USL players normally have yearly contracts that typically require renegotiation. And when Loudoun United was making their roster decisions at the end of last year, retaining D.C. United Academy alumnus Peabo Doue was a no-brainer. Having the chance to play pro soccer consistently close to family and friends (in Montgomery County, Maryland), Doue has had eyes on a return home for several years, saying in a recent interview that he had been monitoring Virginia Cavalry FC, the ill-fated NASL franchise who had initially attempted to join that league in 2014, only to delay and eventually disband the effort.
So when approached by the D.C. organization after the 2018 season (when Doue played for North Carolina FC), getting to come closer to home was nice, but Doue learned that the chance came with more than it would seem on the surface.
“When (D.C. General Manager) Dave Kasper and I initially spoke about coming home, one of the biggest things he mentioned was he wanted me to help build this team and these younger guys, whether their aspirations were to be a USL player or to play for the first team, build that professionalism for them and be the example. So it’s definitely something I thought about and considered (in) coming back.”
Coach Ryan Martin had this leadership factor in mind when it came to plans for Doue, saying recently (among a variety of topics with B&RU) that “...we wanted to keep Peabo as a captain, in that role, and was our goal all along, and that’s why I think he was the first guy we re-signed.”
With Loudoun being his sixth club (and the first he’s been captain on), Doue acknowledges the uniqueness of the situation. “I’ve been on quite a few teams in the last few years and part of this decision to come back, and why it made sense for me, is because I wanted some type of stability. Stability is kind of hard to come by in this league, so I think it was a perfect opportunity to come home and try to help build something. I do also think that based on the conversations that Ryan and I have had. We talked a lot, especially when he went overseas (in the offseason) to recruit different players, he was asking how were the guys that I was in contact with, how they were feeling and overall thoughts on the season. We both share the same thoughts and same aspirations; we both want to win a championship, that’s the main goal, but also it’s a win if we can help develop these guys and guide them into the first team however we can; if we can get Jacob Greene into consideration to be a homegrown, for me that’s a win as well.”
With the role of being a more visible player, Doue has had to confront some challenges of his own. “I’m a reserved personality, that’s kind of the guy I am, (but) when I get on the field it changes a little bit. I become a little bit more ‘rah rah,’ I’m sure the guys will tell you. But the biggest thing for me is being a leader any way that I can and if that means just sitting in chatting with, Jeremy (Garay), who doesn’t necessarily talk, if I can get him to tell me a story, that’s amazing for me. In terms of having the armband, I guess it’s a physical aspect of leadership, but last year was kind of the same mentality, going into this year I kind of feel more responsible for leading them in the right direction.”
Greene and Garay are two of more than a dozen players Doue has seen from D.C.’s academy pipeline, current or former. Doue mentions academy player Adam Lundegard as being one of the leaders in the 2020 Loudoun lineup, and he reflected on the changes between life as an academy player in 2008 against the players who are (or have been) in the system, and players making an impact now.
“Big Ku (Ted Ku-DiPietro) has stepped up, coming from the academy, and we still have a bunch of academy guys who are willing to take on a challenge. That was the biggest thing in preseason everybody was open minded, everybody was ready for greatness and to succeed,” explained Doue. “That was one of the things that Ryan and I spoke about in the offseason is to challenge the younger guys, because we knew what we were walking into was a younger group. So being able to challenge them and push them to the limit that they can to be professionals and and go from there.”
“It’s very normal (now) for an academy player to experience actual first team training sessions and possibly even games. Back then, they had the Reserve League, and it was kind of hit or miss, and there wasn’t really any structure. But now, academy kids have the access to play on a team like Loudoun and get meaningful games consistently, which is massive for their growth in my opinion,” said Doue. “[Getting] called up with the first team and go to Florida, I was never in that in that situation back in my day! But it’s great to have those academy players experience that early, so they understand the the mentality and the motivation. If you can develop that from a young age, I think you’re most likely to succeed as a professional, because you understand what it entails, what training entails, what games entail, what does it mean to be training at an intense level consistently, rather than just two or three times a week or once every every two weeks, which I had.”
Leadership requires being demanding, but Doue says it’s only because he wants what’s best for his younger teammates. “I’m sure they’ll tell you I’m pretty hard on them sometimes, but I love them to death, and it’s for the best of them. I feel like this is a great opportunity for them to just learn and really develop and grow as players. So, it’s great, and I wish I could be their age right now [and experience the current development environment]. It’s a fantastic and lucky opportunity, so I try to try to express that in any way that I can and I think for the most part they’re getting it.”
The 28-year-old left back was the fifth player signed by Loudoun in the 2019 preseason and his return in 2020 already makes him the longest-tenured player on the roster. Whether mentioned overtly or not, Doue is aware of his role with the club, and is keeping all options open for what the next move may be, whenever that may be.
“I definitely would love to remain with this club, whatever the future holds for the rest of the year and for years to come. I’ve been around (the organization) for years, coming up in the academy, this has always been my favorite club. To remain in the club has always been a goal for me. I’ve actually during this time, reached out to guys over in the sports business side of things, in the front office, just have conversations with them and gain perspective. Obviously coaching is always an option, but I’m always thinking about the bigger picture in terms of where I could possibly fit in at some point. So having those conversations with guys here, but just other organizations (like) LAFC and the New York Islanders, it’s been really beneficial for me to gain that perspective...being 29 at the end of the year, it’s definitely important for me to start thinking ahead but you know, having completely made the decision in terms of how many years to play but you know I’m at the point where I’m definitely reaching out.”
With Loudoun County expecting to begin Phase 1 of reopening at the end of the month, Doue has been following Martin’s message of conditioning the mind and preparing for what, and when, the 2020 season will resume. “I always tell the guys, ‘stay ready so we don’t have to get ready.’ And I think they’ve heard that enough from me. But our situation is unique because we’re players, we’re not playing, we’re not doing the thing that we love. But if you look at the next person over, they might not necessarily be able to provide for their family because they were laid off or furloughed. So I always encourage them to be open minded and take this experience and try to make the best of it and just be positive. It will be a moment of overcoming adversity, so that’s how I like to look at things in life and just be positive about things.”