The Philadelphia Union sit in a tie for second place in the Eastern Conference after seven weeks of MLS play. Already three wins to their name in the 2016 campaign, compared to last season where they didn’t record their third win of the season until May 24, there is no argument that this club is different than last year and it all starts with the men on the pitch.
There is a strong emphasis within the organization on drafting and developing their players. The perfect example of the Union’s new direction is their No. 3 overall pick in the 2016 MLS SuperDraft Keegan Rosenberry.
The Georgetown product made his MLS debut at right back in the first game of the season for Philadelphia against FC Dallas. Rosenberry has yet to relinquish his role since then. He is the only Union outfield player to have played in all 540 minutes this season and his intelligence as a player on the pitch is a quality that head coach Jim Curtin praised at his weekly press conference.
“I think Keegan is a very, very good right back. His soccer IQ is the first thing that I go to,” Curtin said. “Incredibly smart player, studies the game, studies the other teams, knows the league well. He’s running with his time on the field right now. He’s contributing in a big way, sometimes through assists and setting up goals. I’m happy with where he’s at.”
With No. 2 overall pick Josh Yaro making his debut this past Saturday in Seattle, the Union have had all three of their top six picks in the 2016 draft appear in matches this season. Rosenberry’s roommate, Fabian Herbers was selected No. 6 overall and has appeared in all six matches as a sub.
With the amount of young talent that Curtin and technical director Earnie Stewart have brought in, it’s evident that this club is built to succeed for years to come. Rosenberry is a huge piece to this puzzle and although he’s aware of the responsibility that comes with being a leader for the younger guys, he’s grateful for the opportunity to have this role.
“When a club and its staff believe in you as a player it lets you play without reservations. I couldn’t be more thankful for the way the club has helped me start my career,” Rosenberry said. “Being thrown into a leadership role immediately has helped me grow as a player and person more than I could have hoped for this early.”
There isn’t unfamiliar territory for Rosenberry in terms of being a young leader. At Georgetown he started all 25 games a freshman, a season that included two assists the NCAA tournament. When it was all said and done, Rosenberry left a legacy as a Hoya. In his four years he was a two-year captain, starting in 90 matches compiling four goals, 13 assists and 21 points.
Rosenberry is a cornerstone for what the Union will look for in their younger players moving forward. To have a guy drafted in January, then start every match for a club that is near the top of the table three months later is remarkable. There is a new culture with the Philadelphia Union and Rosenberry exemplifies that.
“I think it’s a good foundation of young players and Keegan is the one right now who has emerged as the guy who’s on the field, but, it needs to be said, they’re all doing well.”
The Union have a plan for their franchise. The success this season is attributed to formula of young players stepping up and allowing veterans to have faith in their teammates despite the lack of service time. Curtin is very pleased with Rosenberry and his entire crop of young talent.