Donald Munro

Nowak: Albright brings defensive depth, Cup pedigree to Philadelphia

The Union recently brought Chris Albright to training at YSC Sports to see what he had left in the tank.

And they liked what they saw.

The veteran defender and three-time MLS All-Star, who signed on Tuesday, has played for four MLS clubs in a 13-year professional career. In that span, the Penn Charter High School graduate won three MLS Cup titles – with D.C. United in 1999 and with the LA Galaxy in ’02 and ’05.

Manager Peter Nowak had hinted recently that a veteran player might be brought in to help on the back line.

Enter Albright.

“We know he’s a native to Philadelphia and he’s been working with the guys at YSC,” Nowak said on a conference call Tuesday. “After a couple of meetings, the training sessions, the week goes by and we decided to offer him a contract, which he accepted. Of course, it’s going to help out Chris to be with us and he’s going to affect everyone around the team with his experience.

“It’s been a very good week for us with him. Chris will bring championship-caliber experience and we hope he will stay healthy and then help us throughout the season.”

The 33-year-old Albright has battled through injuries in recent years, but this was a low-risk, high-reward type of decision for the Union.

If captain Danny Califf, Carlos Valdés, Porfirio López or Sheanon Williams miss some time, Albright is there as an insurance policy. Albright is versatile enough to play multiple position along the back line.

“Chris knows his role,” Nowak said. “He needs to stay healthy to make sure everything is well. Then we’ll benefit from his experience, and if the time is right, of course he’s going to push for the starting spot. I think it’s a good thing for all of us.

“He plays the right back position. He plays the center back position because he can play those positions as well, either left or right. I think he has enough experience as well where he can play all those positions on the back line. It’s a good thing we can add this type of player. Chris has been in this league for many years and is a highly-regarded defender, so it’s good to have him, especially being a local boy.”

Albright is training with his new teammates in Florida. Like Albright has for the past 13 years, his work ethic will stand out.

It’s the only way he knows.

“The mentality through the training and also pushing the guys as well, the youngsters in training, is very vital,” Nowak said. “Chris is a great example. He trains very hard and tries to give it everything he has in training and also direct those guys in front of him as well. He’s been very good. The meetings were very good. We’re happy to have him because he’s a guy who is around the corner and we are looking at what will happen this season, but also trying to help him after his career is done.”

Before Albright retires, there is work to be done. If he can stay injury-free, he could become a vital cog for a Philadelphia side in search of a deeper playoff run in 2012.

“We try to keep the players throughout the season fresh,” Nowak said. “Even though some of the decisions of the lineup are questionable – not for us as a coaching staff, but for people who are looking from the outside in – we try to keep them fresh. We try to keep them healthy. We have enough resources and the medical staff can predict when the players are tired and need some time off, so we can shuffle the lineup a little bit so players will not get major injuries throughout the season.

“I think with Chris it’s the same. We need to see where we are after the two weeks, give him a couple days off. He’s not getting any younger, so he needs to take care of his body as well, but we will try to help him with every aspect, to keep him healthy, to keep him motivated and also being productive in the games and training.”