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MLS Spotlight: Duncan McGuire eyeing up more goals with Orlando City in 2023


Orlando City has provided early opportunities to young players during its nine seasons as an MLS franchise and Nebraska native Duncan McGuire is just the latest talent to reap the rewards of those beliefs by the club.

McGuire, the No. 6 overall pick by the Lions in the 2023 MLS Draft, currently leads the team with 10 goals in 23 combined appearances this season. The 22-year-old is the latest draft pick in Lions history to enjoy immediate success with the club, following in the footsteps of Cyle Larin, Daryl Dike, and Chris Mueller.

McGuire still has plenty he wants to improve on and achieve by the end of the current campaign, but overall has enjoyed what 2023 has brought for him so far.

“It definitely meant a lot for them [coaching staff] to have some trust in me, to play early in my career and early in my first season,” McGuire told SBI in an interview. “It was a big help and I have a good relationship with the coaches which is something that has really helped. I’m pleased with how the first season is going, but I feel like I have some more goals in me. I feel I still have some work to do.”

“Duncan has a very natural characteristic,” Lions head coach Oscar Pareja said about McGuire earlier this season. “He wants to fight for every single ball. We appreciate those characters and the willingness of the place to do it. He understands his weaknesses and he’s trying very hard by training on correcting and improving, but his heart is always there and we really appreciate it.”

McGuire has totaled only 1,085 minutes of action in MLS, U.S. Open Cup, and Leagues Cup play, but is a regular contributor in the current Lions squad. He has gelled nicely in Pareja’s attack, accounting for 22% of the team’s goals in league play and bringing a physical presence to the offensive unit.

After featuring in USL League Two with Lane United at the tail-end of 2022, McGuire credited his teammates for a fast adjustment to MLS.

“It took some getting used to, but I think my teammates did a good job at helping me get acclimated to a new level,” McGuire said. “They helped me in practice and early on in the first week. It’s really been important to me for sure.”

Andrew Katsampes/ISI Photos

Born in Omaha, McGuire was a standout at Creighton Prepatory School, earning Omaha World-Herald All-Nebraska First Team selection on two separate occasions. After committing to Creighton University, McGuire had to wait for his opportunity to shine after the COVID-19 pandemic hampered his development over the 2020-21 seasons.

McGuire enjoyed plenty of success in 2022 after registering just five goals in the previous two seasons combined. He scored 23 goals in 24 appearances, led the Bluejays to the semifinals of the NCAA College Cup, and became the second Creighton Bluejay player to win the Hermann Trophy, following in the footsteps of his head coach, Johnny Torres.

McGuire’s college career may have started with frustration, but ended on an high note that he will never forget.

“It was a bumpy road, especially with COVID forcing a lot of changes to our schedule, but my last year everything was unbelievable,” McGuire said. “The games we put together and how everyone came together as a team, it felt like we were firing on all cylinders. We needed a bunch of things to go our way to make the tournament and it did, so we ended up making a big run at it. Everyone bought in to what the coaching staff did and it played a big part.

“[Winning] the Hermann trophy was very special,” he added. “I was lucky enough to be coached by Johnny Torres who won the award. Midway through the season I didn’t think I would be in the running, but I kept having my teammates tell me ‘you know you’re going to win right?’. It was a great moment and something that I won’t forget.”

McGuire’s remains young in his MLS career, but overall has high aspirations for his future on the international level. Eligible for the U.S. men’s national team, McGuire could be on the radar of returning head coach Gregg Berhalter, should he continue his rapid goalscoring rate throughout the final weeks of the league season.

Although his USMNT goals remain high on his priority list for his career, McGuire is staying patient and controlling only what he can control.

“It’s definitely something I want to do, I’ve wanted to be a part of the national team and play for the country ever since I was young,” McGuire said. “I would take up the opportunity if it presented itself, but I am patient right now. I’d be really excited to be a part of that. I haven’t been in contact with Gregg, but hopefully that is something that happens.”

Orlando City lifted its first trophy in club history in 2022, capturing the U.S. Open Cup by defeating Sacramento Republic in the tournament final. However, the Lions only have one trophy left available to win in 2023, with that being MLS Cup this November.

McGuire has helped the Lions to a current fourth-place rank in the Eastern Conference, earning 40 points through 24 matches. They are on pace to set a new club-record for points in a single regular season (51 earned in 2021) while their 29 goals conceded are ranked as the fifth-fewest allowed in the East.

Plenty could still happen over the Lions final 10 league matches, but McGuire has plenty of belief in himself and his teammates to potentially lift MLS Cup by year’s end.

“We definitely do believe that we have a chance to go there [MLS Cup],” McGuire said. “We know that when we’re playing our brand of soccer, in the way we want to, that we are one of the better teams in MLS. If we continue to do that, we can definitely compete for a championship. That’s where our ambitions are right now. I am going to do my best to contribute and if that’s through scoring goals, then that’s what I am going to do.”


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