Most people can look back and remember their first experiences with the Sounders, whether it was watching the club play back in the USL days, opening the first game in MLS in 2009 or lifting the Supporters’ Shield in 2014. For Duncan McCormick, that moment is a little hazy because he can’t remember a time when he wasn’t a Seattle Sounder.
Before officially signing his first professional contract with Sounders FC 2 in February, and even before he first joined the Sounders FC Academy in 2011, McCormick was watching his father Dick run the midfield for the USL Sounders.
Now, the 19-year-old is one of the first to don the Rave Green for the new Sounders FC USL team, known as S2. He will look to make a name for himself on the field, continuing the McCormick tradition of locking down the Seattle midfield.
“Watching my dad play with the USL Sounders at Memorial Stadium are some of my earliest memories,” said Duncan on where his passion for soccer began. “Ever since I have been around the game I have wanted to be a professional in that atmosphere and in his shoes. It’s never been a question as to whether I wanted to do something else or be something else. This has been my passion since I can remember.”
McCormick sat on the sidelines, absorbing what he could as he watched his dad play three different stints for the Seattle Sounders between 1994-2002. The younger McCormick started to develop his own skills, and via Crossfire Premier, arrived at the Sounders FC Academy as an up-and-coming central midfielder.
Growing up in Seattle and attending high school at Seattle Academy, McCormick got the chance to explore the world while learning more about soccer. At 14, he had the chance to go to Spain to play with kids his age from all over the world. While there, he picked up Spanish, played with local clubs against professional academies and went to a local high school. Duncan came back to the states with a new appreciation for the game, one he hadn’t yet seen.
"Whenever I put on that jersey and whenever I am training for a game, it’s more than just wearing the shirt.”
“One of the biggest things I learned about soccer while in Spain was about the passion and the drive behind the sport,” he said. “I went to a couple big games like Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid, and you could see there was a different feel in the atmosphere.”
Years later, he saw the same passion and drive, but this time it was right in his back yard.
“I hadn’t been to a Seattle vs. Portland game before I went to Spain, so when I came back and saw those games it was a lot of the same atmosphere and a lot of the same electricity.”
McCormick chose to stay in Seattle despite other options. Wake Forest University offered him a scholarship to go play soccer in North Carolina, but Duncan saw the creation of S2 and instantly knew what he wanted to do.
“There is no question I want to play for the First Team. That’s why I stuck around this year,” Duncan said. “It’s something I can see in the next year or two. You take every step as it is, and of course my goals will continue to raise because that’s how you improve your game - you keep making goals and improving yourself as your career advances.”
With an emphasis on development, McCormick fits right in to the structure S2 is meant to provide, acting as a link between the Academy and the First Team. McCormick is a strong midfielder with a “tank” as S2 Head Coach Ezra Hendrickson says, but he knows there is plenty of room to improve his game before making the jump.
“Duncan is a kid we have seen who has improved and brings a tenacity to the midfield we think we are going to need from our players,” said Hendrickson. “He is a very good player both going forward and defending. He runs more than anyone on the pitch and he brings a good energy and work ethic to the team.”
Hendrickson will look to curtail some of that running and help McCormick improve his technical game throughout the season. However, he brings an element to the game that many players don’t have at his age.
“I think my mentality is what separates me from a lot of players in this game. I think I have the right mindset going into every game and that’s just something I gained from being around the game and my father for so long.”
Being in the Sounders’ system for so long has also helped McCormick build relationships with current and former players throughout the league. The first member of the Sounders FC First Team to remember his name was Steve Zakuani, who is now a member of the Sounders FC game-day broadcast team.
Duncan was a good friend of Sean Okoli, a former Homegrown Player for Sounders FC who was traded to New England Revolution, and a few other Sounders who are still around still leave an impact on the new professional.
“I look up to a lot of the guys. It is inspiring to see the work ethic of the team,” he said. “Andy Rose is a really well-rounded guy and definitely a role model of mine. He puts in a lot of work and to see his steps and how he has dealt with adversity and injuries is really cool.”
In the same way McCormick followed his father into soccer, he followed his mother Jill’s footsteps by earning his real estate license for a career post-soccer, whenever that may be. Wasting no time, he already works as a property manager for three different apartment buildings on Capitol Hill.
“It’s funny because sometimes I have to move tenants in who are wearing Sounders jerseys and they have no clue that I play with the club,” he said. “I know I’m not going to play soccer forever and it would be good to have something else going on. The life of a pro has a lot of downtime so it keeps me busy. And when I am done playing someday, I have that experience under my belt so I can live my life after soccer.”
From his earliest days until now, McCormick has learned and absorbed what it means to be a Sounder. He knows there is something special in Seattle, and to be a part of it is a unique experience.
“There’s a lot of passion and history in the club. Whenever I put on that jersey and whenever I am training for a game, it’s more than just wearing the shirt,” said McCormick. “Me and all the other players in the locker room know that it’s the passion that drives us forward. It’s a special thing and growing up in this city, being around the club since I was born, having family ties with the club makes it something special to be a sounder. It was my goal growing up so being here and taking the steps to the first team is extremely special to me.”