FC Edmonton’s latest signing Duran Lee isn’t one to let his dreams be dreams.
Growing up in Ontario, Lee had a dream to become a professional player. He started off at the Toronto FC Academy and the eventually moved to Sigma FC. It was a Sigma that he realized he was good enough to compete for a professional contract.
Lee credits a lot of his progress as a young player to Sigma FC. It’s one of the top programs in the country for player development and it was the club where he found his natural position, which is as a left-back.
“I started to believe in myself and I knew if I stayed focused and worked hard I could make it,” Lee said. “My time at Sigma is where I really learned how to play as a left-back and that’s where I really grew and realized that I can make something out of it.”
“And now I am here and I have a deep appreciation for all the work I did to get here. I worked really hard to get here. And a lot of people don’t really see all the work that a professional athlete puts in, but a lot of work happens behind the scenes. It is a grind to get to this level.”
After his time with Sigma, Lee joined Vaughan Azzurri for a year. Playing for Vaughn gave the 24-year-old defender the chance to showcase his abilities on a professional level via the Canadian Championship series. His side faced HFX Wanderers in the opening round of the competition and it was during the two-legged series that Lee caught the eye of the Wanderers coaching staff.
After an impressive showing, the Wanderers decided to sign Lee. It was the day where his dream of being a professional player became a reality.
“I was really excited when I signed that contract,” Lee recalled. “You’re in this new realm of people and opportunities and networking, so you want to fit in the right way. It made me realize that if I can do well here, maybe I can do well somewhere else. You don’t close all the doors, you want to keep your options open. Because there is only a certain amount of time you have left in your career before it’s all over.”
“I enjoyed my time there, the fans were amazing, it was a great club. I got to work with a great coach. We really got to interact with all the fans, and it makes you realize how much they love the game too.”
Lee has a habit of catching the eye of opposition managers, as it was the case again when he played against FC Edmonton. Head Coach Jeff Paulus admitted Lee really impressed him and his coaching staff when they played against HFX. One of the Eddies priority during the off-season was to find a natural left-footed defender and Lee fit that mould.
It wasn’t only the Eddies who were impressed with Lee. The defender was also impressed with his new team.
“I didn’t know what the future had in store for me at that time,” Lee admitted. “When we played against them, I saw that they have a good squad and I like the style of soccer they played. The guys seem to get along well, you can tell because all their guys are in the locker room, playing their music and you can tell it’s a good environment. So I kind of had my eye on the club.”
The icing on the cake was his conversation with Paulus during the off-season that convinced Lee to sign.
“It was an easy decision for me,” Lee said. “The idea that Jeff had and what he was looking for, and his vision for the 2020 season, how he wants to compete and challenge for the league, i really bought into it and believed in his ideas.”
Lee identifies himself as a ball playing defender, who likes to join the attack. Modern day full-backs have to be able to compete not only in defence, but in the midfield area, while also providing service to the front men. They’re essentially becoming secondary wingers nowadays. Lee enjoys linking up play with the midfielders and he likes getting forward. Most wing-backs tend to stay wide and whip crosses in from outside the box, but Lee likes to get inside the box, too. He moulds his game around FC Barcelona full-back Jordi Alba, who is one of the best at working his way inside the box, before providing various types of crosses into the dangerous areas.
His main focus now for the 2020 season is to do what he does best, but to do it on a consistent basis throughout the season.
“Consistency is the most important part because I know what I can do, I really believe in my abilities and having my first full season as a pro, i want to be able to show everyone what I can do and bring to the table,” Lee said. “Not just occasionally, but week-in-and-week-out.”
Lee is the kind of player that has high expectations for himself and it bodes well for him that he has a manager that also shares those same expectations of him. Paulus’ belief in his latest signings abilities is something Lee appreciates.
“I am excited to have a manager that has really high expectations of me and that’s what I really want,” Lee added. “I am very excited to come to Edmonton and get started here. There are still things I need to work on as an individual and I think the goal is to always improve as a player and as a team.”