Each path to the professional level is different. There isn’t a blueprint for how an athlete can reach the ultimate goal. For those who are fortunate enough to see their dream become a reality, it’s the first start that’s unlike any other.
Josh Yaro will have no trouble remembering the details of his first MLS start. This past Saturday, Yaro was given a baptism by fire in his debut at CentruyLink Field in Seattle. Playing in front of a raucous crowd of more than 39,000 would have been one thing, but having to contain two members of the USMNT in Jordan Morris and Clint Dempsey is a task that few would’ve been up for.
When the dust settled, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2016 MLS SuperDraft received high praise for his performance after the match from the man who penciled him in the lineup, head coach Jim Curtin.
“Strong game from Josh. As tough of an assignment as you can get, dealing with Jordan Morris and dealing with Clint Dempsey,” Curtin said. “I thought he did well. Physically, there was never a question in my mind about him being ready.”
Curtin and the entire technical staff have not been shy in giving young players a chance to show their talents this season. The Union had the second, third, and sixth overall picks in the 2016 draft and all three featured on Saturday. Yaro’s college teammate Keegan Rosenberry was selected No. 3 overall by the Union. Roseberry has started in all six matches this season and played in all 540 minutes. Philadelphia used their No. 6 pick on Fabian Herbers, who has appeared in every match this year as a sub.
With Rosenberry and Herbers earning regular time on the pitch, the Union are showing they have faith in their young players, which has given confidence to others to step up and have the belief they can perform at the highest level. Yaro spoke about having that confidence as he found out he’d be playing against Seattle.
“It’s good when the coach is confident in you and believes in you that you can step in such an environment and play,” Yaro said. “I think that also gave me the confidence to know that I deserve to be here and that I can play just as good as anyone. So, it’s a great feeling.”
In a sport that has so many uncertainties, one thing is for sure: Curtin will play 11 guys that give the team the best chance to win, no matter the age or service time. With the arrival of sporting director Earnie Stewart this offseason, a big goal for the club was to create stability in their development of players, starting with the draft. Just over 90 days have passed since Rosenberry, Herbers and Yaro were taken in the draft and all three have made their debuts and made contributions to the club.
As far as how Yaro felt about his professional debut, it’s an event he’ll never forget.
“It’s great. As a young player, making my debut has always been a dream. To get a chance play for a club like the Union and to get to start was a great experience, with the help of my coaches and teammates,” Yaro said. “I know it’s a moment I’m going to cherish for the rest of my life.”