Sounders U-23 coach, Darren Sawatzky, will take on his former college teammate (photo by Chris Coulter, SoundersPhotos.com)
Tacoma, WA – This weekend the Sounders U-23 will head to Ventura, CA for the Premier Development League Western Conference Final Four. They will take on FC Tucson on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. The winner will move on to play in the Western Conference Championship the next day, Sunday, at 5:00 p.m.
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Last Saturday evening in Tacoma, the Sounders U-23 defeated the Washington Crossfire 3-1 in the Northwest divisional round of the PDL playoffs to move on the Western Conference Final Four. The top two regular season finishers in the Southwest division automatically qualified, along with the Portland Timbers who defeated the Kitsap Pumas. FC Tucson finished second in the Southwest division and will therefore face the top seed from the Northwest; Sounders U-23.
“I know that Tucson is well managed and they have quality players,” said Darren Sawatzky, Head Coach of the Sounders U-23. “Teams that make the playoffs, want to make the playoffs, and were willing at some point to put the work in to prepare for them. I believe Tucson will be prepared for the game.”
FC Tucson finished their PDL regular season with a record of 9-3-4 and 31 points. Their top goal scoring threat is Oro Valley, Arizona product, Donny Toia. The forward led his side with five goals scored, four assists, and a staggering 62 shots on goal.
On the other side of the bracket are the Northwest division runner-up, Portland Timbers U-23, and the Western Conference Final Four hosts, (Southwest division champions) Ventura County Fusion. They will play in the first game Saturday at 5:00 p.m. to see who will move on to Sunday’s final.
If the Sounders U-23 win their semi-final match, they’ll face the winner of Portland vs. Ventura. The Sounders U-23 know the side from Portland, Oregon very well having defeated them twice during the regular season. The Southwest division champions from Ventura finished with a record of 12-2-2 and 38 points, outscoring their opponents 42 to 13.
Before they can think about Sunday, the Sounders U-23 must first get past a dangerous FC Tucson side.
“Rick will have them organized and they will defend well,” said Sawatzky of his former college teammate, now Head Coach of FC Tucson, Rick Schantz. “If you look at their roster, they have a quality, balanced group that look to play soccer in an entertaining fashion.”
The team that manages to win two matches this weekend will be crowned the PDL Western Conference Champion. They will represent the West in the PDL National Final four the following weekend.
For updates on all of the action, visit SoundersU23.com or follow us on twitter @SoundersU23.