Sean Okoli has spent so much time with Sounders FC over the last several years that he practically had his own locker at the team’s Starfire training facility. The 20-year-old Federal Way native will finally find his nameplate above one of those lockers though, as Okoli signed on as a Homegrown Player last week.
While it may have seemed like a longtime coming, Okoli made the most of his three seasons at Wake Forest University and every opportunity he has had to play along the way.
“Now it seems like a process, but at the time I was just playing and trying to get better each day,” Okoli said. “I’m just glad everything worked out and I ended up with the Sounders.”
Although it is only now official, Okoli has really been a Sounder all along.
He began training with Sounders FC before he left for Wake Forest in 2011 and became a mainstay whenever he was home for the summer and other breaks. Over the past two summers, he also played in the PDL with the Sounders FC U-23s. In his one year with the Sounders FC U-18s, he had 13 goals in 22 matches and was a regular with the U.S. U-18 National Team.
The forward from Todd Beamer High School has shown the fruits of that work in the Sounders FC youth system during his time at Wake Forest, climbing the ladder of success for the Demon Deacons while totaling 24 goals and nine assists in his three seasons.
He looks to bring his own style of play to the MLS level and test his skills beyond the training ground.
“I like to play in the middle up high. I like to hold the ball up, and turn and score goals, run at defenders, be creative,” Okoli said. “I’ve been playing my style for a long time. I’m just going to try to implement that at the pro level now.”
While his strength may be as a forward, he also has the skill to play on the wing as well.
Seattle Head Coach Sigi Schmid will have a great opportunity to determine his best fit with Sounders FC. Although he has had many looks at Okoli over the years, now Okoli will have a much greater chance to make an impression and pick up the tricks of the trade. He learned much from his various training stints, but they were all short and pressure-packed.
“I’m just going to relax and see how things work. I’ve been to preseason before, so that won’t be new, but it will be a lot longer,” Okoli said. “You don’t really realize how fast it is when you’re watching, so you have to get used to that. And you have to be able to adjust to how other people play.”
Okoli has reached one of his goals along the path, but is far from completing his journey.
He knows that there is still plenty of work ahead and is ready to put the work in to get onto the field for Sounders FC.
“It’s exciting to see how much more I can raise my game,” he said. “I can’t wait to play in front of CenturyLink in front of all of those fans. I want to score some goals and win some games and really get my career started.”
Sounders FC opens training camp on January 25 and will play the first match of the 2014 season on March 8 at CenturyLink Field against Sporting Kansas City.