SEATTLE — Hal Uderitz’s first assignment as a member of the Seattle Sounders FC organization was a toughie.
The Sounders’ first scrimmage of preseason took place Thursday at Lumen Field. It was a 45-minute contest between a team consisting of younger players like Uderitz, a Snohomish High School graduate who was selected by the Sounders in the third round of last week’s MLS SuperDraft, and a squad comprised of first-team players.
Uderitz is a central defender. So his job? Trying to handle rough-and-tumble 11-year-veteran striker Will Bruin.
Given that the youngsters knocked off the veterans 2-0, it’s safe to assume Uderitz handled his first assignment capably.
“Overall I think I played pretty well in the scrimmage,” Uderitz said. “I wouldn’t be saying that if I didn’t think it was true. I think I got some compliments as well, and that’s always a good sign.”
Uderitz is hoping it was the first step toward earning a first-team contract and fulfilling a lifelong dream of becoming an MLS player.
Uderitz was drafted 72nd overall by the Sounders following a four-year career at Seattle University. Uderitz, who also won a high school state title as a freshman at Snohomish in 2015 before moving full-time to Crossfire Premier’s academy team, is coming off a season in which he tallied five goals and two assists in 21 games for the Redhawks. He scored in the shootout as Seattle U beat Grand Canyon in the Western Athletic Conference tournament championship game to earn the Redhawks a berth to the NCAA Tournament, and he was selected to the United Soccer Coaches’ All-Far West Region team.
And Uderitz was thrilled to be drafted by his hometown team, one he’s supported since the Sounders joined MLS in 2009.
“It’s great, I feel honored,” Uderitz said about being drafted by the Sounders. “It’s just so cool that I was able to get drafted to my hometown team. It’s always something I wanted to do, not just play in MLS but play for the Sounders, because I get the chance to one day hopefully play in front of family and friends.”
Now comes the hard part for Uderitz. Historically, third-round draft picks have long odds for making the big club. For example, just three of the 20 players selected in the third round of the 2021 SuperDraft went on to sign with MLS teams.
Uderitz is also trying to accomplish that while undergoing a position change. Uderitz played as a defensive central midfield player for most of his career at Seattle U. But midway through his senior season he switched to central defense, so he’s been adjusting on the fly.
However, the position switch may have been just what Uderitz needed for his career.
“I think it helped me get drafted,” Uderitz said. “I think a lot of MLS clubs were looking at me as a center back at the next level. I was kind of happy I was able to get about a dozen games under my belt at center back, and I think it upped my stock that people saw I could play center back.
“I think transitioning from a central midfielder to center back is much easier than transitioning from center back to central midfield,” Uderitz added. “As a center back you have everything in front of you and you don’t have to worry about anything behind you. And given my size (6-foot-2) I think I have pretty good feet, and I think playing central midfield contributed to that.”
The next phase of the Sounders’ preseason begins now. Seattle flies to Tucson, Arizona, on Sunday, and the team will spend the following 10 days training in the warmer temperatures, including exhibition games against Portland on Wednesday and Colorado on Feb. 1. Uderitz will be on that plane to Tucson.
Uderitz will need to continue to impress to get signed by the Sounders. He could also end up signing with Seattle’s MLS Next Pro affiliate, the Tacoma Defiance, which serves as the Sounders’ reserve team. If things don’t work out with the Sounders, a team in the USL Championship, which is the tier just below MLS, could also be an option.
But as long as he’s in camp he has the Sounders’ attention, and as long as he has the team’s attention he’s going to do everything he can to compel Seattle to sign him.
“I think preseason is going well,” Uderitz said. “The speed of play is definitely faster, it’s a lot more physical and you have to think a lot more. There’s just a lot more standards that this level has for players, especially young guys trying to prove themselves. It’s only been a week, but I think I’ve done well so far. There’s a lot of preseason left to prove myself.
“Obviously I wanted to get a first-team contract,” Uderitz added. “I have to keep proving myself the next couple weeks of the preseason, that’s the time that they’re giving me. Then based off that, if I get a contract, that’s the dream that I’ve been working towards.”
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