When Nathan Harriel trialed with the Philadelphia Union, he thought of it as a chance to gauge his game before heading off to college. He had his heart set on becoming a professional, but he thought the collegiate path fit him best. Ernst Tanner disagreed.
Tanner surprised Harriel on a video call on Friday to officially welcome the club's newest player to the club in a professional capacity, and he made it clear that he sees vast potential in the young defender.
“When I saw you the first time training when you were on trial I know that you were able to do it,” Tanner told Harriel. “I think it’s a good day for you and your family and I think it’s confirmation of what you’ve been doing so far.”
"We are opening up a stage now where you really can do a career and you have all the physical preconditions,” Tanner continued. “You have the right attitude and the right mindset. You always need some kind of luck but you know to work and the ones who work hard, they deserve luck. I wish you all the best and hope to see you soon and on the first team roster.”
Harriel, 19, appreciated the Union Sporting Director’s words. The belief the club has shown in his abilities convinced him that he needed to seize a special opportunity to make his dream come true.
“I came here midway through my senior year and I was really just focused on going to college and that was my pathway until I got here,” Harriel said. “I remember that I decommitted to Clemson the day before signing day and it was a risk because it wasn’t guaranteed that I’d be signed. I wanted to try to be a pro and thankfully it paid off.”
Harriel started Union II’s opening match of the 2020 season at right back. During the 2019 season he made 23 appearances in the USL Championship with Bethlehem Steel FC, playing nearly 1,900 minutes in 20 starts. Harriel said as he played the matches, things started to change for him as he took on players nearly twice his age.
“My mindset changed and getting those games last year [in the USL Championship] as a younger player gave me a lot of confidence. “It feels good to sign with the club because I’ve been working for it my whole entire life.”
Harriel’s first match as a professional is just around the corner as Philadelphia Union II hosts in-state rival Pittsburgh Riverhounds on Saturday, July 18th. Kick off from Subaru Park is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. and will be streamed live on ESPN+.