Being an expansion club is never easy, regardless of the players you have in the squad. The Philadelphia Union may have made things even more difficult for themselves—especially on opening night—by building the team around a core of exciting young players.
To get an idea of just how unseasoned the Union were at First Kick 2010 in Seattle, take a look at the age and MLS experience of their 18-man squad. Four of them were 18 years old or younger, which when averaged with the rest of the squad came out at a spry 24-years old. In the match, seven made their MLS debuts.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, said team manager Peter Nowak, who was proud of the effort his younger guys' were able to put in on Thursday, despite some of the troubles they had.
“I’m just looking forward to my team, and the youngsters we played tonight—there was a lot of good effort,” said Nowak of his first official match in charge of the Union. “Overall, you can’t take away anything from these guys. If you look around we have to take everything into account, with the red card and still [being] able to play our game in the second half.”
Of the youngsters who got into the match, four of them were selected in this year’s MLS SuperDraft. No. 1 overall pick Danny Mwanga only lasted the first 45 minutes, having been withdrawn at halftime to account for fellow rookie Toni Stahl’s 40th minute red card.
The Congolese striker wasn’t as nervous as he thought he’d be and was disappointed to have to come off to compensate for going a man down.
“Yeah, at first I was expecting to be a little nervous, but I was trying to limit my mistakes,” Mwanga said. “I think I did ok, not the greatest but good. It was a tough loss—we got a red card in the first half. We have a lot of work to do in front of us. … We need to keep focusing and working hard and come together as a team.”
Taking the field late in the second half were Mwanga’s fellow first-round picks, Amobi Okugo and Jack McInerney. Taken 6th and 7th overall in the draft, respectively, the Americans got a taste of what is one of the league’s most demanding atmospheres.
“It is not tough,” McInerney said. “We came out here and played our hardest in probably the toughest environment in the league. It wasn’t a good result for us but we will learn from it.
Coming on in the 84th minute for another debutant, David Myrie, 17-year-old McInerney made sure he was ready to come into the game. Once in the mix, the former U.S. U-17 starlet added an exciting spark to the struggling side.
“I wasn’t sure, but I prepared if I was going to go in and I just got the call,” McInerney said. “I tried to make the most of my opportunity.”
With a match under their belts, guys like Mwanga and McInerney are one step closer to becoming settled as Major League Soccer players—something Nowak has plenty of patience for.