TUKWILA, Washington – Just about a week after the San Jose Earthquakes’ PDL affiliate, Burlingame Dragons FC, scrimmaged with Argentina, another group of MLS-affiliated youths got to live out a similar dream.
Argentina are in in Seattle ahead of their Copa America Centenario group stage match-up with Bolivia at CenturyLink Field on Tuesday (10:30 pm ET; FS1, UniMás, UDN). And that meant a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for some current and former members of the Seattle Sounders FC Youth Academy.
Argentina trained with Sounders academy members on both Sunday and Monday at Starfire Soccer Complex in Tukwila, going through possession and shooting drills and even playing a light scrimmage, giving Seattle’s crop of young prospects a chance to test their skills against FIFA’s current No. 1-ranked team in the world. And, yes, Lionel Messi himself turned up.
“I can’t even describe it,” said Sounders U-18 midfielder Connor Noblat. “Imagine the most happy moment of your life, and then multiply that by like 10.”
“One of the coolest things I’ll ever do in my life,” added U-16 midfielder Cameron Martin. “So far in my life, it’s probably the coolest thing I’ve ever done, just being on the same pitch as some of my idols. ”
The practices were closed to the public, but that didn’t stop scores of fans from packing the parking lot in an all-around festive scene at Starfire. Some ran after the Argentina team bus when it arrived, chanting Messi’s name. Others climbed the fence surrounding the practice field, trying to poke their heads over to try and catch a glimpse of the iconic superstar.
Former Seattle academy member and current UCLA standout Seyi Adekoya said he just wanted to soak up every last detail about the legend.
“I wanted to see how he trained, how he acted, the little things that he does,” he said. “Not just the way he plays, but the way he carries himself and the way he gets into every tackle and doesn’t worry about what’s happening on the field and just plays the game.”
Noblat added that extra inspiration came from seeing just how hard Messi works.
“How do you get to be the best? You have to work hard,” he said. “You see in training, he’s working his butt off, getting in tackles, defending. He’s just amazing to watch.”