It may be hard to remember, but Australian defender Harrison Delbridge began his pro career in earnest with Sacramento Republic FC in 2014. Now, he’s signed in the K-League for Incheon United.
It’s been quite the journey for Delbridge. After signing with Sac Republic in their debut season out of not-quite-hotbed Appalachian State, the big man made 18 appearances, and helped Republic FC win the league title in their debut season.
Ultimately, the Aussie spent just the one season with Sacramento, and in 2015, moved on to Portland Timbers 2, likely with the possibility of latching on with the MLS team in mind. After a single season with T2, he moved on to the spot he’s most recognized with in American soccer, playing for the USL-era FC Cincinnati. There in 2016-17, Delbridge hit his peak in USL, named to the USL All-League team both years.
And with the player showing he was clearly ready for a higher level than USL, he moved back home and signed with Melbourne City in the A-League. Part of the same ownership group as Manchester City and New York City FC, Melbourne City finished last season in fantastic form, getting 2nd place in the league table and reaching the Grand Final, where they lost against Sydney FC.
Delbridge made 29 appearances for Melbourne City last season, and to begin 2021, he was on the move again, signing in the K-League for Incheon United. The club were fortunate not to be relegated to the second tier after the 2020 season after finishing in 11th out of 12 clubs in the top flight, but changes to the military club in the K-League system gave Incheon United a reprieve and Delbridge was signed as a reinforcement to improve the club’s fortunes for the upcoming season.
It appears the K-League season will kick off in the end of February, and while it may seem unusual to have Australian players in South Korea, there’s been a small, if steady, stream of Aussie players spending some time in the K-League since Australia moved to the AFC confederation for soccer.
It’s a pretty unusual and impressive career trajectory for Delbridge so far. He’s only 28, so he’s still got several years ahead of him, potentially, and it will be interesting to see how he does in a new environment. Is he the first Sac Republic alum to play in the K-League? Now that I’m not sure of, but at the very least, he’s definitely one of the first SRFC alums to play in the K-League. We’ll see how the upcoming season goes for Delbridge in Korea.
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