Deklan Wynne has been a quiet mainstay in the Colorado Rapids’s revamped 3-man back line this year after making the move from Vancouver in the off-season. At just 23 years old, the youngster who began playing the game only ten years prior in New Zealand, has surprised even himself a bit by stepping into an important role in what is becoming a stout Rapids defense. “I didn’t think I’d be playing as much as I did to be honest at the start of the season, but I feel like I’ve done pretty well,” Deklan told Burgundy Wave.
Getting his start in New Zealand
Wynne got a late start in soccer in terms of youth development, but growing up in South Africa, was always involved in athletics through traditional non-American sports that are huge there and New Zealand where he ended up with his family. “Ever since I was little I played every sport. I used to play rugby, cricket—stuff in New Zealand and South Africa we play a lot,” he said.
“I grew up in South Africa until I was 12, but only started really getting into football when I was 13. At school in South Africa there’s no soccer, so in New Zealand, I started playing soccer in school and a club as well,” Wynne explains. “Eventually, it was either cricket or soccer and I thought I had a better chance of becoming a professional soccer player so I just followed that and it’s all worked out for me so all is good.”
Working with Darren Bazeley and Anthony Hudson
He admits that was always his initial plan as a young and upcoming player—to see where he could go in sport—and that focus has served him well in his path to MLS at a young age. “I played for the New Zealand U-20s and I think when that whole process started I thought if I do well I’ve got a good chance of making it somewhere.”
“I played under [Rapids Assistant Coach] Darren [Bazeley] for a team called Wanderers. It was a team in New Zealand of all under-20 players preparing for the U-20 World Cup. We played the National League in New Zealand. I played left-back, real attacking, and [Rapids Head Coach] Anthony [Hudson], who was the National Team Coach at that time, he liked what I was doing.”
“Him giving me a chance on the national team really helped me get to where I am today,” Wynne reflected. “People started to notice me and I’m just grateful. After that World Cup, I went to Vancouver for a trial and when they wanted to sign me. I thought ‘I’m a professional now.’”
Going pro at 20 years old
One thing that is often overlooked is just how young Deklan was when he began that professional career in Vancouver. He started for Vancouver FC2 at just 20 years old, after getting his first international cap for Hudson and New Zealand. At 23, he is currently the youngest starter on a Rapids squad which has gone decidedly in a “youth-movement” direction for 2018.
Wynne admits to having his eyes opened a bit when arriving in Vancouver and now Colorado, even though he has played on some pretty big stages internationally against national teams from countries like Mexico and China. “At the start, I thought I was a decent player, but then I went (to Vancouver) and you’re playing against guys who have been playing at a decent level for a while. I realized I had to get better: my speed of play had to improve, thinking quicker, becoming stronger, but then on the ball, being more positive. It was just a lot quicker at the start.”
Playing for the Rapids
“Coming here I felt pretty comfortable because I knew the Coach before, but I also knew Kip [Colvey] so it was nice from the start because we were in the hotel together. I settled in far quicker than Vancouver though because that was my first time away from home.”
Part of settling in has been establishing himself as someone his new teammates can trust, but also becoming familiar with them as players and guys he shares much of his day with. Deklan admits he was a little in awe playing on the same pitch as Tim Howard at the beginning. However, having him barking orders, just like any other defender, and playing alongside the likes of Tommy Smith and Danny Wilson, both of whom have plenty of top-tier experience, has brought Wynne into the fold quickly and pushed him to make his game better.
“First time I met Tim it was, whoa, just watching the Premier League for years that was pretty cool, but I’ve played with Tommy on the national team so I knew what he was about playing next to him a few times. Obviously Danny is a quality player as well coming from Liverpool and Rangers, but always having Tim shouting at me from behind makes me want to raise my standards and be a better player,” admits Wynne.
Moving to Colorado was a bit unexpected for Deklan, although he points out there has been a big uptick in his learning curve as he’s had to become a more well-rounded player in a new city and a new position. “In Vancouver I was on the USL team, but at the end of the season I had just signed an MLS deal. So, I was in New Zealand thinking I’m going back to Vancouver for pre-season. I got a call in mid-December saying I’d been traded but I thought I know the coaches so that will pretty good for me.”
“I’d never played on the right side before, and in the preseason I’d played a few times at left-side centerback which I felt quite comfortable being on my left foot, and then they told me I’d be on the right. I said, ok we’ll see how this goes, because I’m not always using my right foot as much. After trainings I’ve been doing a lot of right-footed stuff and in the games I feel quite comfortable playing out to the wingback and playing forward so I feel pretty good.”
As far as life off the pitch, Wynne admitted his family has been constantly behind him, although not afraid to keep him in his place as most parents and siblings do. In fact, his brother may be an up-and-comer himself according to Deklan.
“I have a younger brother who’s doing pretty well. He’s turning 17, but he’s just played his first first-team game for his club, and he’s also a fullback like me so hopefully he’s following in my footsteps. I’ve got an older sister working in New Zealand. They’re always telling me, because they see articles and whatnot,’ yeah, you’re still my son. You’re still a normal guy so you better watch it.’”
“They watch all my games and I facetime them regularly which is nice,” says Deklan about trying to stay connected to his parents back in New Zealand. “They’re coming here in July so hopefully I’ll be fit and able to play so hopefully they’ll watch me play some games.”
Wynne admits there is one thing that is taking him a bit of getting used to in landlocked Colorado. “This is my first time living where there’s no ocean. Back home in South Africa and New Zealand I spend a lot of time at the beach with my friends. We go fishing.”
“Here I live with Niki Jackson, but I haven’t really been many places yet.” Deklan says he and his rookie roommate play it pretty cool so far as both of them adjust to a new city in Denver. “We just play PlayStation, just relaxing after training, but it’s all coming together I think and in a couple of months when the weather is nice-the mountains look beautiful. I like a lot of outdoor stuff so I’m sure I’ll see a lot here.”