CHARLESTON, S.C. – Every day after school, Henry Wingo carried a soccer ball outside his family’s Shoreline, Washington, home to kick against the curb.
The ball would hit the curb, ricochet back at him and he’d turn and kick it again, sometimes for hours. Anybody peeking out their window on Beach Drive could spot Wingo and his ball as he made and received imaginary passes off the concrete.
Little did they know, those outdoor sessions were honing technical skills that would eventually lead to Wingo joining his hometown defending MLS Cup champion Sounders when they open the regular season next weekend in Houston.
“I’d just pass against the curb, take the ball and pass against the curb on the other side of the street,” Wingo said. “Then, I’d turn and pass the ball against the other curb. Just back and forth.”
The Sounders knew they were getting a speedy midfielder when they signed their homegrown former academy player last month out of the University of Washington. Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer had seen Wingo’s speed even before the academy stint, having coached his older brother, Teddy, on the Emerald City FC youth team from 2004 through 2009 when a preteen Henry would tag along and even participate in side drills.
But no one was prepared for what they’ve seen here. For how mature the 6-footer’s technical skills have become for his age, something that’s emerged as perhaps the most interesting story line of the team’s preseason thus far.
Wingo, 21, was born athletically gifted, just as his brother, who played at the University of Vermont and professionally in Norway, had been. He’d grown up in the same Lake Forest Park area as DeAndre Yedlin, who was friends with his brother through soccer and school and got to know him a bit as well.
But Wingo, six years younger than his brother, realized if he was to take his career where Yedlin’s was going, speed alone wasn’t going to be enough. He’d need to work on those technical skills; whether by bouncing a ball off the curb by himself or staying after practice at Shorecrest High School with a small group of teammates who’d pass to each other or set up cones to run extra drills.
“That’s something I’ve always tried to practice,” Wingo said. “I’ve always known that being technical is more important than being fast or athletic. The best soccer players in the world aren’t the fastest one a lot of the time. So, that’s something I’ve always tried to work on. From my days in the academy, that’s when I knew I had to start getting better at having the ball at my feet.’’
And he worked on it with the Huskies the past three seasons as well.
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