Ty Harden Bids Husky Soccer Field Farewell
Nov. 8, 2006
By Joshua Mayers
Before Ty Harden committed to theUniversity of Washington, he needed acommitment from the men's soccer programthat they were wholeheartedly pledged towinning championships.
Now, four years later, the senior is takingit upon himself to lead his team toward thatgoal. With the seconds ticking down on hiscollege career, losing 1-0 at Oregon State,the senior defender almost single-handedlykept the Huskies' season alive, scoring theequalizing goal in the final moments of thecontest.
'His goal Friday night saidit all; he made the differencein the game that basically putus in the playoff s,' said coachDean Wurzberger. 'He's doneeverything you can ask andmore.'
From an infant, kickingaround a soccer ball clad onlyin a diaper and baby sandals, toa child fascinated by the world classathletes on display in the1994 World Cup, to now a first teamAll-Pac-10 honoree andone of the best players in thecountry, it is clear that soccer is amainstay in Harden's very core.His first word, believe it ornot, was ball.
'What can I say? He hasplayed soccer all of his life,' saidhis mother, Franny Harden. 'He'sworked hard, and he's not goingto settle for anything other thanbeing with soccer.'
In high school, Harden wouldtravel 100 miles roundtrip fromJunction City, Ore., to Portlandmultiple times a week just to playon a competitive club team. Healso led his high school team toback-to-back state championships, collectingtwo first team All-State selections along theway. Last winter, during halftime of abasketball game, Junction City High Schoolannounced the retirement of Harden's No. 5jersey. An honor he initially shrugged off as'not a big deal,' Harden eventually realizedthe significance of his achievements with allhis friends and family in attendance.
'That was really special -- it showed howmany people actually cared about me andmy success,' Harden said. 'That was the firsttime I noticed that people ... looked up to me,not only as a soccer player but off the fieldas well.'
When Harden first stepped on the fieldas a Husky soccer player, the wide-eyedkid from a small town lost in the middleof Oregon had no idea what to expect. Hecertainly could not imagine starting all 20games and performing well enough to earnPac-10's Player of the Week.
His early success is what he looks uponmost proudly in retrospect.
'I have to look back to my freshmanyear; I'm really proud of how I handled bothacademics and athletics, and earned mystarting position,' he said. 'Coming froma small school of 500 [students] to one of40,000, it was a huge accomplishment forme.'
In the spring after his sophomore season,just his second year with the program, thedefensive standout was elected team captainby his teammate -- a title he has kept todate.
'I get the chills just thinking about thefirst time I put that [captain's] armbandon,' Harden said. 'People voting me as theircaptain was a huge deal to me, representingthis school and the team is what peopledream about.'
Despite suffering a stress fracture earlierthis season, an injury that keeps him frompracticing during the week, Harden remainscommitted to leading by example and being arole model to the young players on the team.He has been named to the All-Academicteam two years in a row.
'Since day one, he's always helped meout,' said freshman Taylor Hoss. 'On and offthe field, he's always there, always trying tohelp you, in the classroom or in the game.He's been a great friend and teammate.'
On the field, Harden has been magical.His three goals this season have not onlydoubled his career total, but have either givenhis team a game-winning or game-savingequalizing goal in the closing moments ofthe game.
'Ty is clutch, you can quote me on that,'said forward Kevin Forrest, the Pac-10'sleading scorer. 'He really is a great player.'
Calling Harden the model of how to trainand maintain the right attitude day-to-day,Wurzberger claims that Harden's positivetraits are contagious, and make all thosearound him better.
As a senior, the captain embraces his roleas someone to look up to.
'I want people to see in me what theywant to see in themselves,' he said.Asked by his coaches recently what legacyhe wants to leave at the UW, Harden repliedthat he wanted to leave the program the wayhe found it.
In his freshman season the Huskies madeit to the round of 16, the furthest run inschool history. Needing three wins, startingthis Friday night against Creighton at HuskyField, Harden is within steps of fulfillingthat goal.
'If he could accomplish that, then he'dhave done it all,' Wurzbergersaid. 'It would be a great tributeto a great player.'
On pace to graduate inthe spring with a degree inbusiness marketing, Hardenhas had the chance of late tolook back on his career. It wasthe academic standing of theUniversity and the stability ofthe soccer program that drewhim to Washington four yearsago. Given the opportunity todo it all again, Harden insists hewould not change a thing.
'I don't have any regrets,'he said. 'I'm so glad I decidedto come to the Universityof Washington. I've lovedeverything in every aspect ofbeing here.'
Looking ahead, in just twoshort months, the Major LeagueSoccer combine beckons. Notquite 100 percent healthy,though steadily improving,Harden admits that he mightrequire surgery on his foot in thecoming weeks to be ready to go.But whatever it takes, he says,he's going to do it.
Having participated inprofessional training camps with Forrestthis summer, Harden is anxious andexcited at the prospect of playing with thecountry's best, calling it a 'once in a lifetimeopportunity.'
'He has his mind set to play at the nextlevel, and he'll do that someday,' his mothersaid. 'It might be right after school or itmight take a little longer, but he'll make it.'Soccer is in his blood.'