Stuart Hawkins is now the latest in an ever-growing line of players to take the step from the Sounders Academy into the professional ranks with Tacoma Defiance. Hawkins, a lanky 15-year-old centerback, has already spent several years in the Seattle Sounders system, having joined the Sounders Discovery Program at the age of 12.
Hawkins spent time with the Sounders First Team during this year’s preseason, where he made a lasting impression on the staff and veteran players around him. Stefan Frei, in particular, recalled Hawkins’s performance in a scrimmage: “I remember … right around the time when we started Champions League, we played a scrimmage here — First Team against second team — and Stu had to actually slide in on my side and I was quite impressed.”
Not long after that, Hawkins went on to play a key role with the Sounders U17s as they became back-to-back Generation Adidas Cup winners, defeating Tigres in the final. Hawkins won Tournament MVP, illustrating how influential he was on the game from his spot on the back line.
Those performances have all led to time with US Youth National Teams, more training with the Sounders First Team, and one appearance with Defiance prior to signing with the MLS Next Pro side. In that one appearance, a 2-0 road win against Colorado Rapids 2, Hawkins put on something of a passing clinic as he completed 42 of 43 passes — the only pass that missed its mark from Hawkins was his first pass of the game. That included 16 accurate passes into the opponent’s half and one accurate long ball. To go with that, he also won one tackle and 2 of 3 duels.
Hawkins clearly has the tools to be a pro, and now it’s about honing those tools and adjusting to a new level. Fortunately, he’s got a new head coach who’s aware of what it takes and is up to the task of developing players.
“He’ll be fast enough and strong enough in addition to being technical enough,” Defiance head coach Wade Webber said back in April, “But so much of the game is played between the ears.”
That understanding and tactical awareness will come with time and exposure. To Frei, Hawkins seems to have what it’s going to take to get that mental part.
“I think he’s a very smart player,” the veteran goalkeeper said this week. “Hopefully he grows into his size a little bit more and fills out, because it’s a very physical league, MLS, so he’s going to need to be able to swing around with some guys that are pretty strong. I’m sure that will come, but a very smart player.”
As far as growing into his size, Hawkins is very much still growing. When Hawkins made his first bench appearance for Defiance and had a player profile generated on the MLS Next Pro website he was listed at 6’0” and 146 pounds, and in the time leading to his signing announcement with the team he’s grown to 6’1” and added 12 pounds, which is mostly to point out that at 15 he’s reasonably still got plenty of growing ahead of him in every sense.
Hawkins joins Defiance as the 16th player signed directly to the team, and steps into a centerback group that should provide a good environment for his growth. For one, Eric Kinzner took a very similar path to Defiance, having also joined the Sounders Academy through the SDP and played CB as the Sounders U17s won their first top-tier GA Cup championship in 2019, and at 19 has already accrued more than 2,000 professional minutes.
Achille Robin and Hal Uderitz are both a bit older — 25 and 22, respectively — but in their first professional seasons. Both spent time playing college soccer in Seattle, with Robin playing for Jamie Clark at the University of Washington in 2021 and Uderitz playing three seasons with Seattle University under Pete Fewing. Add in that Wade Webber, a former CB himself, loves teaching and developing players, and Hawkins seems to be in safe hands.