SEATTLE – Andrew Duran doesn’t need to be reminded about the faster rate of play in MLS compared to college.
The Seattle Sounders FC’s top pick in Thursday’s MLS SuperDraft experienced it firsthand when he trained in Seattle last May. Then a senior-to-be at Creighton University, Duran found himself in a head-spinningly quick game of keep-away before one practice.
Safe to say he struggled.
“I was in the middle for probably 10 minutes,” he said Thursday on a conference call.
Duran shrugged off the slow start and performed well enough to stay on the Sounders’ radar. Eight months later, he is coming back.
Following a stellar senior season with the Bluejays, the 22-year-old defender was drafted by the Sounders with the 15th pick in the first round and will interject some youth into a veteran back line. Only one other Seattle defender is younger than 26: Michael Tetteh, a reserve who has also played as a midfielder.
While draft picks on defense aren’t often flashy – and Duran’s steady style isn’t particularly showy, either – coach Sigi Schmid said the 6-foot-1 center back perfectly fits what the Sounders wanted.
Duran was the team’s top-rated defender at the MLS combine and provides some depth at a position of need. Poised, versatile and strong on the ball, Duran was in the middle of a stingy Creighton defense that last season allowed 0.2 goals per game and recorded 19 shutouts, one fewer than the NCAA record.
He was “the main defender on the team that was the best defensive team in the country last year,” Schmid said. “He’s got to be doing something right.”
A native of Mokena, Ill., Duran was a two-time All-American at Lincoln-Way East High School. Then a midfielder, as a senior he was named national player of the year by two organizations.
At Creighton, Duran’s college career was hampered by some injuries, but he and the Sounders feel those concerns have passed. Duran and his teammates also had to overcome three coaching changes the past three seasons.
“They had to adjust and adapt all the time,” Schmid said. “But no matter which one of their three head coaches you talked to, the feedback and the information we got on Duran was constantly the same – and he’s displayed what they had told us.”
Duran knows there’s much work to be done, and he plans on improving all aspects every day. He has a good idea of where to start, too, and it comes back to those games of keep-away.
“I need to catch up with speed,” Duran said. “A lot of people underestimate the speed of MLS.”
He won’t be one of them.