Tuesday, June 21, 2011

One on One with Michael Harrington

Michael Harrington has had some impressive moments in his young career. The standout defender for Sporting Kansas City is young and dynamic, but has shown himself to be very qualified since he began his Major League Soccer career back in 2007.

Harrington’s story though dates back, like so many professionals, to a hard working family supporting his youth travels and endeavors. He began playing soccer in Greenville, North Carolina where he played for the local travel team, Greenville Stars. Like many young players with talent, Michael found himself playing in the older age groups, with players more physically developed than he. Greenville though, is a humble city with a small population.
In search for more competitive soccer and more exposure, Harrington traveled to Raleigh to play for the Capital Area Soccer League. It was there that Harrington played for the CASL Elite and found success on multiple levels. Greenville is just over an hour from Raleigh, meaning that Harrington’s family was committing to a commute on a regular basis. “We decided that it would be beneficial for my career and for my development at that point.” Harrington found instant success with CASL, winning state titles in their first year.

It was through CASL that Michael was found and brought to the U-17 Residency Program for the National Team at Bradenton Academy.

During his time with the youth national team, Harrington represented the United States in the 2003 U-17 FIFA World Championship and then again in 2005 FIFA World Youth Championship.

The high school experience was perhaps lost on Michael as the majority of those years were spent with the youth national teams; however his college experience was a bit more traditional. Harrington attended the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill from 2003-2006, studying exercise and sport science. In that time of course he played for UNC’s highly successful soccer team.

On the transition from Bradenton to UNC Harrington reflects, “Soccer-wise it wasn’t too difficult because the level of training I was getting at that point was so high. I feel I made a pretty good transition into college and did fairly well right away. I’d say school-wise and socially it was a bit of a challenge.”

He was awarded honors as a junior in 2005 making second team, All-ACC as well as NSCAA/Adidas All-South Region. The success continued into 2006 when he was a preseason finalist for the Hermann trophy.

After his highly successful college career, Michael Harrington made the jump to MLS. He was selected in the first round and third overall in the 2007 SuperDraft. It was the Kansas City Wizards, now Sporting Kansas City, who selected him and he has remained with them since. Perhaps one of Michael’s greatest assets as a player is his attacking nature, despite playing as a defender. This is largely due to his experience as a forward during his youth days.

“A big part of our game here in Kansas City is the outside backs getting forward and yeah I’m defending but I’m able to get forward which I enjoy.”

In his rookie year with Kansas City, Harrington won team Rookie of the Year honors as he started 27 games and entered as a sub in two more matches. In his rookie year, as a defender, he notched 3 goals and 4 assists. A particular point of interest, his first goal came three minutes into his first MLS match.

Sophomore year held no slump for Michael as he started all 30 matches in 2008. Success does not abandon Harrington as his hard work and dedication to training has allowed him to continue to make appearances in nearly every match of the season throughout his time all the way into 2011.
Despite playing in Kansas City for the entirety of his career, Michael was present for the brand change between the Wizards and Sporting. The rebranding brought about many changes for players, coaches, fans and facilities.

Full Video
Fans may remember this, one of the most memorable moments with Harrington was an April Fools prank played on him, where he ended up playing the role of a cat... Enjoyable to laugh about now and a great story to tell looking back, however his most memorable moment thus far came in the first three minutes of his professional debut.

“It was just a good feeling, to get out there in professional soccer and make an impact. That was just an unbelievable feeling.”

Long term aspirations for Michael Harrington include national team appearances and becoming a more complete player. Being such a talented left back, it’s hard not to see him breaking into the fold soon, particularly as a left back.

With continued success and remarkable personality, Harrington has become one of the faces for Kansas City, from Wizard and through now into the Sporting era. Harrington has the opportunity day in and day out to test himself against players like Landon Donovan, Thierry Henry and David Beckham. He has proven himself against players like that for every year as a professional. Now he trains with Omar Bravo and Teal Bunbury. He marks them, defends against them in training. That’s certainly something to be proud of.

Other North Carolina Profiles: 
Tommy Heinemann, Columbus Crew
Tyler Lassiter, New York Red Bull
Daniel Paladini, Chicago Fire
Zack Schilawski, New England Revolution

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