Sounders FC used the days before training camp to add not only a pair of midfielders, but a pair of British accents.
Those belong to Jason Banton of Tottenham, England, who was selected Tuesday in the second round of the MLS Supplemental Draft; and Andy Rose of Bristol, England, who was acquired in a trade after being drafted by Real Salt Lake.
“I was overwhelmed,” Rose said. “This is definitely the place I wanted to be. Salt Lake picked me up, and I was reading on the Internet about Utah, and I got a phone call (from the Sounders) and was just overjoyed, really. This is definitely the place I want to be.”
Part of the reason is Rose already had connections to some Sounders players.
Though a native of England, Rose chose to develop his game at UCLA. As a sophomore there, he roomed with David Estrada, who was Seattle’s top pick in the 2010 SuperDraft.
Rose also knows Sounders coach Sigi Schmid, through scouting visits and because of Schmid’s three national championships while coaching the Bruins from 1980-98.
“He’s a UCLA legend,” Rose said. “When I went there, you hold the mantle for four years, it’s a great place to be and obviously he’s a big name around there. I tried to carry on that tradition. I had four great years there.”
Rose was named to the all-conference team after his junior and senior seasons. He recorded five goals and 11 assists over his 81-game college career.
“I think I play the type of soccer that they want to play here,” he said after his first professional training session last week. “Watching the team the past few years, they really try to pass the ball and keep it on the ground. Not every MLS team plays like that, and that’s the kind of thing I bring to the game. I like to keep it simple: one- or two-touch, and I play a passing game. I’m here to prove myself, and hopefully I’ll make the next step.”
The move to Seattle required a longer step from Banton, who chose to develop his game in the English club system rather than the American academic model.
“In England, it’s a little bit more advanced when it comes to soccer,” he said. “In England, at age 16 you’re a full-time player once you sign a scholarship. I left school at 16, and have never been back in school. So, I never really looked into coming to America to go to school. I was just looking to go straight to MLS. So when given the opportunity, I took it.”
Now 19, Banton played for England at the U-17 level, made his professional debut with Burton Albion of League Two, and played in the youth systems of Arsenal, Blackburn Rovers and Liverpool before signing with Leicester City in July.
He shares the Arsenal connection with Sounders midfielder Steve Zakuani.
And, to hear him tell it, that’s not all they share.
“Yeah, I’ve seen a few videos of Steve, and I play quite similar, as well,” he said.
When asked to describe that style of play, Banton summed it up in one word: “Stylish,” he said with a smile.
Sounders general manager Adrian Hanauer said the club is pleased with season-ticket renewals and sales, which seem to be justifying the decision to expand standard soccer capacity at CenturyLink Field by about 2,200 to 38,500 for the 2012 season. Single-game tickets go on sale Feb. 13. After a day off Sunday, the Sounders will train for the next three days at Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila. The club will return to the Virginia Mason Athletic Center in Renton on Thursday and Friday for fitness assessment. One week from today, training shifts to Casa Grande, Ariz.