Duncan McGuire carries Orlando City into playoffs: USMNT, Europe future?

Duncan McGuire - Extratime overlay

This time last year, Duncan McGuire was readying to compete in the Big East and NCAA tournaments with Creighton University.

Flash forward 12 months and McGuire is the starting striker for Orlando City SC, who host Nashville SC Monday night in the Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs (7 pm ET | Apple TV - Free, FS1, FOX Deportes).

Life’s come pretty fast for the 22-year-old rookie and No. 6 overall selection in the 2023 MLS SuperDraft presented by adidas.

“Like any striker, once you get that first goal, you feel like that's the hardest one to get,” McGuire told Extratime before Game 1 of their Round One Best-of-3 series. “Then once you get that one out of the way, the rest just come.

“Once I got that first goal I was full of confidence and knew I could score at this level. Ever since then, I've just been riding high with confidence and haven't looked back since.”

McGuire, an MLS Young Player of the Year finalist, tallied 13 goals and three assists in 29 games this year. With that stellar play, Orlando felt comfortable midseason when transferring DP striker Ercan Kara to Turkish top-flight team Samsunspor – a huge vote of confidence.

But goalscoring wasn’t always this straightforward for McGuire, who won the 2022 MAC Hermann Trophy as college soccer’s best player. This skill required self-reflection at Creighton before starting his professional career. 

“After my first two years, I found myself in a bit of a struggle,” McGuire said. “I couldn't really find confidence or wasn't really watching film or putting myself in good positions to score. 

“The spring before my last season of college, we started going over film. They had me watch striker's movements in the box and I started paying attention more to my own movements, watching film on myself more and where I could be in better spots. I started learning better and taking it more seriously.”

Now, working under head coach Oscar Pareja, McGuire is Orlando’s latest No. 9 gem out of the SuperDraft. The club previously had Canada national team all-time leading scorer Cyle Larin and US international Daryl Dike, who respectively compete for LaLiga club Mallorca and Championship club West Bromwich Albion.

Could McGuire, a Nebraska native, join those Orlando alums overseas one day?

“The goal is always to get eventually over to Europe and test my skills over there with some top-quality teams and players,” McGuire, a US U-23 national team player, said. “That's the end goal, but as of right now I'm just focused on what's ahead of me and that's the playoffs with Nashville. 

“Playing for the national team, as that recently came up for the [Paris 2024] Olympic team, that's a big thing I want to get to and something I've wanted to do for a while. That's also in the sights.”

As this rise continues, McGuire hopes a deep playoff run awaits OCSC. They’re the East’s No. 2 seed and have lost just three games since early May, going 14W-3L-7D and collecting an MLS-best 49 points. 

He’s also plenty confident after winning the final AT&T 5G Goal of the Matchday of the 2023 season, courtesy of a Decision Day golazo in a 2-0 win at Toronto FC

“That's probably the best goal I've ever scored,” McGuire said. “The flick over the defender's head at half-field, then the volley from outside the box. It was a special goal for sure and definitely the best one of my career so far.”

For a full Round One breakdown, check out Extratime’s latest episode.