Familiarity accelerating Lahoud's transition in Philadelphia

CHESTER, Pa. – Michael Lahoud had only been in Philadelphia for a couple of days when he started getting asked the same question: “You’re the guy we gave up our captain for?”

No pressure, right?

“Yeah, that’s always going to put a little pressure on you,” said Lahoud, who came over to the Union in last week’s deal that sent Philadelphia’s popular ex-captain Danny Califf to Chivas USA. “But I’m excited for it. I relish that pressure to be honest, because it means you’re in a place where you’re wanted.”

The Union coaches have certainly showed that he’s wanted, plugging the 25-year-old midfielder straight into the starting lineup for Saturday’s game against FC Dallas. Just two days after the trade was completed and Lahoud made the cross-country flight from Los Angeles to Philadelphia, he got right back on a plane for Dallas.

Lahoud, who played 55 minutes in his Union debut, said his first few days with Philadelphia have been a “whirlwind.” But slowly but surely, he’s starting to get settled in and accustomed to his new team’s system.

“We stopped training a couple of times just to let him understand where we’re coming from so he can understand why players are doing this stuff,” Union manager Peter Nowak said. “He’s a pretty smart kid so he can understand it pretty fast.”

Helping with Lahoud’s transition is his familiarity with a couple of players on the team – namely defender Sheanon Williams, who was a teammate of his with the Carolina Dynamo of the USL-PDL in 2008. A Wake Forest alum, Lahoud also played against Williams during his college days when he was at Atlantic Coast Conference-rival North Carolina. In fact, with the addition of Lahoud, seven Union players (and a couple of coaches) hail from ACC schools – which, of course, has led to some playful ribbing.

“We should call it ACC FC or something,” Lahoud said. “There have been a couple of college stories and I’ve heard a bunch of guys giving each other a little bit of stick for their colleges. But at the end of the day we’re all about the Philadelphia Union.”

Lahoud – who’s coming off an injury that has limited his playing time this season – plans on showing how dedicated he is to the Union by doing the same thing he’s done ever since getting drafted with the ninth overall pick in the 2009 MLS SuperDraft: work hard and be a versatile two-way midfielder.

“I’m very grateful that every coach I’ve had has demanded that in me – to put a lot of effort in whether in training or, most importantly, in games,” Lahoud said. “Those are the things I can definitely take from my experience out in Los Angeles with Chivas.”

If he does that, perhaps then people might stop asking about Califf.

Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at djzeitlin@gmail.com.