TACOMA, WA— (Sounders U23 release) The Sounders U23 team has helped produce professional soccer players for the past five years. Over 55 players have signed professional contracts since 2012 after having suited up for the Sounders U23 team.
Highlighted by Jordan Morris, who won an MLS Cup this past weekend with Sounders FC after a year winning an NCAA Championship and taking home MLS Rookie of the Year Honors, the Sounders U23 team continues to help players move on. DeAndre Yedlin played every minute of the 2012 PDL season and his meteoric rise in the professional game saw him play in the 2014 World Cup and he now plies his trade in England with Newcastle. You can add Jonathan Campbell to the list of former Sounders U23 players that had big years as he started for the Chicago Fire in MLS in 2016.
“The Sounders U23 experience was great for me as I wanted to be in a professional environment. Darren Sawatzky recruited a great group of guys that were able to bond together and do well in the playoffs. The practice sessions were focused and intense, providing us with opportunities to grow and prepare for the college season,” Said Campbell.
Sean Okoli was the MVP and Golden Boot winner in the USL for FC Cincinnati in 2016 and just signed on with NYCFC in Major League Soccer. Florian Valot won the USL Championship with NYRB2 and Clement Simonin narrowly missed an MLS Championship as his Toronto FC lost in penalties to Morris and Sounders FC. Jordan Schweitzer just made the move to Orlando City B after starting the year for S2, the Sounders FC USL team. Many more players litter the different levels of professional soccer in the United States after spending time with the Sounders U23 team.
Sounders U23 players from the past also find themselves in the local professional soccer scene. Aaron Kovar joined Jordan Morris, along with Darwin Jones, on the Sounders FC MLS Championship team. Chase Hanson, Troy Peterson, Vince McCluskey, Mark Lee, Derek Johnson, Steve Mohn, Jamael Cox, Joseph Cairel, Mike Arguello, and Joey Gjertsen are currently competing for the Tacoma Stars in the MASL after spending time with Sounders U23. Michael Gallagher is currently playing for T2, the Portland Timbers USL affiliate to the south and Taylor Peay saw first team minutes for the Portland Timbers in 2016.
“We pride ourselves in helping guys move on. Some of these players have played in programming I have been involved with for many years and some come to us for the finishing pieces in helping them make the leap to the next level. We are happy for all these players and the phone starts ringing in October from players looking for a good development environment for the summer as they look to make the move up,” Says Darren Sawatzky, Sounders U23 Head Coach and General Manager.
The 2016 PDL season for the Sounders U23 team was no different as many very good players came to Washington State or chose to stay home to work on their game and prepare for the college season before ultimately looking to make the jump to professional soccer. Five former Sounders U23 players have been invited to the 2016 MLS player combine with Guillermo Delgado, Kyle Bjornethun, Chris Wehan, Niko Hansen, and Brandt Bronico representing the rave green.
Chris Wingate from the University of New Hamshire was named the 2016 American East midfielder of the year along with being named 1st team All-Conference. He was also a 2016 Senior Class Award Finalist. Collyns Laokandi from St. Francis earned NEC Defensive Player of the Year for the conference. Kyle Bjornethun was named the WAC Defensive Player of the Year for the second year in a row along with being named WAC All First Team. Bjornethun was also in the 2016 Herman Trophy Watch List. Tom Teupen was the 2016 MAAC Defensive Player of the Year while competing at Canisius. Delgado finished his Delaware career breaking a 50 year old goal-scoring record and earning his 4th All America distinction while being named the 2016 Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Year for 2016. Jose Aguinaga was named First Team All MAAC at Rider and Paul Christensen was named the WCC Goalkeeper of the Year at Portland. Brandon Zambrano took home WCC 2nd Team All Conference at Portland as well. Rooby Dalusma was named a 2nd Team All American as his Tyler CC won the NJCAA National Championship with an undefeated record. Jeff Caldwell was named 2nd Team All ACC at Virginia and Adam Jones was named the GNAC Player of the Year along with 1st Team All Conference for Simon Fraser north of the border. Both Jalen Crisler and Jakob Granlund earned WCC 1st Team selections for Gonzaga this fall and Leeroy Maguraushe was named a NSCAA 2nd Team All American at UNCG along with an All Southern Conference selection.
The Sounders U23 will again look to help players develop and move up to the professional ranks in 2017. Please stay tuned for schedule and ticket opportunities to come watch the young guns before they make their move to the professional game.
For tickets and information, check out www.soundersu23.com.