The 17-year-old had a rapid ascent from standout academy prospect to the team's youngest-ever first-team signee when the Sounders inked him at the age of 15 in 2019. But after making six appearances and four starts in his rookie season, Leyva was limited to just 56 MLS minutes last year as he suffered a fractured fifth metatarsal during the MLS is Back Tournament in Orlando that forced him out of action for the rest of the season.
With the departure of veteran Gustav Svensson, the door has opened for Leyva to soak up some of the minutes in Seattle's defensive midfield behind the likely first-choice duo of Cristian Roldan and Joao Paulo. As he sets his sights on doing so, Leyva told SoundersFC.com in a feature published on Friday that he's received advice from none other than the recently-loaned Jordan Morris, who tore his ACL in 2018 but bounced back to win the league's Comeback Player of the Year award and help the Sounders win their second MLS Cup in 2019.
“It’s a great motivation, especially seeing where he's at now with Swansea,” Leyva told SoundersFC.com's Joseph Mondello. “Obviously, it was a big blow for him with his injury, but I feel like he came back a great professional and had a couple of breakout seasons.
“[Morris] just told me to come back stronger. Seeing him able to come back from that injury, which was way longer than mine, it just motivates me and shows me that I can come back like him and have a great season.”
Leyva isn't the only young player for Seattle who should have a chance for some increased minutes for the club in 2021 given the other departures on the roster. Fellow academy products Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez and Ethan Dobbelaere are also signed to the first team, and Sounders general manager Garth Lagerwey has said that his hope is that this is the year his long-term project with Seattle's youth development system starts to pay consistent dividends.