Ever since the franchise’s inception, Philadelphia Union manager Peter Nowak has stressed the importance of building from the ground up with a core of young, talented players.
Here’s one piece of evidence that he means it: At the moment, five Union players are participating in the US Under-23 national team training camp in Florida, the most of any MLS team.
“We believe youth will serve us and serve us for many, many years,” Nowak said recently. “This is a great testament to what we are trying to do.”
Of the five Philly players in U-23 coach Caleb Porter’s camp – goalkeeper Zac MacMath, defender Sheanon Williams, midfielders Freddy Adu and Amobi Okugo, and striker Jack McInerney – three of them (MacMath, Okugo and McInerney) came directly from the Generation adidas tour in the Netherlands, where they were joined by teammate Danny Mwanga.
Williams, Okugo and McInerney were also involved in the first U-23 camp, which was held last month in Germany. And Adu, of course, has tons of international experience, including two appearances in the 2008 Olympics.
“It goes to show how young of a team the Union have and the potential of the young guys coming through the ranks of US soccer,” MacMath told MLSsoccer.com.
Added McInerney, “The Union still have a pretty young team and people are getting their chances with the national team. Hopefully a lot of players will get to the Olympics or play with the full team eventually.”
Interestingly enough, the Union have yet to have a player called up to the US senior national team (although Adu played during this past summer's Gold Cup roster, and was on the roster for the USMNT game vs. Mexico in Philly in August just days before signing with the Union).
The Union’s U-23 players hope to change that one day, but for now, their primary goal is impressing Porter in the hopes of being included on the Olympic roster for the 2012 Summer Games.
Playing with so many teammates, they believe, will only help in that mission.
“There’s definitely a sense of familiarity there,” MacMath said. “Obviously, we played with each other – besides Freddy – all year long, so we’re all very used to each other’s tendencies and the way we go about things.”
Added McInerney, “We get to play together every day, so we just carry things over from the Union trainings to here. We combine well and play well together. You get to meet new people, but it’s good to have people here that you’re comfortable with.”
Could all five of these Union players participate in the same Olympics? That would certainly be a remarkable feat, but considering all of them play different positions, it wouldn't appear to be something that’s unattainable.
“It would be pretty incredible if it happened,” McInerney said.
Dave Zeitlin covers the Philadelphia Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at email@example.com.