On one of the most improved backlines in MLS is Drexel University graduate Ken Tribbett. The newcomer was originally signed this offseason by Union affiliate Bethlehem Steel FC, but Tribbett performed very well in the Union preseason. So well that he signed with the first team and made the starting XI in the season opener.
“I wasn’t sure, to be honest, coming in first, I didn’t know what to expect,” Tribbett said. “But it was always my goal. My goal was to start, so everything I did in the preseason was to be in the starting lineup come day one.”
Although Tribbett, 24, played at Drexel during college, he started his soccer career on the other side of the country in Colorado, and did it at an early age under some unusual circumstances.
“When I was 4, 5 years old, there was this little recreational park that didn’t have real goals, used flagsticks,” Tribbett said. “Just about 10 kids would show up, you just randomly picked a jersey and started playing.”
Tribbett started playing competitive soccer after he moved to Colorado at the age of 5. He started off at a local Colorado Rush with a familiar face running the team.
“My dad was the coach so that was pretty cool,” Tribbett said. “Then when we got to competitive, U11, still with the same club, the Storm, that was a more structured travel team. We would go to tournaments at the Surf Cup, Disney Showcase – that kind of thing.”
Tribbett then moved on to the Colorado Rush Academy, where he thrived for their U16s and U18s. After that, Tribbett recalls the Premier Soccer Academies (PSA) tournament during his junior year of high school.
The tournament was hosted by American icon Brad Friedel and included U16 national teams from Chile and Nigeria, as well as U16 club teams from Blackburn Rovers, Club America and Chivas (Guadalajara). Tribbett’s team fared pretty well, though.
“We ended up winning that whole thing so that was special,” he said.
Playing all throughout his youth, from recreational parks to college, Tribbett played in a lot of different positions.
“I have been all over the field, but always in the center though,” said Tribbett. “I played on top when I was younger because I used to be faster, then kind of dropped back to the midfield, and now all the way to center back.”
But soccer wasn’t the only passion for a young Tribbett.
“I played lots of different sports,” he said. “There was baseball, football, tennis. I loved tennis. If I didn’t play soccer, that’s probably what I would have played.”
Tribbett did choose soccer after all, and it had a lot to do with his idols, which eventually happened to be big names in MLS.
“When I first started watching soccer, it was probably 2002-03, when Arsenal had all those Frenchmen and that untouchable team,” Tribbett said. “They were fantastic, so I would say [Patrick] Vieira and [Thierry] Henry, they are probably my two favorite players. I was one year off from playing against Henry, which is OK because I got to see Vieira against NYC.”
Tribbet’s idols and passion led him to Drexel University to play college ball. Coming out of Drexel, many teams overlooked Tribbett, but he never gave up on his pro dream.
“I had a feeling that I would be pro, that’s pretty much the only thing I wanted to do my whole life,” Tribbett said. “In college, I was working hard, doing everything I could to eventually make the pro ranks. Coming out of school, I wasn’t really given the looks. But I knew I wanted to stick with it, and eventually landed here.”
This story is part of AAA’s “Start Your Journey” campaign, an effort – in partnership with the Union – to help celebrate families’ journeys in support of their young athletes…the long road trips, all-weekend tournaments, and the special bonds that are formed from the extensive time on the road. Each month, the Philadelphia Union and AAA will select an individual within its soccer network to develop a feature story on their path to success in association with the game of soccer. Additionally, fans are encouraged to share their own stories via social media using #ShareYourJourney