It’s time for Zach Pfeffer to take his game to the next level.
He knows it; his family knows it and the Philadelphia Union know it too. Pfeffer, 17, has always been viewed as a valuable investment for the future since he was named as the club’s first ever homegrown player.
It’s why all involved agreed on a decision that will send Pfeffer halfway across the world – albeit to familiar territory – as the Union agreed on a loan deal with German first division side TSG Hoffenheim 1899 that will see Pfeffer miss the 2013 MLS season, but hopefully earn invaluable playing time with one of the world’s top European clubs.
Pfeffer’s loan starts Jan. 7 and runs through Dec. 31. He will join Hoffenheim following the Bundesliga winter break, reside and train in Germany during its offseason and play through the end of the year when the 2013-14 Bundesliga season opens Aug. 9. Pfeffer has already left with family to begin looking for housing as he embarks on the next big chapter of his still very young soccer career.
“We looked at it and it was really probably the best spot for me in terms of my overall development as a player at this point in my career where I am, you know with my age and everything included in that,” Pfeffer told philadelphiaunion.com “The main thing is I need a place to play games most importantly good competitive games… in [MLS] reserve league we have 10 and that’s really not enough, not even close to enough.”
The playing time has been scarce for Pfeffer, who despite showing an immense amount of talent and promise; found it hard to crack the starting 11. In his two seasons with the Union, Pfeffer has played in just four regular season league matches and a handful of international friendlies. In addition, Pfeffer has been called to a few U.S. under-18 national team camps and guided the Union academy to Generation adidas Cup title, but Pfeffer and the coaching staff want more.
“Loaning Zach to Hoffenheim is a win-win situation for all parties involved,” said Union manager John Hackworth. “While we will miss Zach for the 2013 season, we know that the experience at this stage of his maturation process will be invaluable to both him and the club for the future."
Pfeffer’s sentiments mirror that of his coach.
“This really is the next best thing for me,” Pfeffer said. “I look at it in a very positive way, just talking with coaching staff and just in the position I am in, I am a very young guy and I think the club is looking out for me and really wants me to develop so I can be a big part of this team in the future. This was the best decision that came in front of us so I think; I mean I look at it as a way to develop me so I can be a big part of the future [with the Union].”
Culturally, Pfeffer will have to learn a new language and embrace a culture for longer than just a few short weeks. This will be his third trip to Hoffenheim, but his first on loan. Soccer is his life, but Pfeffer has a solid track on finishing his final year as a hybrid student at Upper Dublin High School. The Dresher, Pa. native hopes to finish his coursework by January and then return home in June to walk with his classmates. Already trying to get ahead of the game, Pfeffer said he has already begun to take German courses in preparation for what’s sure to be a culture shock – at least initially. It’s a chance however to better his soccer and Pfeffer jumped at the chance.
“Obviously I am not going to go right in and everything is just going to be easy,” said Pfeffer. “I’m going to have to try to prove my worth and I am going to have to fight for a spot on the team every week but at the same time I’m still hopefully going to be playing a lot more games than I did here so that’s probably the most exciting thing.”
Call it symbolism that the next chapter in Zach Pfeffer’s young career comes at the turn of a new year, but it’s more the hope that what’s in store for him in 2013 will only make him prepped to help his parent club here in Philadelphia.
“I’ve been real lucky and I am very thankful for where I am at right now and less than half a percent of kids in the country and maybe even the world have the opportunity and experiences that I have had,” said Pfeffer. “If I can do really well and come back here a much better player, look to break into the team make and impact, you never know what can happen you know and eventually in the future I can stay in Europe and that opens up tons of possibilities.”
For all parties involved.
Contact Kerith Gabriel at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Kerith on Twitter @sprtswtr