Throughout the past three years, Sounders FC 2 has established scouting pools in Cameroon and the Caribbean. With Central Coast Mariners legend John Hutchinson at the helm this season, a new pathway has emerged from Down Under to the Pacific Northwest.
Arguably the most prominent Aussie signing is the club’s newest addition, fullback Brad Smith. But several months before the AFC Bournemouth player joined the Sounders on loan, the club snapped up two promising Australian prospects, midfielders Jesse Daley (20) and Antonee Burke-Gilroy (20), adding them to the USL side.
“For S2, we had two foreign spots at the beginning of the season,” said Hutchinson. “We were kind of searching around and these two Australians came up. At the time I didn’t know either of them. I didn’t know Burkee or Daley. We invited them over for a trial. We decided they were good enough, so we signed both of them, and they’ve each brought a different aspect to the team.”
Despite signing after the season had started, the Aussie midfielders have hit the ground running as they’ve made a combined 18 starts. A technical, intelligent defensive midfielder, Daley sets the tempo in possession and screens the back four when defending. More of an attacking midfielder, Burke-Gilroy likes to sit between the lines, drive the ball forward and unlock opposing defenses with a shifty dribble or an incisive pass.
From a pure soccer perspective, their signings have been a boon to S2, with a combined 10 chances created, three assists, two goals, 16 interceptions and 29 tackles won.
As young and ambitious professionals, Burke-Gilroy and Daley jumped at the opportunity to ply their trade with the Sounders organization. While the opportunity to improve and progress with S2, which is dedicated to developing players for the First Team, was a major selling point, they couldn’t pass up learning under the tutelage of Hutchinson, who they watched in the A-League throughout their childhood.
“Hutch, for me personally, has been incredible,” said Daley. “He was a midfielder as well and I grew up watching him play in Australia. To be under him now, and have him guiding me and mentoring me, it’s pretty awesome.”
For Burke-Gilroy, the opportunity to learn from Hutch – a player he always admired despite being a Newcastle Jets supporter – in a squad geared towards development has been an incredible experience.
“It’s good because I feel like every single person in the team is still developing, and we’re developing as a group,” he said. “I like playing with a lot of young guys because they’ll fight until the end. I can see improvements from every player on the team since I’ve been here, which is good.”
With Hutchinson in the organization, the Australian pipeline is likely to continue churning out players. In fact, he helped facilitate the move for Smith as he reached out to his former Central Coast Mariners coach, Graham Arnold, who is currently at the helm of the Australian National Team. Once he got some feedback from Arnold, Hutchinson relayed that information to the First Team coaching staff.
On the pitch, it’s clear that Daley and Burke-Gilroy are enjoying their time in USL with S2. Equally important, they’re relishing their new lives in the Pacific Northwest.
“I really like Seattle as a city,” said Daley. “The club has been awesome in the way they’ve welcomed us into S2. I’ve kind of found my feet now and it feels like home.”