Stuart Hawkins is now the latest in a growing line of players to make the step from the Sounders Academy to the professional ranks with Tacoma Defiance. Hawkins, a lanky 15-year-old center back, has already spent several years in the Seattle Sounders system, having joined the Sounders Discovery Program at the age of 12.
Hawkins spent time with the Sounders first team during this year’s preseason, where he made a lasting impression on the staff and veteran players around him. Stefan Frei, in particular, recalled Hawkins’ performance in a fight: “I remember… when we started the Champions League, we played a fight here, the first team against the second team, and Stu had to slide on my side and Me I was quite impressed.”
Not long after that, Hawkins went on to play a key role with the U17 Sounders as they became back-to-back winners of the Copa Adidas de la Generación, defeating Tigres in the final. Hawkins won tournament MVP, illustrating just how influential he was on the game from his place on the baseline.
All of those performances have led to time with the US youth national teams, more training with the Sounders first team, and an appearance with Defiance before signing with the MLS Next Pro team. In that one appearance, an away win for 2-0 against Colorado Rapids 2, Hawkins performed something of a passing clinic by completing 42 of 43 passes: the only pass that missed his Hawkins mark was his first pass of the game. That included 16 accurate passes to the opposite half and one accurate long pass. To go along with that, he also won an innings and 2 out of 3 duels.
Hawkins clearly has the tools to be a pro, and now it’s about honing those tools and adapting to a new level. Fortunately, he has a new head coach who is aware of what it takes and is up to the task of developing players.
“He’s going to be fast enough and strong enough as well as technical enough,” Defiance head coach Wade Webber said in April, “but a lot of the game is played between the ears.”
That understanding and tactical awareness will come with time and exposure. To Frei, Hawkins seems to have what it takes to get that mental part.
“I think he’s a very smart player,” the veteran goalkeeper said this week. “Hopefully he grows a little bit more and fills out, because it’s a very physical league, MLS, so he’s going to need to be able to move around with some guys that are pretty strong. I am sure he will come, but a very smart player.”
As for growing in size, Hawkins continues to grow. When Hawkins made his first bench appearance for Defiance and a player profile was generated on the MLS Next Pro website, he was listed at 6’0″ and 146 pounds, and in the time leading up to his signing announcement with the team he has grown to 6′ 1” and added 12 pounds, which is mostly to point out that at 15 years old he still has quite a bit of growth ahead of him in every way.
Hawkins joins Defiance as the 16th player to sign directly with the team, and he comes into a group of central defenders that should provide a good environment for his growth. For one thing, Eric Kinzner took a very similar path to Defiance, also joining the Sounders Academy through SDP and playing CB when the Sounders U17s won their first top-tier GA Cup championship in 2019, and at 19 already he has accumulated more than 2,000 professional minutes.
Achille Robin and Hal Uderitz are a bit older, 25 and 22, respectively, but they are in their first pro seasons. Both spent time playing college soccer in Seattle, with Robin playing for Jamie Clark at the University of Washington in 2021 and Uderitz playing three seasons with Seattle University under Pete Fewing. Add that Wade Webber, a former CB, loves teaching and developing players, and Hawkins appears to be in good hands.