In June 2016, Chris Durkin became the fifth youngest player to sign a homegrown contract with D.C. United. He was just over four months removed from his 16th birthday
The young United player added another accolade to his name earlier this month. He will spend the next few weeks in Panama as part of the 20-man U-17 men’s national soccer team for the 2017 CONCACAF championship.
U-17 World Cup Qualification is on the line in Panama. Meet the 20 men who will represent the 🔴⚪️🔵 at #CU17PAN.
— U.S. Soccer YNT (@ussoccer_ynt) April 19, 2017
The tournament, which is also a qualifier for the U-17 World Cup in India, is not Durkin’s first appearance with the national team. He saw minutes in several friendlies and the IMG Academy Cup in December where USA won third.
The Virginia-native made his debut last summer for United in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup match against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. Maybe not quite a seasoned veteran, Durkin did impress the United coaching staff and fellow players in the 2017 preseason camps.
“In preseason, he had a great work-rate and a great attitude,” United rookie Ian Harkes said of Durkin. “All around he’s a pretty great player for 17.”
Harkes and Durkin spent down time together in the preseason and continue to keep in touch despite Durkin’s trips overseas with the national team.
“I met him in the beginning of the season right before we went down to Florida,” Harkes said. “He was my roommate all throughout preseason. We grew pretty close.”
When 22-year-old Harkes befriended Durkin, the MAC Hermann college MVP looked to the 17 year old for insight on the team.
“It is interesting because I was bouncing questions off of him and he is just 17,” Harkes said. “I am asking him what he thought of the [previous] season. He has been on loan to Richmond a lot, but he has had a lot of experience being around this team.”
Durkin has spent time over the past two seasons contributing to the USL team Richmond Kickers. Harkes join United this season, and despite spending the first game on the bench, solidified himself as a starter and real contributor in United’s youthful midfield.
Harkes is following in his father John’s footsteps. John Harkes played for United from 1996-1998, including one season alongside current coach Ben Olsen, who joined the club in 1998.
“[Harkes] has got a little of his dad in him,” Olsen said. “I see the competitiveness and pride. I see that slowly coming in.”
— John Harkes (@johnharkes6) March 12, 2017
While Harkes settled into his new role with United, his former roommate Durkin has adjusted to his increasing responsibilities with the national team. Harkes attended a couple U-20 camps but never contributed in a tournament or international competition. Either way, the honor of playing for the United States is something neither player takes lightly.
“It is huge,” Harkes said. “Sometimes when we are younger we don’t get it. When you are actually on the team and representing the country, it is a huge honor. It is humbling too.”
Since signing with D.C. United, Durkin has split time between Washington D.C. and Bradenton, Florida at the US soccer residency program in the program’s final semester.
“It is only going to help him with his game and strengthen and his confidence,” Harkes said. “Hopefully it will translate over to contributing to this team.”
Both Durkin and Harkes will be in action this weekend. Harkes will most likely continue his starting-streak Saturday in the center midfield position for United against the New England Revolution.
Durkin and the U-17s begin Group C play in the 2017 U-17 CONCACAF tournament Sunday, April 23 against Jamaica.
“[Durkin] is a pretty humble guy. He puts his head down and keeps working. He is definitely going to carry the confidence with him,” Harkes said. “He is composed and confident playing with guys that are twice his age…I look forward to possibly playing some games with him in the future.”
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