From "The Kid" to a man, DC United youngster Michael Seaton enjoying a season of growth

Alvaro Rey and Michael Seaton

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USA Today Sports

WASHINGTON – At the end of an exhausting and, by his standards, poor training session on Tuesday afternoon, 17-year-old Michael Seaton found an isolated patch of pitch away from his teammates and hung his head.

Seaton, the youngest player on D.C. United’s roster and the first signed to MLS who was born after the league was created, wasn’t happy with his performance.

“My teammates went on the other side of the field, and I just stayed on one side by myself,” Seaton said.

Then?

James Riley and [Dwayne] De Rosario just walked right over, looked right at me and James said, ‘Keep your head up,’” Seaton said. “James kept encouraging me and telling me stuff that I could do.”

Namely, to head into the batting cage underneath RFK Stadium, work on his turns or other individual skills and return stronger the following day. On Wednesday, Seaton fared much better during a lengthy training session and again Riley spoke with him.

“He said, ‘See, you’re in early today, you worked hard by yourself and look what happened, you had a positive day,’” Seaton said.

Several of United’s veteran players have taken Seaton under their wings and the Homegrown Player’s maturation from the beginning of the season, though not noticeable on the stat sheet, has been dramatic.

Once a tentative forward seemingly unsure of himself and his abilities, Seaton has gradually gained confidence as the season has progressed. The Spanish Town, Jamaica native has played in three MLS matches (one start), including most recently a 10-minute appearance against Kansas City last Saturday. He doesn’t have a goal or an assist in MLS play but did record an assist on the first touch of his professional career in a friendly against Chivas de Guadalajara.

But just because he’s learned and grown with United this year, however, doesn’t mean his nerves don’t kick in when he’s about to enter a match.

“I was nervous [against Kansas City]. But I’m going to be nervous until I get my first goal,” Seaton said. “That’s how I look at it. With more minutes I should be fine, but it was pretty nerve wracking.”

Seaton’s outgoing personality and muscular build don’t necessarily coincide with someone of the age who would otherwise be sitting in high school math classes on weekday afternoons. But with the help of United’s players and coaches, he’s observed tremendous inner and outer growth in eight months.

“I was pretty shaky [at the start of the season]. I didn’t get into a lot of rotations the way I wanted to and the physical stuff wasn’t there. But over time I’ve just progressed,” said Seaton, who noted that the most challenging part of his rookie year has been avoiding fatigue. “I take that positivity and I’m going to use it for next year and just keep building because I know I can be a great player. I just have to put my mind to it and keep working every day.”

Whether Seaton enters the mix when United play host to Houston (1:30 pm ET, NBCSN) on Sunday at RFK remains to be seen. But rest assured, the young striker already is eager to turn the page toward proving himself in 2014.

“I’m trying to stand out next preseason as opposed to last preseason,” Seaton said. “Last preseason they knew me as ‘The Kid.’ I want to come in and have them say I turned from a kid into a man. That’s what I plan on doing.”