When Sporting Kansas City opened training camp Friday at the Arrowhead Stadium indoor practice facility, Christian Duke was already working out with the club.
In fact, Duke, a senior midfielder at San Diego and 2009 Shawnee Mission South graduate, dominated the club’s multistage fitness test, the dreaded “beep test,” that day.
But Sporting KC wasn’t eager to publicize that, because Duke didn’t officially join the two-time reigning Eastern Conference regular-season champions until Tuesday, when he was selected with 14th overall pick in the first round of the MLS Supplemental Draft.
“I had been in contact with (Sporting KC) and I got invited in early to train for preseason, so I had an idea they might draft me,” Duke said. “I was also afraid somebody else might pick me first. My college coach (Seamus McFadden) had said that other teams had been tossing my names up on their boards.”
Of course, being an Overland Park native and former Sporting KC Academy player, Duke’s preference was to join his hometown club — a wish manager Peter Vermes was happy to grant.
“He’s been in our system, and that makes the transition much easier,” Vermes said. “He’s familiar with the culture of our club and understands the expectations we have within the white lines. Coming from our academy makes things a little more seamless.”
Soccer is in Duke’s blood.
His father, Chris, who also played for McFadden at San Diego, appeared in 71 games for the Comets primarily as a defender in two seasons from 1989-91. That’s how he met Duke’s mother, Cynthia Perry.
Duke, 21, played 60 games for the Toreros, including 18 starts at left back as a junior. He returned to his natural position, central midfield, as a senior and started all 23 games as San Diego reached the NCAA quarterfinals.
“There’s a comfort zone now that I was drafted,” said Duke, who projects as a left-footed wing/back. “I feel more part of the team right now. Going out there, I don’t feel as nervous or laid back. It’s a crazy feeling to know I’ve been drafted, but it hasn’t really set in yet.”
Despite playing in the Sporting KC Academy program from 2007 to 2009, Duke wasn’t eligible to be a Homegrown Player, because he hadn’t spent enough hours training with the club and its staff during his college career.
Sporting KC added three other players — Campbell midfielder Mitchell Cardenas, Tampa left back Brian Fekete and Colgate right winger Mike Reidy — with subsequent picks in the MLS Supplemental Draft.
“I’d say this about all four guys,” Vermes said. “They all have characteristics that fit the way we play. We think it will give them the best chance to make the team.”
Cardenas, 22, a native of Mexico City, trained with Sporting KC in the past. He scored 22 goals with 34 assists, including an NCAA Division I-leading 14 as a senior, in 76 matches for the Fighting Camels.
Fekete, 21, a four-year starter and three-time All-American, recorded seven goals with 15 assists in 69 college games.
Finally, Reidy, who is the reigning Patriot League offensive player of the year and former league rookie of the year, netted 19 goals with nine assists in 77 collegiate matches.