The past 15 months have been a whirlwind for Ethan Dobbelaere.
In April of 2019, Dobbelaere turned plenty of heads at the Generation adidas Cup with his clever, dynamic play as the Sounders U-17s became the first MLS club to win the Champions Division, toppling elite international clubs like Flamengo, River Plate and Valencia CF. He followed up that breakout performance with seven appearances, three key passes and his first professional goal for the Tacoma Defiance in the USL Championship. And in October, he hopped on a plane to Brazil with the U-17 Men’s National Team, where he started two matches at the FIFA U-17 World Cup.
On Monday, Dobbelaere’s meteoric rise continued as he inked a Homegrown contract with the Sounders FC First Team.
“It feels amazing,” said Dobbelaere. “I’m so happy to sign [with the Sounders].”
With so many talented youngsters emerging from Sounders Academy, Dobbelaere has flown under the radar in recent years. His versatility and cerebral approach to the game should provide a strong foundation as he carves out a professional career.
“He can play in a couple of different positions – wide or centrally – and his awareness of space to pick up speed when he receives the ball to eliminate players with his first touch is a real strength,” said Academy Director of Coaching and Defiance Head Coach Chris Little. “His soccer IQ and ability to combine with others in tight spaces, knowing little angles to create space for himself, have always been there. Those are really good platforms that can give him a real chance to be successful as a professional player.”
Born and raised in Seattle, Dobbelaere has long been viewed as a talented prospect by members of the Academy coaching staff. After starting out with partner club Seattle United, he first joined the organization through the Sounders Discovery Program as an 11-year-old kid.
“He’s gone through the whole gambit, the whole process,” said Sounders FC Director of Player Development Henry Brauner. “He’s had quite a drastic rise [over the past year]. He’s a late developer from a physical standpoint. We know he’s still got a lot of growth left in him, but the potential is massive.”
And it's FOUR! pic.twitter.com/pdoSzKNuoC— Tacoma Defiance (@TACdefiance) August 31, 2019
Dobbelaere’s ascent from talented youngster to First Team player is emblematic of why the club prioritizes expansive youth programming. Whether it’s been international tournaments with the Academy, training with the First Team or playing pro matches with the Defiance, the kid from Seattle has consistently raised his game to meet the occasion.
“Obviously we’re really, really happy for Ethan,” said Little. “We think he’s somewhat of a late developer. In this last year, he’s had a lot of opportunities that have accelerated his development.
“It’s just been a great trajectory for him, and that’s earned him an opportunity with the First Team. It’s great that he’s a local guy. I’ve been very fortunate to work with him on the [Sounders] U-17s and then on the Defiance, seeing his growth over the last three years.”
Signing a Homegrown deal isn’t pinnacle of Dobbelaere’s soccer career. It’s just the beginning.
As he’s shown time and time again throughout his six seasons with the club, he’s ready to put in work and rise occasion.