Tacoma Defiance left back Nick Hinds remembers the first time he came into contact with the Sounders organization.
Born and raised in Plantation, Fla., Hinds was competing with Kendall SC at the annual USSDA Winter Showcase in 2014, and was approached by the club after putting in a dominant performance against the young Sounders. He was subsequently invited to join Seattle’s youth system on a full-time basis at the age of 17.
“At first, I was a little bit nervous, moving away from my family so early, but I had to do it,” said Hinds. I wanted to progress my professional career and saw an opportunity to do so. I took the opportunity, not knowing what was going to happen, and just put my mind to it.”
Hinds has always wanted to be a professional soccer player. When he was 13, he tried out for the Florida ODP team, but didn’t make the cut. He redoubled his efforts, training every day and pouring over footage of Real Madrid left back Marcelo.
Fast-forward one year later, and the buccaneering fullback was called into camp for the United States U-15 national team.
Making the national team made his dreams of playing professionally feel possible. So, when the Sounders came calling, he jumped at the chance to join a professional club’s Academy.
“Thankfully, Sounders gave me an opportunity to come,” he said. “It just shaped me better as a person. Leaving my family early and learning how to survive on my own.”
Hinds spent one year in Seattle before jetting off to play college ball at the famed Akron University, a program that developed Sounders legends like DeAndre Yedlin and Steve Zakuani. He quickly locked down the starting left back job for one of college soccer’s perennial powerhouses.
But as the NCAA Tournament approached, his head coach, Jared Embick, decided to remold his talented defender into a dynamic No. 10. It paid dividends immediately, as Hinds bagged a brace in the MAC Tournament final before tallying two more goals in a first-round victory over Villanova in the postseason.
As MLS academies churn out elite prospects at a record clip, college soccer’s reputation as a hotbed for player development has taken a hit. But Hinds said that, for him, it was the perfect route, as it took him out of his comfort zone and forced him to mature, on and off the field.
“College gave me a tougher mindset,” said Hinds. “It definitely made me stronger mentally to push through certain fitness things. Off the field, it helped me prioritize my time because you’re going to school, you have training, and you have study tables.”
As a sophomore, Hinds continued to shuttle around in different midfield spots. So, when he signed his first professional contract with the Defiance, it made sense that he would continue his development in a more advanced role. But as the season progressed, he went on to accrue over 10 starts as a left back.
“I just looked at [playing different positions in college] as an experience, learning new positions,” he added. “Now coming back, I definitely see myself as a left back, and I’m trying to progress that way.”
Hinds, who is one of 12 Defiance and Academy players in preseason with the First Team, says that he’s trying to emulate his game after Brad Smith, a player whose attacking prowess he admires. Off the field, he enjoys spending time with Jordan McCrary and Handwalla Bwana, as well as interacting with Sounders supporters throughout Seattle.
“So, I look at Seattle as another home, especially with my support system from my homestay family,” said Hinds. “We still keep in touch and we’re still close. So, Seattle feels like home to me.
“I love interacting with the fans. I love going to community service appearances just to give back. My mom always taught me that you can’t be selfish and do things for you. You have to do it for other people as well.”
Now that he’s signed with the club from his second hometown, Hinds is ready to put in the work to achieve the dreams he’s had since he was a little kid.
“Short-term, I want to move up to the First Team,” he said. “Once I get there, I want to push for more playing time and progressively get better daily.”