15-year-old Union academy member Zach Pfeffer returned from a two-week training stint with Bundesliga side 1899 Hoffenheim earlier this week, and he appears to have impressed in a short period of time.
“By all reports he had a fantastic time over there,” coach John Hackworth told philadelphiaunion.com. “He did extremely well, to the point where they liked him so much they’d like to keep him. Fortunately for us, he’s with us and we’re happy that he is.”
Pfeffer has experienced a roller-coaster year, one that has included training with the Union first team, appearing in a friendly against Chivas Guadalajara, and most recently training with a first-division club in Germany. Still a mid-teenager, Pfeffer’s maturity and technical ability have enabled him to keep pace with far older and more physical players.
“The interesting thing is they put him with the U-15, U-16’s, and then ultimately put him up one age group to the U-17’s,” Hackworth explained. “He clearly showed that he was the best player at that level. Zach’s still 15, so for them to put him (with the U-17’s) says something, but he’s been training with the first team here, so I don’t think that is a challenge for Zach.
“When you’re used to playing against Stefani [Miglioranzi] and Danny [Califf], it’s different when you go back and play (with younger players). But the fact that they thought fundamentally he did so many things well and that his potential is so great says a lot about Zach and what he can ultimately achieve in this game.”
More than anything, the technical staff’s decision to send Pfeffer to Germany was about providing an opportunity for the midfielder to continue his rapid development towards a professional career. Mission accomplished, it would seem.
“Zach was over the moon,” said Hackworth. “He was really happy. He said it was a fantastic trip. He actually stayed with a couple of former players of mine who are over there full-time in their academy, so he had some American contact and guys who could show him the ropes a little bit. The only downside he said was that it was bitterly cold at the end.”
Judging by Hoffenheim’s impression of the Union’s prized youngster, Pfeffer dealt with the cold just as he has every other test thrown his way: with composure and performance beyond his years.