Following practice on Thursday, as trialists lined up to take shots on goal, freshly signed S2 player Duncan McCormick lingered around the top of the box to kick home the saved shots. A rocket of a shot caromed quickly away from goal after a save. McCormick tracked left and shot across his body with his left foot and hammered the ball into the top corner. The shot was spectacular and everybody started cheering as Duncan ripped his shirt off and recreated Brandi Chastain's famous World Cup winning celebration, complete with his Catapult Sports movement monitoring "sports bra". It was a great goal, truly, and all his teammates let him know.
The goal was a good addition to what was already a good day for McCormick. Earlier that day it was announced that the Seattle-native signed his first professional contract, and, along with Amadou Sanyang, was one of S2 General Manager Andrew Opatkiewicz's first signings.
"Duncan is an academy prospect and one of the better players to come out of our academy, he was a leader on that team and one of the star players for several years," Opatkiewicz said. "S2 is about youth player development. He's a real natural first player to sign to S2, coming out of the academy." McCormick's contract is with S2 and not MLS, so he is not a homegrown player. What's not certain is whether that status will change if he ever sees first team minutes with the Seattle Sounders.
S2 Head Coach Ezra Hendrickson echoed those sentiments regarding the midfielder, "Duncan is a kid who came through our academy, a kid that we've watched now for two or three years now. He's improved, he brings tenacity towards the midfield that we think we'll need from our players. He's a very good player going forward and in defending."
Through the preseason, S2 has been playing in a 4-2-3-1 with McCormick playing as a holding midfielder. But it's likely that at the start of the season the team will start playing in the 4-4-2 that the Sounders use under coach Sigi Schmid, with Duncan playing the Gonzalo Pineda role.
"We call him 'The Destroyer,' " Hendrickson said. "He's got a tank, he runs more than anyone on the pitch. So now we just gotta curtail some of that running and make sure it's positive running and not just all over the place. He brings a good energy and good work ethic to the team, and he's improved a lot and we expect him to do well for us this year and play a lot of minutes this year."
After his years in the Sounders Academy, two of which he spent as the team's captain, it wasn't certain what the future held for McCormick. He was accepted into Wake Forest this past fall, where former Sounder Sean Okoli had played before signing as a Homegrown Player. But the North Carolina school is all the way across the country. Instead of attending though he decided to stay in Seattle once he heard about S2.
McCormick first learned of S2 near the start of August, which caused his change of heart.
"I told Wake Forest I'd be staying around [in Seattle], playing here and play with Sounders 2," McCormick said. "I just made that decision to try to make that jump, try to be the pioneer in that first step."
"Just having this bridge for S2 is fantastic because I wasn't quite ready to make that jump to first team. I was committed to Wake Forest but S2 has been a fantastic stepping stone to get there," McCormick continued. "I'll have the guidance of Sigi and Brian Schmetzer. These guys will be watching our trainings day in and day out, they'll be watching our games, as opposed to being at Wake Forest which is all the way across the country. If I have a great game here most likely they'll be watching it. Having them around is fantastic and another big reason why I decided to stay."
McCormick is indeed a pioneer, not just as the first signing of S2, but he's the first Sounders Academy alum to forgo college in lieu of staying in Seattle to play for the Sounders. Victor Mansaray made a similar decision, but the forward was still a senior in high school when he signed his HGP deal with the senior team in November.
"It's something I've been dreaming about for years now since I joined the academy," McCormick said about signing his first pro contract.
Other players or academy products can use McCormick's example into the world of professional soccer. The introduction of S2 as a post-academy destination can change the landscape of player development in the United States. Eyes will be on McCormick as he blazes this trail.
"He's got a tremendous amount of upside" Opatkiewicz said. "so we're really looking forward to seeing what consistent professional minutes in a competitive environment can do for his development as a player."