Monday's announcement of Cristhian Hernandez signing a contract as the third Homegrown Player in Philadelphia Union history marks another special occasion for the Union Academy family. I'm extremely happy for Cristhian and proud to see yet another Union Academy product earn a Homegrown contract with our senior team.
Cristhian is an extremely talented player who we have challenged in the last two years through Union Academy competitions, Reserve League games, and even an exhibition with our senior team vs. Everton. Throughout each obstacle thrown his way, he has had unwavering confidence and a knack of making a lasting impression, as evidenced by his game-winning goal in that friendly vs. Everton at PPL Park last year. His talent has not gone unnoticed as he has claimed several awards and accolades while playing for our Youth Development Affiliate academy, PDA, including 2011 US Soccer U17/18 Development Academy Player of the Year.
In addition to his soccer playing resume, Cristhian now also serves as a pioneer of the Union Academy's successful "Path to PPL Park" youth program model that has now produced three professionals in the last two years (joining Zach Pfeffer and Jimmy McLaughlin). His signing is a true testament to the successful affiliate relationship between the Union Academy and PDA, and the work put in by PDA Director of Coaching Gerry McKeown and PDA head coach Sam Nellins along with Union staff coaches.
It has been a pleasure for me to be able to spend time with the Union and Cristhian in preseason this year as he embarks on his professional career. Throughout the last month he has already impressed many of us with his soccer IQ and technical ability. Congratulations again to Cristhian and I look forward to seeing his cultured left foot making an impact at PPL Park for years to come.