Player Features

"He deserves it": Cody Baker's First Team contract has been years in the making

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There’s a photo of Cody Baker from February 2016, back when he was freshly 12 and in the Seattle Sounders Development Program. Fast forward seven-plus years, and he’s matriculated all the way to the First Team.

The Sounders on Tuesday signed the 19-year-old Issaquah native as the 22nd Homegrown Player in club history. After excelling in the Sounders Academy and with Tacoma Defiance over the last two years, Baker has earned every bit of his first MLS contract.

“I’m very excited,” Baker said. “I’ve been with the club for a long time and been through every step of it. Being able to make it to the First Team has always been a goal of mine.”

Baker’s ascendance happened rather quickly. In addition to putting in a couple of great shifts for the Sounders in the U.S. Open Cup, he came on as a substitute against Sporting Kansas City on May 7 for his MLS debut before starting and going the full 90 minutes in a 1-0 win over the Houston Dynamo last weekend.

“That was a solid shift by Cody,” said Head Coach Brian Schmetzer after the Dynamo win, in which Baker helped Seattle to its league-leading seventh clean sheet of the season. “Credit to the kid for coming in. These guys smell the opportunity. He smells the opportunity to earn a First Team contract.

“The kid performed well. He’s a tenacious 1-v-1 defender, he’s got good speed, he’s got good strength.”

What makes Baker’s signing all the more impressive is that he is not even a natural left back. He was a center back who had been converted to right back in his latter Academy days and has grown into the position. With starting left back Nouhou still out while recovering from a bout of Malaria and de facto backup Kelyn Rowe sidelined with an injury, Baker has proven to be more than just a versatile stopgap, but a player who has passed his short-term agreement with flying colors.

There was no real adjustment needed. Baker simply came in and did his job, something that has been instilled throughout the entire ladder of the franchise.

“Seattle is one of the clubs that’s done a fantastic job of developing players throughout the Academy,” said Assistant Coach Freddy Juarez. “The [Academy kids] come in and they fit in seamlessly into our group. No one could be happier for Cody than the coaching staff. You see it, he deserves it, he works hard…A lot of positives.”

Baker grew up revering the First Team. In 2016, the year that photo was taken of him in the Development Program, he would go on to watch Nicolás Lodeiro, Jordan Morris, Cristian Roldan and Stefan Frei lift MLS Cup. Now, the better part of a decade later, he’s taking the pitch alongside them.

“You watch these guys play on TV every day, you idolize them, and in the Academy, you look up to them so much,” said Baker. “So, to be able to step onto the field and try and win with them is an incredible feeling.”

Baker may very well earn his second consecutive start on Wednesday when the Sounders welcome Austin FC to Lumen Field (7:30 p.m. PT; MLS Season Pass on Apple TV, 950 KJR AM, El Rey 1360AM | TICKETS). But just because he inked his First Team deal, which runs through 2026 with club options for both ’27 and ’28, he understands that the work has only just begun.

“All you ask for is opportunities, work hard in training, get an opportunity to play, and that’s what happened,” he said. “As a young guy if you get the opportunity, you have to take it.”

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