Sounders Insider

Sounders U-23s look to Open Cup and PDL

Sounders-U-23-bloglogoHere's some of what Sounders U-23 coach Darren Sawatzky had to say in advance of the Sounders U-23 season debut Tuesday in U.S. Open Cup at Sumner and then their PDL opener Thursday at Portland.

On how close he will have to a full team: Close. There’s probably three or four guys – the guys who are on the quarter system don’t come in until June. ... But we have good quality here.

On Open Cup opponent Doxa Italia: They’re a men’s league team that plays games year-round, so it will really depend on how fit they are and who they decide to add to their roster for the open cup. We know a little bit about them, but men’s league teams are a little bit of unknowns.

On who might be this season's DeAndre Yedlin: There are some good players. Our academy guys, we’ve got guys on the young side: Michael Gallagher and Ian Lange (and Darwin Jones) will be playing for us, and they’re very good. Those are all guys that we know. But there’s also Aodhan Quinn and Eric Stevenson from Akron are very good players. We’ll see. Somebody always surprises us.

On if Yedlin's success in MLS was a surprise: The reality is at the end of the season last year he was really a man among boys. It was time for his transition. I wouldn’t say that he was bored during games, because that’s not respectful, but he was definitely was ready to make the jump.

On some time U-23 players not from Sounders Academy: Aodhan Quinn. We have some local guys like Steve Mohn and Mark Lee. These are good soccer players. They’re becoming veterans and they’re very good. ... These are all good, quality players, so we’ll see how they do.

On using multiple home fields again: The under-23 team is really a developmental team. It fills the gap between the academy and the first team right now. Playing at different venues – on Thursday we’ll play at Portland in front of upwards of 10,000 people – these are all different things that these players get to see that is good for their development. Going from stadium to stadium is not much of an issue.

On the U-23's playing style: Clive (Charles) always used to say that players dictate formation, and until you get them in and training you don’t know. Sometimes chemistry changes your formations. And to be honest, formations are semantics. You get your best players on the field and figure out how to get the job done.

Below is an overview from the club:

The Sounders U-23 will take on Coast Soccer League champions, Doxa Italia, in the first round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. The match is set for 7 p.m. on Tuesday, May 14th at Sunset Stadium in Sumner, Washington.This will be the first ever meeting between the two sides and both are coming off of previous season successes. The Sounders U-23 were Premier Development League - Northwest Division regular season champions a year ago, and advanced all the way to the PDL National Final Four as Western Conference champions. Doxa Italia completed a perfect 16-0-0 season on their way to capturing the CSL Premier Division championship, and they will play for the CSL Cup title later this summer.

Doxa Italia is a formidable Southern California soccer club with a history of success inside and outside of California. They’ve won the CSL Premier Division league title five out of the last nine years, were USASA National Amateur Cup runners up in 2011, and that same year, Doxa made their first appearance in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. “Our previous experience in the U.S. Open Cup will certainly help us in our approach for this game,” said Doxa Italia midfielder/forward, Kyle Holland. “The Doxa Italia team that participated in the U.S. Open Cup in 2011 was comprised of a group that did not consistently play matches and train together the same way that this 2012/2013 team has.”

The Sounders U-23 defense will have to be aware of the Doxa Italia goal scorers at all times. Doxa Italia scorched their opponents averaging over four-and-a-half goals per game (74 total), while allowing only 12 into their own net for the season. Leading all goal scorers was forward and team manager Bryan Byrne with 28 goals and 13 assists in 17 games. The offensive prowess comes as no surprise considering the level of experience present on the Doxa Italia side.

“The personality of this group is simple. Each player at one point or another in their career has played soccer at an elite level. So the competitiveness is always present at training and in games,” Holland said. “Most of us have played together for long enough to know one another’s strengths and weaknesses and not a single player is shy about calling another out if they aren’t providing what is needed for the team to be successful that day.”

Doxa Italia’s opposition, the Sounders U-23 are in their first US Open Cup. Head Coach and General Manager, Darren Sawatzky, has reassembled his young team, and is looking to add onto the success they achieved in their inaugural season last summer. Winning the 2012 PDL Northwest Division title earned the Sounders U-23 their first ever birth into this tournament.

Darren Sawatzky, said, “Qualifying for the Open Cup was a goal last year and the young players are excited to test their level against former professional players that compete in a very good league. Different than a team that plays and trains together regularly throughout the year, we field our group of academy players and top college players looking to get to that next level for a couple months. It will be a very good learning game for these players.”

The opening round match comes just ahead of the start of the 2013 PDL season for the Sounders U-23. Including Tuesday’s match, the Sounders U-23 will play three games in six days as they take to the road for their first two league matches. On Thursday, May 16th, they open league play at JELD-WEN field against last year’s runners up Portland Timbers U-23. Then the Sounders U-23 will travel north of the border to take on the Victoria Highlanders FC on Sunday, May 19th.

The 2013 version of the Sounders U-23 will include some familiar faces, as well as plenty of new talent. Several of last year’s standouts have moved on to play in the MLS; such as defender Anthony Arena, goal keeper Doug Herrick, and current Sounders FC starter and U-20 U.S. National Team player DeAndre Yedlin, while others have moved on to other opportunities.

So far this year, the Sounders U-23, comprised mostly of trialists, went 1-0-1 in pre-season exhibition matches playing Bellingham United FC to a 0-0 draw, and defeating Seattle University 1-0. This first round match-up against a strong Doxa Italia team will allow the coaching staff an opportunity to evaluate the team in their first competitive match of the season.

“We play to win always so we look forward to the competitive nature Doxa Italia represents,” said Sawatzky. “Tuesday will be an exciting game for the fans.”

The winner of Tuesday’s U.S. Open Cup match will advance to face USL PRO team Charlotte Eagles at Queens University of Charlotte Sports Complex on May 21st. The loser is out of the single elimination style tournament.

For all Sounders U-23 information including roster signings, schedules, ticket information and more, visit, follow us on Twitter: @SoundersU23, or ‘Like’ us on Facebook.