Zach Pfeffer might be the most mature 18-year-old around.
How could he not?
Since signing with the Philadelphia Union on Dec. 22, 2010, as the club's first Home Grown player at the age of 15, he has experienced more in those three years than many people do in an entire lifetime.
Pfeffer recently returned from Germany where he was on loan with 1899 Hoffenheim. The 5-foot-8 midfielder embraced every aspect of his year away on and off the field.
“It was a fantastic experience,” said Pfeffer, who graduated in June from Upper Dublin High School. “I have nothing but good things to say about my experience there. It’s a great club, very professional, great players, great coaches, fantastic all around. It was a great year for me and I enjoyed everything on the soccer field and off the field. I feel like I grew as a person and matured.”
On the pitch, Pfeffer now believes he’s a much more complete player.
“I would say I improved in everything,” Pfeffer said. “The technical aspects, tactical aspects, strength-wise. I think the biggest thing is having that German mentality and by that I mean being completely focused, not letting your man beat you and knowing you need to beat him to the ball. You have to give it 100 percent at all times. It’s about giving everything you have all the time on the field.
“You’ll get respect for that and you’ll also get better and improve by playing with that kind of intensity. I know it helped me.”
Off the field, the experience helped as well.
“I learned how to live on my own and I shared an apartment,” Pfeffer said. “It was an adjustment living on your own because I had always been at home. It allowed me to grow as a person. There was a language barrier when I got there and I tried to learn the culture and the language. I learned that they’ll respect you if you do everything you can to learn their culture and adapt to it. I left speaking and understanding the language well and that made the experience even greater for me.”
Pfeffer plans on spending time with his family and preparing for the 2014 MLS season.
The goal is to earn a coveted roster spot with the Union.
“Being back, my goal is to work hard and get ready for preseason training with the Union,” Pfeffer said. “I had a great experience in Germany and I feel like it helped to prepare me. I’d very much like to win a place on the club next season. I think my experience has made me better and I’m looking forward to challenging for a spot with the Union.”
Preseason training begins next month so there isn’t much down time for Pfeffer.
That’s just fine with him.
When he does have some rare quiet time, he does reflect on his life experiences.
“I think I do when I’m sitting at home doing nothing, which isn’t that often,” Pfeffer said. “I’ll think about my trips around the world and what soccer has brought to my life. It is pretty amazing to do what I’ve done at my age. I’m very blessed to have experienced all that I have with the opportunity to play soccer all over the world. I’ve been to so many countries and I’ve been fortunate to experiences all those different cultures.
“It’s been an amazing ride. It has made me a better player and a better person and I’m very thankful for all of it.”
What do you think of Zach being back in Philly? Leave your comments below.
Contact Union writer Andy Jasner at firstname.lastname@example.org