CHESTER, Pa. – When things weren’t working out in his soccer career the way he had hoped, Joe Tait did something about it: He packed his bags, left his native England behind and started fresh in the United States.
Now, after short stints with Lindsey Wilson College, the Baton Rouge Capitals of the USL Premier Development League and the Dayton Dutch Lions of the USL Professional Division, Tait has made it to this country’s top-tier league.
After three weeks on trial, the 21-year-old defender officially signed with the Philadelphia Union on Tuesday.
“I sort of had a bad experience in England,” Tait told MLSsoccer.com a day after being signed. “It didn’t really work out for me. I got an opportunity to come to college here so I thought I’d give it a go. I decided to give it another chance.”
After playing professionally for English League One club Hartlepool United FC for much of his teenage years, Tait came to the United States in 2009, redshirting his freshman season at Lindsey Wilson, a small NAIA school in Kentucky. The next year, he became a regular for the Blue Raiders and shined even more with the Baton Rouge Capitals, being named the 2010 PDL Defender of the Year.
He recently left college to play professionally for the Dayton Dutch Lions, and was soon scooped up by the Union, who liked the 6-foot-1 defender’s physical attributes and potential.
“He’s a big boy who’s good in the air and is vocal,” Union center back Danny Califf said. “He’s not afraid to organize in the back, which is really important. And he’s got good feet.”
Tait has been a central back for most of his life but said he’s capable of playing anywhere across the backline. With very few natural defenders on their roster, the Union could certainly use some defensive depth, and Tait said he’d be ready to jump right in if called upon.
“I’m not just here to play reserve games,” he said. “I’ve got two quality center halves in front of me [Califf and Carlos Valdés] but they’re obviously good to learn from. But if the manager needs me, yeah, I’m ready to go.”
The Englishman also noted being signed to an MLS contract is “only a little step” and he “can't get too carried away” until he begins to make a name for himself in this league.
But just being here, after a long journey across the Atlantic Ocean, means a lot to him, especially as MLS continues to grow in stature in his native country.
“It’s a very respectable league [in England],” Tait said. “It’s on the telly quite a lot now. There’s a lot of publicity about MLS back home.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.