Dec. 17, 2013
SAN DIEGO, Calif. - Former Torero standout Christian Duke has done more winning in the past 12 months than most soccer players accomplish in a lifetime. After playing a vital role in USD's run to the Elite Eight last fall, Duke helped lead Orlando City to a USL Pro League Championship in September, and then was a part of Sporting Kansas City's MLS Championship squad earlier this month.
"I have been fortunate enough to be a part of three very successful teams," Duke said. "I think it's very good for me going forward because I've been at the top, and to get back or stay at the top, I know what it takes."
Duke, whose father Chris played for Coach Seamus McFadden from 1985-88, grew up in the Kansas City area and played for the Sporting KC Academy while in high school. After a stellar career at USD, his hometown team drafted him with the 14th pick of the MLS Supplemental Draft.
"It was always a big dream of mine growing up to play for my hometown team, so when they had asked me to come into preseason with them before the draft took place it was a surreal moment," Duke said. "Then they drafted me and that was the moment I realized that this was a dream come true."
After signing with Kansas City, the club sent him on loan to their USL Pro affiliate, the Orlando City Soccer Club. "Once I was told I was going on loan, my coach wanted me to take it as a positive experience, rather than a negative because of the playing time and competitive environment Orlando City had." Duke said. "So, I went down there with the mindset that I was going to do everything in my power to get better every day and it took extra time on my own after training, but it's completely worth it."
Duke shined for Orlando City, making 21 starts at midfield and being named the team's top rookie as he helped them win their second USL Pro Championship in the past three years.
"I had a very good experience down in Orlando," Duke said. "It was a challenge to make the starting lineup week in and week out, which is something a player wants. It makes you better and that's what I was down there for. Playing in front of 20,000 plus [fans] was also an amazing experience for the final."
After Orlando City's season ended, Duke rejoined Sporting Kansas City for their run to the MLS Cup, where they beat Real Salt Lake in a shootout in front of their home crowd. Although he never appeared in a match for Kansas City, Duke got a first-hand experience of the highest level of American professional soccer.
"The atmosphere was unbelievable. It felt as though I was a part of the game with all the hype and commitment we put into every training session leading up to the game," Duke said. "Then during the game, having that chance to be a part of the best MLS team in the league made me so anxious and fighting and screaming for us to pull off the win."
Duke was resigned by Kansas City and will be staying in the area in the offseason to train with the academy and his teammates. However, it is still unknown whether he will be suiting up for them or heading back to Orlando.
"We'll have to see what the coaches have planned for me in this upcoming preseason but I would be happy with either place because of the way both clubs are run," Duke said. "Either place will allow me to get better and grow as player."