Will Bates may be a rookie who just signed his first professional contract last week, but he’s not about to approach his time with the Sounders FC content with just being on an MLS roster.
“I didn’t come out here to be a practice player,” Bates said this week after the club announced his signing last Friday. “I just have to start from the bottom and work my way up through the reserves, then when the opportunity comes I’ve got to make the most of it.”
He did just that on Tuesday in the Sounders FC’s MLS Reserve League match against the San Jose Earthquakes, coming off the bench for the final 21 minutes of the match and scoring what proved to be the game-winning goal in the 72nd minute when he knocked in a loose ball in front of the net after a corner kick.
That capped a hectic three-month stretch after the 22-year-old forward for the University of Virginia was selected fifth overall in the 2013 MLS Supplemental Draft.
Bates finished his four years at Virginia with 46 goals and 10 assists in 77 matches, helping the Cavaliers to the NCAA championship in 2009 with a team-high 12 goals. He also had experience on the youth international level playing with the US at the U15, U17 and U18 levels.
He was projected to be selected much sooner in the college entry process if not for offseason knee surgery that deterred some teams from taking him earlier in the MLS SuperDraft.
“It definitely wasn’t how I planned it. I think that was just more fuel to my motivation,” Bates said. “When the Sounders gave me a chance, that gave me every reason to come out here and fight every day to earn a spot on this team.”
After the draft, Bates joined the Sounders in training camp, but was unable to train with the team. He instead worked with the team’s medical staff to go through the rehab process. The club was willing to be patient with him during rehab, making sure he was fully recovered from the surgery before they evaluated him with the team and decided whether or not to sign him. That process slowed slightly when he suffered shin splints, too.
Finally, he was able to get on the field and made a strong enough impression to earn a contract, joining rookies DeAndre Yedlin, Eriq Zavaleta, Dylan Remick and Ashani Fairclough on the Seattle roster.
“It’s great. It’s always been a dream to become a professional soccer player since I was a kid,” he said. “After two months being here rehabbing, I’m grateful for the time they gave me. They got me back on the field and I’m glad to be here now.”