Seattle Sounders FC’s first homegrown player — DeAndre Yedlin — was an instant success.
Their second and third homegrowns — Sean Okoli and Aaron Kovar — remain works in progress.
This week, the Sounders announced their fourth homegrown signing — 17-year-old forward Victor Mansaray of Fife — and hopes once again are high.
“He’s a player who shows a good maturity level on the field,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “I remember Kei Kamara trained with me at the LA Galaxy at roughly about the same age. Ironically, they’re from the same place: Sierra Leone. And I think at the same age, maybe Kei had more raw physical ability, but I think Victor soccer-wise is ahead of where Kei was at that age. And obviously Kamara has had a pretty decent career (with 52 goals over 10 seasons) in our league. He’s got good soccer sense, good soccer savvy, his balance is good. There are obviously things he can still work on.”
Mansaray will continue working on them in training with the first-team Sounders. He isn’t eligible for MLS play until 2015. Then he also could be a candidate for playing time with the new Sounders 2 team in the USL-Pro League, although he’s setting his sights higher.
“My goal is to be on the first team,” he said, “and to come in every day and try to get a spot.”
Schmid didn’t rule that out. However, he said S2 will provide a useful option that Okoli and Kovar lacked in their ongoing rookie seasons when playing time was scarce.
“It’s an alternative to them going to college,” Schmid said. “I think with Victor, not going to college and going this route because we have S2, is a route that suits his development a little better.”
Major League Soccer’s homegrown designation allows players from a team academy to move directly onto that team’s roster without being subject to the SuperDraft or other typical player-allocation methods.
Mansaray was raised in Sierra Leone and spent time in Jamaica before moving to Western Washington. His family lived in Puyallup before moving to Fife, where he joined Norpoint FC, Crossfire and finally the Sounders academy midway through the 2012-13 season. He immediately led the U-16s team with 18 goals and this season has scored four goals in eight matches with the U-18s. He also has played with the United States U-18 national team.
He said he notices the higher quality with the first team.
“Over here it’s a lot quicker than the academy, you’ve got to be mentally there,” Mansaray said. “You can’t be messed up. You can’t be doing the little stuff you be doing down there with the academy. Here it’s business time. Everything is just business. Everything is professional.”
He said the first-team players have been like family to him, and he singled out Yedlin, who became the Sounders first homegrown player in 2013. Yedlin made All-Star teams both seasons in MLS, and this season signed a transfer deal with Tottenham Hotspur of the English Premier League.
Mansaray also has caught the Sounders’ other veteran of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil: national team captain Clint Dempsey.
“He’s a kid for the future,” Dempsey said. “He has to keep working hard and progressing as a player. The future is bright. But being about to be at a young age in this environment is only going to help you reach your full potential. Hopefully he takes advantage of that. He’s a good kid, so I wish him the best.”
All tickets have been sold for the second leg of the Sounders-FC Dallas Western Conference semifinals series to be played 7:30 p.m. Monday at CenturyLink Field, the club announced. The stadium will be in its standard MLS configuration. … Schmid said he expects midfielder Gonzalo Pineda (leg muscle) to be available Monday, but that midfielder Andy Rose (knee) needs another week or so. Midfielder Marco Pappa, who had sat out Wednesday training with flu symptoms, returned Thursday. … Seattle forward Kevin Parsemain will leave Tuesday to join the Martinique national team in the Caribbean Cup competition. Parsemain hasn’t fully recovered from the torn anterior cruciate ligament tear that cost him most of his first MLS season.