Youth is Served for Expansion Union

To say that Philadelphia Union is a young club would be a major understatement.

Consider that the youngest team in the league had three players selected in the first round of the Major League Soccer SuperDraft – Danny Mwanga at No. 1, Amobi Okugo at No. 6 and Jack McInerney at No. 7.

Four of their players haven’t even turned 20 yet – McInerney (17), Mwanga (18), Roger Torres (18) and Okugo (19).

The list of youngsters goes on and on. Michael Orozco (24), Nick Zimmerman (23), Kyle Nakazawa (22), Toni Stahl (24), Shea Salinas (23), Andrew Jacobson (24), Chris Seitz (23), Brian Perk (20), and even Sebastien Le Toux (26), Jordan Harvey (25) and Brad Knighton (25) are all set to enter their primes in the coming years.

Midfielder Stefani Miglioranzi is the elder statesman at just 32.

For many of the other players, it’s the first time they have seen such extensive playing time.

The point is this: this young club is only going to get better and better. The experience they are gaining now is extremely valuable, both for the remainder of the season and future campaigns.

“The playing time is great for the young players, for sure,” Miglioranzi said. “In practice and in the training, the young players can learn every day. All of us can. We’re working hard every day to become the best team we can become.”

When Mwanga scored in stoppage time to secure a huge 1-1 tie against FC Dallas last Saturday, there was evidence of a young player taking a step forward.

But it’s the next day in practice when the true teaching begins.

“We try to open their eyes to many things,” manager Peter Nowak said. “We don’t want to overwhelm them with information. But there is still progress to be made for Danny, Jack, Amobi and Roger Torres as well and even Michael Orozco. All this experience is still to be learned every single day.”

Coming to work on such a good note sure is easier, though, for a young player.

“We have all been working so hard, and to get a goal is very pleasing,” Mwanga said. “It put a smile on my face, but I’m happiest because it meant we got a tie, which we needed. Losing is never easy. This tie almost felt like a win. We plan on looking at the film and seeing what we did well and what we need to work on. I’m excited about the future and direction of this team.”

This team has shown a lot of promise just seven matches into this expansion team’s inaugural season. As the calendar keeps flipping, and the club moves into PPL Park in just over a month, the young players should continue to get better and more confident.

“Every time you get game experience, it helps,” said goalkeeper Chris Seitz. “There’s nothing like game experience. We see every day the improvement of our club. I think all of us are excited about the future.”