It certainly didn't take long for Seattle Sounders FC to find its next Homegrown Player. They can only hope that the one they are gaining turns out to be as good as the one who went away.
In January, just days before the MLS SuperDraft — and just weeks after their first Homegrown Player, Washington Youth Soccer's DeAndre Yedlin, left to join England's Tottenham Hotspur — the Sounders made 22-year-old Darwin Jones their latest Homegrown Player, signing the Des Moines native, Washington Youth Soccer alum and University of Washington senior to his first professional contract.
“I’m humbled and excited to join Sounders FC and look forward to proving myself as an impact player for the club,” said Jones. “I’m looking forward to being in a competitive environment alongside a group of quality players that I can learn from inside a first-class organization.”
Like the previous four Homegrown Players to come before him, Jones is hardly a stranger to the Sounders organization. In addition to growing up in the Seattle area, where, he says, "everyone is connected in some way to the Sounders organization," the Mt. Rainier High School graduate was a part of the inaugural Sounders Youth Academy class, and led the Academy in goals scored during the 2011 season. He also played alongside Yedlin as part of the Sounders FC U-18 squad that same year, tallying a team-leading 16 goals in just 28 games.
Following his youth career, which also included time at Highline Premier FC and Washington Premier FC, Jones played two seasons at Highline Community College before becoming a star at Washington, scoring 15 goals in two seasons to lead the Huskies to a 28-7-7 combined record and back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances. Jones was named the the All-Pac-12 first team both years.
"[Darwin] is an exciting player that we know well from our Academy ranks and have been monitoring during his career at the University of Washington,” said Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid. “Our Academy staff has done a tremendous job of developing players like Darwin, and we’re excited to add another quality Homegrown Player to our roster.”
As exciting as signing his first professional contract is, Jones knows that he has an uphill battle ahead to become a star at the next level — especially on a team seemingly loaded with talented forwards, including Clint Dempsey, Obafemi Martins, Chad Barrett and Kenny Cooper.
He says his old friend, Yedlin, had some advice.
“He tells me to be ready to work hard,” Jones told the Seattle Times Matt Pentz. “No matter what you do, make sure you’re going as hard as you can.”