TUCSON, Ariz. – Following a weeklong trial with the New England Revolution late last season, Bilal Duckett asked the club’s coaching staff if he could stick around for a bit. The Harrisburg City Islanders had recently finished their USL PRO campaign and Duckett wanted to stay in shape, while the Revs needed some extra bodies to bolster training sessions as the season drew to a close.
The arrangement worked out for both sides. Duckett stayed in New England through the end of 2012, earned himself an invite to the Revolution’s 2013 preseason camp and eventually parlayed his extended trial into a roster spot, signing with the club on Monday.
“It was a little bit of a unique situation and I really appreciate that they were able to let me stick around and train,” Duckett said after Tuesday morning’s training session in Tucson. “The guys have been great at welcoming me and even though I didn’t have a contract for a little bit, I still felt a part of the team.”
That type of perseverance is in Duckett’s nature. He began his career in 2011 with Vancouver Whitecaps FC but made just four appearances and was waived following his rookie season. Undeterred, he signed with Harrisburg and immediately began his journey back to MLS, shining for the City Islanders as they advanced past both the Revolution and New York Red Bulls in last year’s U.S. Open Cup.
After spending the majority of his time in Vancouver languishing on the bench, Duckett was thrilled to be a key contributor in Harrisburg, and he believes the experience was exactly what he needed at that point in his career.
“Things didn’t work out in Vancouver and it wasn’t an ideal situation because of the timing,” said Duckett. “I was fortunate to be able to find a home with Harrisburg fairly quickly. They brought me in and I started for them right away. It was good to get that experience and get back to playing games, because I didn’t play as much as I wanted to in Vancouver.”
Duckett – who can play all across the backline – hopes to contribute in New England by adding defensive versatility and depth. He knows he’s in for a battle for playing time, but it’s a battle he’s ready to fight after working his way back up to the top level of North American soccer.
“It’s been a long journey,” Duckett said. “It’s been a good journey, but it’s taken a little while. It’s been a great experience so far … Signing helps as a player because you can relax a little bit more. Now that you’re really, really a part of something, you can start to move forward.”