Josh Phillips has ambitions of playing professional soccer after college, and might be on the fast track.
Phillips, a 2010 Capital High graduate and senior-to-be at Gonzaga, is playing his first season with the Sounders U23, a Tacoma-based developmental platform team for the Seattle Sounders FC that wraps up its season Tuesday at Portland. The Sounders compete in the United Soccer League’s Premier Development League (PDL), the top U23 men’s league in North America.
The time in a Sounders U23 uniform has been second to none for Phillips, a defender whose played in six games, including in last Saturday's 3-3 draw with the Kitsap Pumas, scoring his first goal of the season.
“It’s been awesome playing with players from all across the nation,” said Phillips, an 18-game starter for the Zags last fall.
Tonight (Tuesday) at 7 p.m. is the team's season finale at Portland Timbers U23. This isn’t Phillips’ first experience with a Premier Development League team, but his fist with Sounders U23. His previous team was the Washington Crossfire, which is in the same division as the Sounders. Sounders U23s have tryouts, but Phillips was lucky enough to be selected personally by head coach Darren Sawatzky, also the Seattle Sounders FC director of youth development. He acknowledged the difference in competitiveness and professionalism and the esteem of being connected to the MLS’ big brothers in Seattle. The team also features Yelm High grad Miguel Gonzalez, a senior-to-be at Seattle University at forward and Saint Martin’s graduate Zac Lubin, who has started five games in goal.
“There’s not anybody that’s just there to kick the ball around and have fun,” Phillips said. “Everyone one of us wants to be a professional soccer player. It’s been awesome.”
Phillips has gotten a full taste of the Cascadia rivalry, too, when the U23s traveled to Portland’s JELD-WEN Field, home of the Portland Timbers, in a season-opening game May 16 against the Timbers U23. The Sounders lost, 2-0, in front of more than 5,000 fans, and Phillips said his nerves calmed as the game began.
Phillips has played in six of the U23s' games heading into tonight's regular-season finale against Portland at 7 p.m at Hillsboro (Ore.) High School’s Hare Field, a suburb of Portland. At 4-5-4 overall, the team is out of the PDL playoff race, making tonight's the 2013 finale and putting an end to a 2013 experience with the Sounders like no other.
“This is the best soccer experience I’ve had so far,” he said.
-- Meg Wochnick, staff writer