Ocampo-Chavez earns debut MLS start for Sounders, Leyva stays in XI vs Crew

Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez - Seattle Sounders - in first MLS start, at Columbus

The Seattle Sounders welcomed back veterans Nicolas Lodeiro and defender Roman Torres from Copa América and Gold Cup duty, respectively, in Saturday’s visit to Columbus Crew SC.

But what might turn more heads are the names who stayed in the starting XI even as the Sounders’ internationals start to trickle back in.

Head coach Brian Schmetzer handed 17-year-old striker Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez (pictured at top) his first career MLS start, fielding “AOC” as the lone frontrunner in Seattle’s 4-2-3-1 formation. And his fellow teenage HomegrownDanny Leyva, 16, also featured in the XI, making his second consecutive start as Gustav Svensson's partner at the base of midfield behind Lodeiro.

Leyva and AOC have rocketed to prominence as two of the crown jewels of the Sounders' rising academy project, leading the Rave Green's Under-17 side to the Champions Division title at Generation adidas Cup earlier this year, the first MLS side ever to win that honor. Ocampo-Chavez was the co-winner of the Champions Division Golden Boot, while Leyva won the Golden Ball, awarded to the best player in the Champions Division.

It was a relatively quiet night in Columbus for AOC, who got little in the way of service and enjoyed few touches as a result. He broke clear in the 10th minute and tested Joe Bendik with a low shot that drew a save out of the Crew goalkeeper, and completed five of his six passes on the night, including one key pass that led to an early chance for Lodeiro, before making way for Saad Abdul-Salaam in the 73rd minute.

Leyva got off to a rocky start when he lost track of his positioning and tripped Pedro Santos in the Seattle box in the opening minutes, leading to Crew SC's goal from the penalty spot. But he recovered and kept in the thick of things in midfield, completing 39 out of 50 passes (78%) and tabbing up three interceptions, six recoveries, two clearances, two fouls won and two committed, including the PK decision, over his 90-plus minutes. (See the boxscore and Opta maps for both players.)

The Sounders would snatch all three points via a last-gasp winner from the influential Lodeiro, packing a 2-1 comeback win in their luggage for the journey home to Puget Sound.