Via New England Soccer Journal
Division 1 Men: Hoya Hero
Former Revs Academy star Declan McCabe (Weston, Mass.) perseveres at Georgetown
By Jonathan Sigal
AS BRYAN SCALES, the New England Revolution Academy director, sat down to reflect on Declan McCabe’s path, he opted for the big-picture look.
Here was a two-footed attacking player who went to The Rivers School, spent time down at U.S. Soccer’s nowdefunct residency program in Bradenton, Fla., and stood out as a Revs’ youth mainstay. He grew up in Weston, Mass., and spent much of his club career with MPS, which is now part of the Global Premier Soccer umbrella.
Now, McCabe stands tall as a senior at Georgetown, a top program nationally, and with a stellar final campaign for the Hoyas in the books. The cherry on top? “Dec,” as he’s known by family and friends, curled home the gamewinning free kick in the Big East tournament final against Xavier, giving the Hoyas a 2-1 win in mid-November.
“It’s an example of how the player development pathway is never linear,” Scales said in his office at Gillette Stadium. “There’s always ups and downs and challenges and injuries, you’re not starting and then you’re starting. The next thing you know, he’s scoring the winner to win the Big East tournament in overtime. Pretty cool.”
Scales’ comments, though, struck a more pressing chord when it comes to charting McCabe’s time in college soccer. Playing time — and the goals and assists, in turn — didn’t always flow so easily.
During McCabe’s freshman and sophomore years at Georgetown, he sat behind Alex Muyl, who now is a starting midfielder for the New York Red Bulls. That reality check was, in McCabe’s words, a “tough transition” because he was used to being a focal point instead of a name on the depth chart.
But as the months passed, meaningful games simply weren’t coming for McCabe, who appeared in just under half of the Hoyas’ 61 games across his first three seasons in the heart of Washington, D.C.
Part of that, however, was out of McCabe’s control, as he had surgeries on both hips — one after his sophomore season, the other following his junior campaign. Those caused him to miss the “better part of two spring seasons,” according to Georgetown head coach Brian Wiese, and some frustrating times ensued.
“He just wasn’t healthy,” Wiese said. “His handling of that could have gone in a lot of different directions. Our associate coach talked with him some, and it was about handling this decision a little bit better here or there on the field. You’re talking to him for three years, and he’s finally doing these things.”
Much like every step of Mc-Cabe’s journey at Georgetown, there’s a twist involved with his senior year, too. He found himself fighting for minutes, with attacking midfielders Zach Knudson and Achara earning the lion’s share of starts.
Twenty to 30 minutes would roll McCabe’s way, and then when Knudson and Achara fought through injuries, he seized his chance. For Chris Lema, the Georgetown captain who also spent time with McCabe at U.S. Soccer residency, his classmate grew into an indispensable cog, especially as the Hoyas have shifted toward a counter-attacking style.
“He can find the final ball and run through players, and it’s so important to have someone in the underneath role who can hold it up,” Lema said. “‘Dec’ has brought exactly that. We talk about it a lot at halftime; Coach Wiese says that we have to get the ball to Declan.”
Now, McCabe’s intention is to carry his soccer career far beyond his Georgetown days. He’s slated to graduate in December with an economics degree, and the Revolution hold his rights as a Homegrown Player.
When back home for the summer, he’d play for New England’s U-23 team and keeps in touch with his academy friends, including Federico Ferre (Waltham, Mass.) of UMass-Lowell, Chris Arling (Windham, N.H.) of New Hampshire and Christian Sady (North Andover, Mass.) of Harvard.
“It’s always in the back of my head that I’m going to play after this,” McCabe said. “Throughout the course of the season, what’s led to a lot of our success is the team. When our season comes to a close, I’ll start looking at it from a personal standpoint.”
Unfortunately for McCabe and Georgetown, the Hoyas were upset by Southern Methodist, 2-1, in overtime in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
While McCabe was taking a wait-and-see approach, Wiese said his conversations reveal a player with genuine ambition.
“Suddenly Declan has looked like a true senior,” Wiese said. “That’s the mark of a great senior, where the team is sitting there thinking, ‘We’re going to be diminished when he leaves.’”
Added Weise: “He’s really the perfect model for a recruitable kid who has a huge drive to be a pro and wants to get a Georgetown degree.”
That outlook, however, has come with some bumps in the road. He was atop the U.S. youth soccer landscape at residency, and a step above the rest of New England while starring for the Revs Academy.
It all landed him a spot at Georgetown, where his collegiate career looked to be one riddled by injuries. But Mc-Cabe turned things around in a major way his senior year and now is dreaming big.
“I think I’ve grown up a lot since I came here in my freshman year,” McCabe said. “I’ve learned so much in terms of coming into a place where you’re not handed anything. You have to work really hard to earn your minutes and what you get.”