Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Seattle Sounders announced that former U12-U14 Spokane Shadow player Ray Serrano, a 15-year-old member of the Sounders Academy, has signed a professional contract with S2, making him the youngest player in Sounders club history to sign a professional deal with the first or second team.

The young Sounder is the sixth player to sign directly from the Sounders Academy to the club’s professional reserve team that plays in United Soccer League, the nation’s second tier.

“Ray has been with the Academy for a couple of years and now he is a signing for the long-term,” said Sounders FC Director of Player Development Marc Nicholls. “He is a creative, dynamic player with a fierce desire to work and compete. Our Academy staff rates him very highly, and a big part of that is his first-rate character and appetite to learn and improve. Credit must also be shared with our club partner, Spokane Sounders, for his development and identification.”

Serrano currently has 17 goals and six assists in 17 games for the Academy’s U17s this season, including a hat trick against Barca Academy AZ and a pair of assists against Portland. The Sounders FC U17 squad currently sits atop the US Soccer Development Academy’s Northwest Division with a 15-1-2 record this season. In official league play he is in the Top 10 in scoring nationally and Top Five in the Western Region, trailing players with four-plus more games played.

“Ray fully deserves the credit for the dedication, time and effort he always and continues to put forth to earn this monumental and rare opportunity. From when he first joined our club to now, he has been amazing,” said Spokane Shadow Technical Director Abbas Faridnia. “Further, the affiliation with the Sounders continues to show the benefits our players in our area will continue to have. This announcement is the ultimate goal for many of our players and shows them that if they are dedicated and work hard, it is possible.”

With the two signings announced, S2 currently has 12 players under contract ahead of the 2018 season.

“Ray and Ibrahim are both promising young players and bring different qualities to the club. I look forward to seeing how they integrate with the other guys on the squad,” said S2 Head Coach John Hutchinson in the team’s announcement about Serrano and Ibrahim Usman’s signing.

Path 2 Pro

Serrano joined the Spokane Shadow as a U12 player in 2014 from Moses Lake. Fully committed, he never missed a training session and often stayed to work with older teams in additional sessions. He showed promise early on and was already considered a prospect to move onto the Sounders Academy when the partnership with the Seattle Sounders was being put together in 2016. Less than six months after donning a Spokane Sounders jersey with the U14s, he was off to Seattle to join the Academy.

“Ray’s dedication to improve was inspirational. He took advantage of every single minute he could on and off the pitch to get better,” said Faridnia. “He obviously possessed great talent, but was not content with being satisfactory and used the resources of our club also and from the quality opposition he faced in the RCL to expand his horizons. Our burgeoning affiliation with the Sounders was perfect timing to accelerate his path to that moment.”

Serrano quickly began to prove himself on the west side. As a member of the Sounders FC Academy U14 squad, Serrano excelled and also earned time with the U16 team. After impressing in his own age group, the attacking midfielder was promoted to the U15s and subsequently the U16s. While playing for the U16s in Generation Adidas Cup, he tallied a brace against San Jose Earthquakes and scored the lone goal against the youth side from Chivas de Guadalajara (Liga MX).

In May of 2017 he was called in to the US Soccer Boys’ National Team Futures Camp. In pursuit of improving US Soccer’s longer term objectives for talent identification and individual development of young players, U.S. Soccer called in a group of 64 players for that four-day camp, focusing on identifying the most talented players in the 2002 and 2003 birth years who appear to be on a later physical development path and/or are born in the second half of the year. He was called in as a midfielder for the 2002 birth year.

The ascension of the former Shadow player took another significant step last November when he was called into a U17 Men’s National Team Camp and subsequently named to the 20-player roster for the 2017 Nike International Friendlies in Lakewood Ranch, FL. He was the first male player ever from the area to ever be selected to a youth or senior national team. Playing up two years in age at the Friendlies, Serrano performed well. He came on in the final 17 minutes of the first match versus England and played the full second match against the Netherlands, finishing the event with the final nine minutes off the bench against Brazil. The event kicked off the next two-year cycle for the squad, culminating in the 2019 U17 World Cup. Serrano was one of three players from the Sounders FC Academy on the team.

In January Serrano was once again called in by the Red, White and Blue… and again for the U17 MNT. The prospect headed back to Lakewood Ranch for the first-ever Youth National Team Summit, which brought together players from the US U16, U17, U18, U19 and U20 Youth National Teams from January 2-11. The camp was designed to bring focus on integration between players, coaches and staff from the five oldest Youth National Teams, while laying the first foundational elements for qualifying the US for the 2019 FIFA U20 and U17 World Cups.

Still Connected

Though he has been with the Sounders for a couple years now, Serrano is still close with his former teammates. While he was busy at the Nike Friendlies, he still took time out to check in and wish his former teammates luck as they prepared for the quarterfinals and semifinals at the Nomads Thanksgiving Tournament. Then as the B2002A side visited the west side for Washington Youth Soccer’s State Cup Final Four in Tukwila, he joined the team at the Starfire Complex on the sideline and on the bench to cheer them on in the semifinals.

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