You wouldn't think so watching him score goal after goal in the 2023 MLS regular season, but only 12 months ago, Orlando City SC forward Duncan McGuire was still in college at Creighton University, entering his senior season for the Bluejays with dreams of making an impact at the highest levels of the game.
McGuire has done nothing but impress in 2023, and to top off all the success that McGuire has found with the Lions this season, the call came through last week that he had been selected to represent the United States during their Olympic National Team training camp in Phoenix, Arizona. The forward will have a chance to train with all the other up-and-coming American talents and potentially play in friendlies against Mexico and Japan on Oct. 11 and Oct. 17, respectively.
"My friends have asked me, 'Do you understand what you were doing a year ago?' It's kind of crazy to think about — that I was in college just messing around with my friends," Duncan said. "But now, I'm doing what I've always wanted to do, so it's definitely been a fun ride."
After a 23-goal season for Creighton to end his collegiate campaign, the Lions picked him sixth overall in the 2023 MLS SuperDraft, presented by adidas.
The expectations for the young forward were high, but tempered. With an established striker ahead of him and only one season of success at the college level, there were no guarantees to how McGuire would adjust to the professional game.
Within his first couple of matches, though, the young American smashed through those questions, becoming an offensive dynamo off the bench. Eventually earning a starting spot in the Lions rotation, the forward continued to shine, having a natural knack for finding the back of the net.
Now, with just one match left in the regular season, McGuire has scored 11 regular season goals, tying former Chicago Fire forward Damani Ralph for the second-most goals scored by a draft pick in their first MLS season out of college, behind former Lions striker Cyle Larin. He also became the fifth MLS draft pick to score double-digit goals in the year they were drafted.
For Duncan, the U.S. call-up was a confirmation that the work he had put in and the results he was seeing on the pitch were bearing fruit.
"It definitely means so much to me that all my hard work has paid off," he said. "I've watched the Olympics and the national team, so this is a step in the right direction. It's something I've always wanted to do, playing for the national team. So getting the call-up to camp is definitely very special, and I'm very excited for the opportunity."
While it's certainly a culmination of the past year of hard work and dedication, the job for McGuire is still not finished yet. One game remains in the regular season before the Lions turn their attention to the Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs.
"We definitely know that we can compete with the best," he said. "We definitely know that we're a top team in MLS, and we can definitely give it our best shot at winning it all."