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SSFC Spotlight: Duncan McGuire displaying productivity in MLS

The elder rookie is having a strong year.

SOCCER: MAY 13 MLS - Columbus Crew vs Orlando City SC Photo by Graham Stokes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With the 2023 Major League Soccer season over halfway complete, there are several American players who are standing out among the herd. Domestic success can sometimes correlate with a future call-up to the United States Men’s National Team, particularly during typically prefatory January camp. Duncan Maguire is performing at a high level during his rookie year, carrying over his scoring prowess from the collegiate game. The 22-year-old Orlando City SC striker has found the back of the net several times and impressed with his adaptation to the professional ranks, drawing comparisons to Daryl Dike in several ways.

Born in Omaha, Nebraska, McGuire competed with Creighton Preparatory School and Elkhorn SC, being named All-State multiple times from a variety of publications as well as All-Midwest and All-America by Top Drawer Soccer. He matriculated to Creighton University and redshirted during his first season, taking time to “learn the game and develop [his] body.” His second year garnered All-BIG EAST and All-Freshman honors, followed by a somewhat productive third season as a redshirt sophomore and a stint with Lane United in USL League Two. Following a mere nine starts in three years, few could have predicted the upcoming eruption, with his coach pointing to a lack of confidence in the early days.

His fourth and final season with Creighton was a true breakout for the striker, scoring 23 goals in 24 appearances, the most in program history. His six finishes during the Big East Tournament helped the Blue Jays claim the title and earned him Big East Offensive Player of the Year honors, followed by an additional four during the run to the College Cup semifinals. The succeeding deluge of individual accolades included National Player of the Year from Top Drawer Soccer and the prestigious MAC Hermann Trophy.

McGuire was selected by Orlando City SC with the sixth overall pick in the 2022 MLS SuperDraft and signed a few months later. “It’s definitely a big step up from college but I’m enjoying it,” he shared with Orlando Soccer Journal. “It’s definitely a different level of play and the intensity is a lot different, but I’m enjoying it so far… I know what I’m capable of now. I know if I am in the right spots, I can put the ball in the back of the net. I know what I’m capable of, and having quality players around me like I do have here, I think it’ll be a good transition over.”

After making his professional debut in the CONCACAF Champions Cup, McGuire has carried over his productive collegiate form, breaking into a crowded striker depth chart. He found the back of the net in his first start, a 1-1 draw with D.C. United via a fortuitous redirection across the box after missing on the initial header. Thus far this season, the forward has contributed ten goals and two assists in 24 appearances, including four finishes in the past six matches, emerging as Orlando’s leading scorer.

Despite being mere months into his professional career, his performances have drawn overseas transfer interest, with the player endeavoring to obtain a Polish passport to ease the process. According to HLN, Belgian side Anderlecht met with his representation to explore a move. He “eventually” wants to go to Europe but is “definitely happy” in Orlando for the time being, ideally hoping to make the jump from MLS to the national team.

“I wasn’t thinking it was going to be some huge season,” McGuire told “But my teammates did a good job at helping me transition from the college game, teaching me the ropes about strategy, tactics. They worked with me from day one, helping me out and helped me feel like one of the guys from day one, so that was helpful on their part. And getting a start early in the season and scoring a goal, that was the confidence boost that I needed and letting me know that I can do it at this level.”

Standing at 6’1” with a “low center of gravity and physical presence,” McGuire is a forward with “a very natural characteristic and wants to fight for every ball,” bringing a high work rate and endeavoring to “make defenders’ lives miserable” with constant running. An accurate finisher with one of the “best shooting grades in MLS,” most of his goals come from close range. Praised for his “maturity and professionalism,” he “likes to be a nuisance” with runs in behind the back line, creating opponent errors.

His adjustment to MLS has been almost seamless. “I’d say it’s a natural transition based off of positioning,” he told Orlando City’s official website. “In the final third, you know you’re always going to find goals in the same spots at those levels, but the transition, speed of play and tactics is definitely something that I’m still learning. My team has been very helpful and has helped me with my transition from college to the professional level and I feel like I’ve been progressing nicely. I’m still learning and still have a lot to learn, but it’s going well so far.”

McGuire is enjoying a strong run of form and has displayed some solid finishing skill at the professional level, making the difficult jump from the collegiate ranks to MLS. There are many players who have had a solid season or two but are unable to maintain consistency while continuing to develop their game, although his skills appear transferrable at each successive jump. He is receiving every opportunity to succeed in Orlando and could prove himself to be a reliable American striker, potentially securing a transfer abroad. With steady production, there is the increasing likelihood of a USMNT call-up in the near future.