With the World Cup in full swing, USA TODAY High School Sports is taking a closer look at the next generation of U.S. soccer. Today we feature forward Sebastian Elney.
Team: Boca United FC
School: Boca Raton (Fla.)
Elney will enter his senior season this fall as one of the few top-tier national prospects who actually suits up for his high school team. Elney spent his sophomore year in the U.S. Soccer Residency Program and then enrolled at Boca Raton (Fla.) for his junior year. And while many players in his position choose club over high school, Elney suited up for the Bobcats instead. Joining a roster already loaded with talent, Elney was a key contributor on a team that won a 12th straight district championship and reached the state final before losing in a penalty shootout.
Why he could be World Cup-bound: Because he’s a physical presence in the box who has a nose for goal. He netted 18 goals and added 20 assists for Boca Raton this season, showing that he’s a complete player with the smarts to know when to shoot and when to pass. And for a player with big frame like Elney has, he has excellent feet and is composed on the ball.
Plays like: Diego Costa. The Atletico Madrid man had the season of his life to lead his team to an upset La Liga title over Messi’s Barcelona and Ronaldo’s Real Madrid. He scored 35 goals overall, with all but one coming from inside the box. He has the size and strength (6-2/180) to battle with defenders and take up good positions, and he only needs a sliver of space to finish off his chances.
American role model: Jozy Altidore. Born in New Jersey but raised in Boca Raton, Altidore is a clear model for Elney to follow. In fact, a message of encouragement from Altidore is the background of Elney’s Twitter page. They are similarly imposing physically and can be nightmares for defenders to match up with. Altidore was poised to be a central player for the U.S. World Cup team before injuring his hamstring in the first game against Ghana. In 2018 or 2022, it could be Elney poised for a breakout World Cup.
Key number: 6. Appearances for Elney with the U-18 National Team in the past three months. He played in friendlies against Canada and Mexico in April, netting a goal against El Tri in a wild 4-3 loss. During a trip to Portugal in June, Elney appeared as a substitute in each of the team’s four games.
Expert Opinion: “He’s not just a forward who sits up top. He will get involved and make things happen. That makes it a problem for the defenders.” – Boca Raton head coach Marcelo Castillo (via the Sun-Sentinel)