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2018 S2 player review: Teen Homegrown eligibles

These players aren’t even 18, but they’re already signed to pro contracts. The future is bright.

Courtesy Sounders FC / Charis Wilson

S2 had a whopping 41 different players take the pitch this season, so we’ll be breaking these evaluations up into easily identifiable groups.

Those groups are: Players on MLS contracts playing down, direct S2 signings, adult S2 players eligible for Homegrown Player deals, teen S2 players eligible for Homegrown Player deals, and Sounders Academy members with at least five appearances.

Let’s take a look at the last batch of professionals from our S2 review. These teenagers are already on pro contracts, forgoing their NCAA eligibility for a shot at the big time. The expansion of this group of players has been a point of emphasis for the Sounders Academy pipeline for a number of years, and with the U17s winning a national title in 2018 we can likely look forward to more players joining this group in the near future.

Azriel Gonzalez

Stats: 18 games played, 3 goals, 3 assists

Gonzalez was one of the first teens to sign with S2, making waves by becoming the then-youngest player in club history to join the squad back in 2017. After making nine appearances while the club still played at Starfire, Gonzalez doubled his appearances in 2018, no small feat considering that he was vying with much older competition for playing time up top.

Gonzalez added his credentials early in the year with a late game-winning goal in a 3-2 comeback at home against Rio Grande Valley FC. It may have been a poacher’s goal, but his ability to be in the necessary spot showed that the now-17-year-old is developing quickly.

2019 outlook: With Gonzalez set to turn 18 this year, the club will be watching keenly to see if his development continues on the same pace that earned him his pro contract. Undersized at 5’9” and 145 pounds, he will need to rely on finesse rather than power to contribute to S2’s attack.

Marlon Vargas

Stats: 9 games played, 6 key passes

A creative dribbler who is good in tight spaces, Vargas signed with S2 last spring. The youngster was named one of five players to watch in the wake of Seattle’s victory in the U17 division at the Generation Adidas Cup.

With S2, Vargas only played 563 minutes. Some of that may come back to his size — at just 5’4” and 135 pounds, he had challenges facing off against some of the USL’s more veteran, physically imposing teams.

2019 outlook: When the club reconvenes for preseason, don’t be surprised if Vargas has added a little bit of bulk to his frame. Vargas has consistently produced at the academy level, but this year should test how he can handle the professional game.

Alec Diaz

Stats: 5 games played, 2 goals, 2 assists

Diaz came on strong at the end of the 2018 season. The 17-year-old forward rewarded S2 for presenting him a professional contract in early October by scoring his first two professional goals in S2’s final two matches of the season.

2019 outlook: Diaz finished 2018 red-hot for S2, and the club hopes that he will continue with the same kind of form in 2019. With good instincts and the opportunity to contribute to a full season of play, Diaz may prove to be a big boon to the Tacoma club this year.

Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez

Stats: 3 games played

Signed to a pro contract in April, Ocampo-Chavez is still something of a mystery in Rave Green. It’s for good reason, though — the forward keeps getting youth national team call-ups and developmental time with the Academy.

Ocampo-Chavez banged in two goals in two appearances for the US against Mexico’s U17s in August, indicating that he may have a bright future at more than just the club level.

2019 outlook: The club seems to think that Ocampo-Chavez has the potential to be something special. To that end, they seem unhurried to rush the 16-year-old (he’ll turn 17 in March) along. If Ocampo-Chavez looks ready enough, it seems likely he’ll see the field with S2 this year, but don’t be surprised if he’s away for the CONCACAF U17 Championship and the U17 World Cup (scheduled for October) should the USYNT qualify.

Ray Serrano

Stats: 3 games played

Like Ocampo-Chavez, Serrano also spent a good chunk of time with the USYNT in 2018. Signed last February, Serrano eclipsed Gonzalez as the club’s youngest-ever signing at the age of just 15. The Moses Lake native did not see the field much for S2, but that seemed to be part of a deliberate plan to let him continue developing away from the rough and tumble USL.

2019 outlook: Like Ocampo-Chavez, Serrano is still very young. The club seems unlikely to force him into situations he is unready for and Serrano may well be involved in the USYNT drive for a U17 World Cup berth. If the 16-year-old makes 8-10 appearances for S2, that should provide a better data set of how ready for the USL level Serrano is.

Daniel Leyva

Stats: 1 game played

Leyva played 90 minutes for S2 last season, which doesn’t give us much to go off of. That said, the club saw fit to offer the 15-year-old, who played up with the U17s in the academy, a pro contract in October.

2019 outlook: Leyva is still very young. His signing seems more like a move to remove any worry about college recruiting from his plate and let him focus on developing his skills full-time. Don’t be surprised if you don’t see too much of Leyva on the field with S2 in 2019.

Daniel Robles

Stats: 1 game played

Like Leyva, Robles only appeared in one match for S2 last year, playing 45 minutes as a substitute. Also like Leyva, Robles was offered—and signed—a contract in October after a strong season with the Academy.

2019 outlook: Like Levya, Robles’ signing seems more about the long-term and to enable him to continue to develop in a fully professional environment, rather than for any immediate dividends with S2.

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