There are talented players all over the Pacific Northwest, but many of the best U18 Boys can be found on the region’s two Academy League teams – Crossfire and Washington Premier – and when those two teams meet, the combination is usually explosive.
The February 20 match between the two regional powers was no different. The teams combined for six goals (Crossfire won 4-2), and with some of the familiar stars absent, several lesser-known players had the opportunity to start making names for themselves. Here’s a rundown of the players who shined the brightest:
Crossfire’s Kelyn Rowe
, a UCLA
signing, has been the biggest star of the 2010 graduating class for a while now. Because he can play any position in the offense and shoots equally well with both feet, he poses a formidable challenge for any defense. He is quick and technically sharp, and we’ll be hearing his name a lot over the next few years.
Playing opposite Rowe is Creighton
commit Liam Kelly
, who continues to turn heads in his first season with Crossfire. He is a tough and energetic player with great speed and awareness of spacing on the field. His soft first touch allows him to release shots quickly and accurately, and he has burst onto the Academy scene with four goals so far this season.
Flanker Jose Garibay Jr
is a hard worker on the wing, with the ability to deliver quality crosses on offense while also hustling back to defend. Most players have a tough time keeping up with his pace on the outside. Josh Smith
, usually a sturdy right-back, showed off his versatility by playing a central midfield role in this game. In addition to his usual defensive tenacity, he displayed patience distributing the ball offensively and even snuck in a goal in the 9th minute. Jack Ryan
commit) and Andrew Cunningham
(Evergreen) are the leaders of the Crossfire defense. Great tacticians, they show the ability to organize and set marking assignments on the fly, and are the main reasons behind Crossfire’s solid team defense.
Goalkeeper Spencer Richey
, a U17 National Team goalkeeper and University of Washington
commit, is away training in Seattle and did not play in this game. But his hands, communication skills and natural goalkeeping instincts will serve him well at the college level next fall. UCLA
signing Bradley McIntosh
is a very good goal scorer and a talented player overall. Crossfire will be without him come the Academy playoffs, though, as he will be leaving to train with the Bruins in the Spring.
Washington Premier also has a number of talented players on its squad. Darwin Jones
, a Seattle
University commit, is normally known for his speed and his non-stop motor. But he showed off his technical skills by scoring a tough one in tight space in this game. He received the ball with his back to goal, took a touch across his body, turned and struck the ball just inside the far post. The sky is the limit for this player as he continues to develop his footwork. Dylan Gaydosh
, who is uncommitted at the moment but is sure to make an impact at the college level next year, is a clever forward with a great awareness of how to attack a defense. He often finds himself in one-on-one situations with the goalkeeper, and he has a knack for putting the ball into the back of the net.
But while the Academy players may get all the hype, there are still a bevy of tantalizing prospects on non-Academy teams in the Pacific Northwest.
At the top of this group of players is Steven Evans
of Eastside United. Evans can play as an attacking central midfielder or as a forward. He has superb field vision, distributes the ball well, and scores goals with a clean and powerful strike on the ball. He will make an instant impact next year at the University of Portland
FC Portland’s Thomas Iwasaki
is a confident and athletic midfielder who will also be at the University of Portland in the fall. He sees the field well and is very calm and fluid with the ball at his feet. His excellent touch and his strong right leg give him plenty of opportunities to score from the midfield.
Iwasaki’s teammate, Ryogo Asai
, is a technically advanced forward who loves running directly at defenders. He doesn’t possess elite speed, but, more often than not, he makes defenders look silly with his incredibly quick footwork. He’s got his long-term sights set on the J-League and expects to play for a college team in Japan.
Forward Austin Crook
of Oregon Rush is very athletic and technically advanced. An Oregon State
commit, he possesses good field vision and is very creative with the ball.Eliot Plummer
, Crook’s teammate at Rush and a Chico State commit, is a left-back with the added ability to attack with great pace along the wing. He undertakes his offensive and defensive responsibilities with aplomb, and is a tactically smart player with a great understanding of schemes on the left side.
We’re sure to see more from all of these players as the club season carries on – and as we keep our eye on the region, other players will get their chance to start making some noise of their own.