Just a few weeks into his first MLS preseason, Zach Pfeffer is the only member of the Union not named Sebastien Le Toux or Danny Mwanga to find the back of the net.
The 16-year-old scored the club’s lone goal Sunday in a 1-0 victory over the University of Central Florida, hitting the top right corner from 35 yards out for his first professional goal in any competition.
"I had about 10-15 years of space so I just kept dribbling,” Pfeffer told philadelphiaunion.com after the match. “When I looked up there was no one really stepping to me so I just let one rip and happened to make the best contact you could make on the ball. It was upper-ninety – one of the best, if not the best goal I've ever scored.
While expectations are tempered for Pfeffer in 2011, Union fans are hoping Sunday’s strike is the first of many in a burgeoning career.
The club’s first and only Home Grown Player – Pfeffer signed with Philadelphia on December 22 – is fighting for minutes just like a number of others in camp, but he’s smart enough to enjoy the ride.
And he isn’t the only one reveling in his success at such a young age.
“At first I didn’t believe it,” Pfeffer explained when asked about his reaction to the goal. “I was really excited. I mean, it was just a preseason game so it wasn’t like we went and celebrated, but I was excited. When I got back [to the hotel] I got a million phone calls and text messages, Facebook messages. Everyone has heard about it already.”
Pfeffer’s wonder-strike aside, the young central midfielder is pleased with his preseason progress.
“I think it’s been going well,” he said. “I know how the coaching staff expects us to work. I’ve had a day or two when I haven’t been at my best, but overall I’ve been pretty pleased.
"There’s a lot of stuff I still want to improve on. I’m still going to strive to do even better, but I’ve been pretty happy with [my performance] so far, and obviously I’ll just continue to get better and better.”
Pfeffer is continuing to make an impression on his teammates, no small accomplishment for a player more than two years younger than anyone else on the squad.
“He’s been doing well,” said midfielder Amobi Okugo, another promising teenage midfielder. “He’s gradually getting more comfortable with the guys since he’s been here longer than this year’s rookies.
“He came in at the half and made an impact with the goal. He just did his thing when he came in and he’s looking to build on that. Hopefully good things come of it. Everyone is excited for him and I know he’s excited about the opportunity he’s been given.”