Puyallup: Sports

Clarke heads to San Diego State after Sounders U career concludes

Emerald Ridge High graduate Mac Clarke spent the last three years of his high school soccer career getting a taste of something great when he played for the Seattle Sounders FC U-17/18 team.

Now, with Clarke’s time with the Sounders U Academy over and his journey at San Diego State University about to begin, he took the chance to look back at an opportunity many of us dreamed about since we were kids in the backyard: a chance to play professionally.

“I played high school (soccer) my freshman year, and I enjoyed it. But I had the opportunity to join the Sounders Academy,” Clarke said. “I enjoyed my time with the Sounders as well.”

For the Sounders, Clarke made a name for himself as a strong defensive back with a knack for getting after the 50/50 balls in the air.

So much so that Clarke became a staple target on set pieces and corner kicks for his knack of knowing when to jump to reach the ball at the right time. One of those times came during the Sounders’ May 2 match against the San Jose Earthquakes U team.

“The ball kind of went straight to me, and I was able to head it into the goal,” Clarke said. “That was my first one, and it opened up the flood gates in that game.”

Clarke finished with four goals on the season, more than most defensive backs score in an entire career.

“It’s always nice to get the opportunity to score,” he added.

Now that his his career with the Sounders U Academy is over, Clarke can fully focus on training for San Diego State.

Tough lessons from his three years with the Sounders has taught Clarke that there’s no freebies from here on out in his playing career. Being one of three triplets in a super competitive family has helped, but the Sounders did more than just give him an edge.

It taught him maturity.

“Sitting on the bench the first two years was tough,” Clarke said. “I learned a lot during that time … I loved the fact that I wasn’t the best player on the field, that there were players as good or better.”

And the competition only gets tougher from here on out as Clarke admits there’s still plenty of room left for growth in his game. In college, the athletes are adults — with bigger and stronger bodies.

If Clarke wants to succeed beyond this point, he has to grow into that adult body. It’s hard work, but something Clarke is prepared for.

“They’re big and strong, and I still have a lot left to grow to match them,” Clarke said of players at the next level. “I’m going to have to get stronger this first year to prepare myself for the physicality of college.”

And always his own toughest critic, Clarke is never afraid to admit where he needs to improve. After all, soccer is a game about perfection.

“You can never be too good at passing,” Clarke added.

As this local talent heads down the coast to San Diego, he still retains a piece of his dream he set out his first trip to try out for the Sounders: To reach and represent the Seattle Sounders FC Major League Soccer squad on the pitch at CenturyLink Field.

“My whole goal is to reach the Sounders’ first team,” Clarke said. “They still retain rights of refusal after college, and if they still want me, I’ll be happy to join them.”

And if the Sounders don’t bring him back in, any MLS team will likely be more than happy to draft him.