Nowak: McLaughlin "very much ahead" of the curve

Union manager feels club's second Home Grown signing has earned his place

While it was a small sample, Jimmy McLaughlin showed his developing skill and lightning-quick speed in a pair of international friendlies against Everton and Real Madrid last summer.

Beyond those limited minutes, the Philadelphia Union technical staff had seen more than enough from McLaughlin in training, meetings, Reserve League matches, and with his most recent club team, FC Delco.

They were sold.

Three days ago, the Union announced the Home Grown signing of McLaughlin, a former star at nearby Great Valley High School. McLaughlin, who just completed his freshman year at Colgate University, is the second product of Philadelphia's academy system to sign with the first team.

McLaughlin started all 22 games for Colgate this season and scored one goal along with three assists. The Raiders won the Patriot League title but lost to Rutgers in the program’s first career appearance in the NCAA Tournament.

The 18-year-old McLaughlin joins 16-year-old Zach Pfeffer as Home Grown players.

“We left the door open,” Union team manager Peter Nowak said on a conference call Thursday.

McLaughlin walked through.

And the Union couldn’t be happier about the roster move.

“We’re all excited about the game that Jimmy can play,” Nowak said. “He’s good and understands the game both ways. … He’s a very good dribbler and he’s not afraid to take players on. I think from a tactical part, he’s very much ahead.”

Coming on as a late substitution against Everton and Real Madrid, McLaughlin didn’t hesitate. He was quick to mix in immediately against some of the better players in the world.

“He’s not afraid to play against the big boys,” Nowak said.

McLaughlin was called up to play in a few Reserve League games, an obvious testament to his skill and what the franchise thinks of him.

He’s the third player to sign this offseason following former Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder Nizar Khalfan and Costa Rican international Josue Martinez.

Nowak said that McLaughlin played well in the international friendlies. But that was just a small portion of what drew McLaughlin to the club.

“It’s a combination of things,” Nowak said. “The 10-to-15 minutes they play (in friendlies) don’t really count and it’s unfair to judge players by that because they’re nervous and playing in front of big crowds. The training he did this summer, the Reserve Games he played in, it’s a combination of things.”

Whatever McLauglin did, it worked. Now, he’s a coveted member of the Union.