CHESTER, Pa. – It took 14 seasons before coming home.
For veteran defender Chris Albright, the ride began with D.C. United in 1999, and later continued with the LA Galaxy, New England Revolution and New York Red Bulls.
Then the Philadelphia Union came calling.
Through five matches, Albright has earned two starts, plugging holes along the backline and demonstrating valuable leadership.
“First off, I’m honored to be here playing in my hometown in front of these incredible fans at PPL Park,” said Albright, who owns three MLS Cup titles and 22 caps with the U.S. Men’s National Team. “Coming to Philadelphia was my first choice. I really wanted it. I’m from the area and wanted to keep playing here. I’ve been in the league for a long time and to be able to keep it going here with the Philadelphia Union is a great feeling."
Albright has been nicked up in recent years, but thus far, he’s been a welcome addition for a club looking to build on last year’s first-ever MLS Cup playoff berth.
Coming off the club's first win of the season, a 1-0 home win against the Columbus Crew, the next step is a road match Saturday against Chivas USA (10:30 p.m. ET, TCN).
While centerback Danny Califf isn't expected to play (hamstring), defender Ray Gaddis is the favorite to fill the defensive void. According to manager Peter Nowak, Gaddis is likely to slot in at right back for the second straight game, with Sheanon Williams shifting over to the center.
“Whatever the coaching staff asks of me, I’m there,” Albright said. “I feel really good, healthy and fit. When my name is called, I’m going to be ready.”
Seeing the atmosphere at PPL Park is enough to push him to work even harder.
“I’m a Philly kid at heart and no one wants to work harder than I do for these fans,” Albright said. “I’m a passionate player and always have been. These fans show the passion every game and it’s something to see in person. I want to do everything humanly possible to push for them and help the Union win as many games as possible.”
As the season progresses, having a mix of youth and veteran players will be vital.
And a veteran player like Albright, who has seen just about everything in 14 seasons, can pay huge dividends.
“Absolutely,” said Califf. “Chris is an incredibly skilled player who has logged a lot of minutes in this league like I have. He has a great perspective and if young players ask him, he has a lot to offer. Chris was a terrific addition to our club because of his skill and experience. We’re lucky to have him.”
Albright feels like he's the lucky one.
“We have a lot to accomplish,” he said. “It didn’t start exactly the way we wanted it to, but we can correct it. We’re going to fight like crazy to do that. I’m honored to be a member of this organization.”