Breaking into Major League Soccer as a rookie is not an easy feat. For every Jordan Morris, there are numerous rookies who fall by the wayside. Sounders fans have seen plenty of draftees, trialists, and homegrown talents fail to live up to expectations. But the club has improved its rookie scouting immensely, with recent players like Morris and Cristian Roldan becoming some of the best in their positions within a year or two of entering the league. If any player from this year’s crop of rookies has a chance to go a similar direction, it’s probably Henry Wingo.
Wingo, a former Sounders Academy player, signed a Homegrown Player contract after playing three years at the University of Washington. Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer said that, while he doesn’t expect Wingo to burst onto the scene as well as Morris did, he will get his chances sooner rather than later. “Henry’s not quite at [Morris’] level, but there will certainly be opportunities for him to play.”
Roldan played with Wingo before leaving UW, and he said that he’s expecting big things from the rookie. “Henry is a class act and he deserves all the credit he’s getting. I think he’s going to be an outstanding player in this league, and I think Seattle Sounders are very lucky to have him.” One thing that stood out for Roldan was how professional Wingo was, even as a college athlete. Many players have to make huge adjustments from college to the pro level, especially concerning diet and fitness—but Roldan said that Wingo “treated his body right and always remained focused on his goals” even when it wasn’t required of him.
It’s hard to judge a player too much based on preseason, but if Wingo’s performance in the last crop of matches in Charleston is any indication, he’s more than ready to make a difference with the first team. General manager Garth Lagerwey said “of all our young guys, he’s probably had the best preseason and that’s really encouraging, but it’s also just the beginning for him as he continues to push and find time and look for spots.”
When Wingo was first signed, the team mentioned his potential at right back for the team, but his attacking role in all the preseason games he played in can’t be understated. His technique and finishing ability were on full display, and his speed is something that could make him a huge asset off the bench as soon as this weekend. Schmetzer praised Wingo’s versatility, and the fact that all his appearances in preseason were in attacking roles show that we’ll likely see him in similar positions in his early MLS career.
Lagerwey, who has evaluated and signed many rookies in his career, said that Wingo “has athletic tools that translate well on the pro level and he’s a decent tactical player as well.” He held his own against the first team defenders of Atlanta and Columbus, which likely earned him a place in the matchday squad in the Sounders’ opening game against Houston, according to Lagerwey.