard Field, Calgary
July 2 7:30 PM Washington Crossfire Sunset Stadium, Sumner
July 11 7:30 PM Puget Sound Gunners Issaquah High School
July 15 7:00 PM Kitsap Pumas Gordon Field, Bremerton

Season tickets are currently for sale at the Sounders U23 website for $80, which includes admission to every U23 home game and every Sounders Women (owned by the same group as the U23's) home game. Single match tickets can also be purchased for $10. This year, instead of selling single match tickets for specific matches, the club is selling a "flex ticket", which is good for admission to any game on the team's schedule.

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