Don’t set your 2018 expectations by anything the Sounders did Sunday afternoon in a 3-1 win over the Tijuana U20 side to wrap up the Chula Vista, Calif. portion of their training camp. But there were two youngsters trying to make their mark with the Sounders — onetime University of Washington star Handwalla Bwana and trialist Jordan McCrary, formerly of Toronto FC II — that certainly left an impression.
This first exhibition match of the preseason saw McCrary, 24, a former 10th overall pick by New England in the 2016 MLS SuperDraft, help the Sounders get on the board just two minutes in. McCrary sent a nice cross to the box from the right flank that Sounders homegrown signing Bwana, 18, headed home off the crossbar.
“I tried to lay it off to Clint (Dempsey) but it was coming at me fast,” Bwana said of the cross, in audio supplied by the team. “I had no choice but to hit the target if I could.”
The Sounders upped their advantage in the 42nd minute when Bwana assisted on a Dempsey goal by dribbling deep into the Tijuana third and then crossing the ball to “Deuce” for the tap-in. Bwana has spent time this past week in camp getting to know Dempsey and conversing with him about what it will take to adapt to Major League Soccer play.
Bwana is a refugee from Kenya whose family only moved to the United States in 2010. He graduated from Ballard High School and played his club soccer for Seattle United before starring with the University of Washington Huskies the past two seasons.
“It was fun,” Bwana said of his debut in a Sounders uniform. “You could tell it’s just completely different from college. It just kind of suits my style because it’s a lot of short passes, a lot of combinations.”
Victor Rodriguez made it 3-0 at the start of the second half before Tijuana finally got on the board in the 85th minute.
The Sounders have a couple of days off before a workout Tuesday in Tukwila. The club then departs for camp in Tucson, Ariz., where they will face the Portland Timbers in a more meanigful exhibition match on Feb. 3 and then the Columbus Crew on Feb. 4 as they prepare to play Santa Tecla FC in Champions League action in El Salvador on Feb. 22.
Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said his team looked tired throughout Sunday’s match, which was more of an exercise of getting in game-shape than gauging too much about which players might stick in 2018. Schmetzer liked what his youngsters showed on the first two goals.
“On the (Bwana) goal, I would say that it was a good ball by Jordan McCrary,” he said. “And then on the second play when he made the assist to Clint, it was obviously a good goal but Will Bruin did a lot of that dirty work on the sideline to help Handwalla (Bwana) get the ball and start the counterattack. So, kudos to Bruin for doing a little bit of the dirty work.
”But he (Bwana) has got talent,“ he added. ”Handwalla has some talent.“