TUKWILA, Wash. — Harry Shipp is used to being uncomfortable.
The Seattle Sounders acquired the midfielder Shipp, 25, from the Montreal Impact this past offseason, and the Lake Forest, Ill., native is now already on his third team in just four professional years. A former Chicago Fire Homegrown signing and Notre Dame star, the Fire sent Shipp to Montreal in February of last year, forcing him out of his comfort zone and into a year’s worth of uneasiness.
Shipp never felt settled in Quebec or as part of the Impact. He left his fiancé, his friends, his family and every other important part of his life behind in the Midwest. He was living in a different country where he didn’t speak the regional language. He was completely on his own and trying to find his footing.
Shipp needed to grind in Montreal, and it took a toll on him mentally and physically. But he learned how to get back to doing the basics. He used his experience there to learn and jumpstart his promising career moving forward.
A finalist for the 2014 MLS Rookie of the Year, Shipp scored seven goals and added six assists in his first season with the Fire, playing in 33 games and logging over 2,300 minutes. His sophomore season was just as successful. He scored three goals and contributed a team-leading eight assists en route to being named No. 6 on MLS’ annual “24 Under 24” list, which highlights the best league players under the age of 24.
“I envisioned staying in Chicago for the rest of my career,” Shipp told SoundersFC.com on Thursday. “I didn’t want to stay in Montreal for my whole life, I really didn’t. But having that year away from home was the best thing for my personal development. I feel so much different now as a person and a player than I did 12 months ago.”
The Sounders are excited about what Shipp brings to the table. When Seattle traded for his rights in December, General Manager and President of Soccer Garth Lagerwey said that Shipp is a “proven contributor in this league and someone who we think will be a great addition to the locker room as we build off an MLS Cup-winning season.”
Shipp is a creative thinker on the pitch and makes what he does look easy. He’s not flashy, but his best asset is reading the game in an anticipatory manner, often two or three plays ahead. He’s looking forward to the opportunity to compete alongside playmakers Nicolas Lodeiro, Clint Dempsey and Jordan Morris. Shipp is versatile and capable of contributing in myriad ways, and he’s happy that the aforementioned trio will make his job easier.
“They’re such smart soccer players,” Shipp said of Lodeiro, Dempsey and Morris. “They’re guys that look for the right pass, they look for the space to be in. For me, I play better when I’m surrounded by intelligent soccer players, which is why I was so excited about this opportunity.”
Shipp has only played at CenturyLink Field once before. The Sounders visited Chicago twice in his first two seasons, and during a U.S. Open Cup match in Seattle he played at Starfire Sports in Tukwila. But playing in front of 40,000-plus fans in the Impact’s 1-0 loss to the Sounders in April last year — Shipp started and went 72 minutes —still left an impression on him.
“You watch TV and it doesn’t do it justice for how loud it is, how into it the fans are and how much they understand, how soccer intelligent they are,” Shipp said. “It’s cool to be part of something that feels like it’s taken hold of the city especially coming off last year.”
It has only been a couple of weeks, but Shipp can already feel the championship energy surrounding the team, or the “positive momentum” as he called it. He noted the way the coaching staff and players approach training and how they interact with each other. Everything is upbeat. Everything is focused.
How Shipp will contribute to that on the field will be determined as the year progresses, but he has already embraced the team and the city of Seattle and he’s wholly determined to build upon the success his new club enjoyed last season. He finally feels like his old, and very productive, self again.
“I already feel more comfortable in two weeks training with the guys and staff than I ever felt [in Montreal],” Shipp said. “It makes you appreciate little things, both soccer-wise and stuff off the field.”