WASHINGTON, DC–D.C. United midfielder Chris Durkin spent the last two seasons working toward the U-20 World Cup. His hard work paid off Friday when his name was included on the 21-man United States men’s national team roster.
“I have been working toward it for a long time,” Durkin told Pro Soccer USA. “Personally, I was extremely excited to get that call up because I worked really hard to reestablish myself within that group. I am very excited. It is a big opportunity to represent myself, represent D.C. United and there is going to be a lot of people watching.”
The U.S. kicks off the tournament Friday, May 24 in Poland against Ukraine at 2:30 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1, and players begin to report as early as Monday. Durkin will not join the team until after United’s midweek game against Toronto FC on Wednesday, May 15.
Now in his fourth season with United, Durkin has 20 starts in 30 games played. The homegrown player scored his first professional goal in the turnaround win against the Colorado Rapids.
“He is in a good spot from a preparation standpoint to go to a tournament like that,” Olsen said. “He has got some games under his belt in the MLS and he has a good rhythm.”
— Chris Durkin (@ChrisDurkin0) May 10, 2019
Durkin broke through last season in the absence of midfielder Russell Canouse. In 2018, Canouse suffered a knee injury in preseason that put him out for the first half of United’s season. Olsen implemented a two defensive midfielder system, inserting Durkin next to Junior Moreno. Durkin started 16 of 23 games played last season. United’s confidence in the 19-year-old carried over into 2019. He has put a healthy pressure on Canouse and Moreno for a spot in the starting lineup.
“It is also good to have the competition there because it forces you to push yourself more than if you were comfortable in a position,” Canouse said. “When you have that competition, sometimes you feel like off the field it is going to affect a relationship, but I think we all have great respect for each other.”
Prior to Saturday’s game against Columbus, Durkin started in four MLS games while Canouse was out with another minor knee sprain.
United has a history of promoting and holding onto homegrown players. Durkin is no different and, despite European interest, United has held onto the holding midfielder. While there was some controversy earlier this season about which teams would allow their MLS players to leave for the tournament, United has given nothing but support to Durkin as he focuses on his club and national team aspirations.
“D.C. United will set you up with the opportunities to be successful at your respective environment, but it wasn’t easy,” Durkin said. “There are times when you just have to put your head down and work. That is what I have done a lot these last couple months to make sure I am in the conversation with the U-20 group.”
After competing for the U.S. in the U-17 World Cup in 2017, Durkin periodically join the U-20 squad. He was not part of the group that qualified for the U-20 World Cup last November, but joined the team during the most recent camp in March in Spain.
“Chris is the player that has likely, with Tim [Weah], had the most growth from the U-17 World Cup until now,” U-20 USMNT coach Tab Ramos said. “His technically ability to make the field big, to switch sides, to keep the ball has improved tremendously. I think he will make our team better.”
Durkin did not have to look far for guidance ahead of his run at the U-20 World Cup. Teammates Canouse and Paul Arriola were part of the team that qualified for the 2015 U-20 World Cup. Additionally, his 16-year-old teammate Griffin Yow scored goals this month for the U-17 team that just advanced to the Concacaf U-17 Championship quarterfinals.
Olsen spent his only playing career in and out of the national team roster, and relishes in the value of youth national team experience.
“As far as these tournaments go, the 17s and the 20s and the Olympics, they are just great experiences for kids,” Olsen said. “I was lucky enough to be a part of some of them. They are some of my most memorable soccer experiences. I am really looking forward for them to have those experiences and catching up with them more after about it than before. They know what they are doing.”