The Premier Development League (PDL) is the leading summer league for college-aged players in North America. The Sounders U23s are one of 74 teams that will compete for the title. Theclub recently finished with tryouts and roster building.
Several names on the roster should sound familiar, with Nathan Aune, Jamael Cox, Trevor Jensen, Tyler John, Adam Jones, Ivory Randle, Scott Menzies all returning to the U23s this season. It is a strong core for Darren Sawatzky’s side.
The U23s just finished up preseason with a trip to Chattanooga, Tenn., one of their two preseason matches. The first was against a strong Washington Premier U18s.
The Sounders U23s struck four times and held the WPFC youths off the score sheet, en route to a 4-0 victory.
Then in the friendly with Chattanooga FC the U23s conceded an early goal about two minutes in, but fought back and eventually found an equalizer. The second half provided fans with end-to-end action and Chattanooga eventually found a winner. The final score was 2-1 in favor of the home side.
Head coach Darren Sawatzky is looking forward to this season, and was kind enough to answer a few questions I had for him.
1. What style should fans expect from the U23s this season?
“We are in the business to help players move on to the professional game and we want them to take something more from their Summer experience in our beautiful state. The bonds with other players last a lifetime and exposure to the professional environment will give them a snapshot of what it is like at the next level.
“Our style as a team is based on the players and how quickly they bond through the PDL experience which means they often have to walk off a plane and get plugged into a game and learn on the fly. We want to attack teams in a possession based attacking scheme but we adapt based on the fluctuation of personnel and opposition.”
2. What should Sounders fans look forward to this PDL season?
“Our group of players will work incredibly hard to get better and add pieces to their game that allows them the opportunity to chase the professional game. If the collective finds the identity needed in time, we will compete as we usually do in a very tough NW Division.”
3. What players are most likely to make the jump up after the season ends?
“Santi Patino, Niklas Brodacki, Preston Kilwien, and Nathan Aune are already on the professional radar so they are players to watch. Ozzie Ramos and Hugo Delhommelle are also good enough to make the jump. We hope and we will work to help others as well.”
4. How strong is the Northwest Division looking?
“I would argue that the NW Division is as tough as any division in the PDL. We have had two National Champions and a team from our division won nine consecutive PDL Western Conference Champions until Portland lost last year in the Western Conference semi-finals. Portland has brought back most of their attacking pieces from last year and Calgary looks to have nearly the same roster with a few professional players added as they work toward the CPL in 2019. These two teams finished ahead of us in 2018, fighting for the one spot out of our division to the Western Conference Championships. Lane United has assembled a good team as well as TSS Rovers, and Victoria has revamped their squad with new ownership and coaching. This year will be very competitive and the perfect environment to work on player development toward professional soccer.”
5. Why should Sounders FC Fans care about the U23s?
“The Sounders U23 team gives college amateur players a place to play and train at a professional level while they are on summer break from college. Some players sign directly to S2 by-passing college soccer. As professionals, S2 players cannot play in college soccer. For those players that wish to play college soccer and get their degree in the traditional way, the Sounders U23 gives them a venue from May to August to get the professional experience while maintaining their college eligibility. Sounders U23 amateur players cannot play in S2 USL games so getting 17+ games with the Sounders U23 in the PDL gets them ready for the fall and beyond.”
The first game is on May 25 at Starfire, a double-header with the Sounders Women. Games are at 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. The beer garden will be open.
Division Standings and Results:
The Northwest Division has six teams this season and four have played matches with two of those four playing each other twice.
Resluts from last weekend include: (Home team and their score listed first)
Calgary vs Victoria May 11 : 2-0
Calgary vs Victoria May 13: 1-0
TSS Rovers vs Lane United May 14: 1-4
The U23s now being the PDL regular season with an away match to Lane United FC. This will be the first real test of season. Lane United has a way of winning at home and providing a tough place to play. The U23s have played five time in Springfield, Ore. and have gone 1-0-4 (W-D-L).
On Friday May 25th the Sounders U23s open the home slate with a doubleheader with the Sounders Women’s team. The Women kickoff at 5:00 and and the U23s will kickoff at 7:30. The U23s opposition will be the TSS Rovers. TSS is starting their third season in the PDL and will look to start the season with a victory over a team that seems to have their number. The Sounders U23s have gone 5-0-1 (W/D/L) vs the Rovers. If past results are any indication, it will either be really entertaining with goals, or it will be one sided for the Sounders U23s. Starfire Stadium will host the match and beer will be for sale in the beer garden.
The U23s will have a short rest period as they play the next match on Sunday, May 27th against Lane united FC. It will be the second meeting of the two squads and should be intense as it will have only been a week since the teams first met in the 2018 campaign.
Come on out and see the future of MLS, as the PDL and U23s boast a development record that is outstanding, with sixty six players being drafted in the MLS SuperDraft. Several notable Sounders FC players played with the PDL Squad.