Home Grown Hopefuls: McLaughlin Debuts With Union Reserves

For the better part of the past year, FC DELCO midfielder Jimmy McLaughlin has been putting in more work than the average young soccer player. In addition to his club responsibilities, he has also served as captain of the Philadelphia Union's U17 and U18 teams.

This Sunday, all that work finally paid off.

McLaughlin started and went all ninety minutes with the Union Reserve team as they opened play in the new MLS Reserve Division with a 2-1 win over the New York Red Bulls. Three other academy players were called into the match.

But since these players got called up to this prestigious game, they were unavailable for their club teams; in fact, many members of the Union Academy set-up across the entire U.S. Soccer Development Academy were out of action for their clubs. Only a handful of Union players from FC DELCO actually took the field this past weekend. More on McLaughlin, the Reserve game, and the Development Academy after the jump.

The Reserve game was a huge step for McLaughlin, who now seems to have the inside track for the next Union homegrown contract if the team does in fact decide to offer one. Many MLS teams had been calling up academy players to their reserve games, but starting and going ninety minutes is something that not many players of McLaughlin's age had been able to accomplish.

"It was definitely an amazing experience," said McLaughlin after the game. The midfielder is currently committed to attend Colgate University in the fall, but if he keeps up his level of play, the Union may have no choice but to give him the chance to play professionally.

Fellow FC Delco player Zack Steffen, a goalkeeper, also was called up to the game, although he spent all 90 minutes on the bench as backup to Thorne Holder. Steffen is a highly regarded prospect who the Union will be keeping their eye on for some time; he won't even graduate high school until 2013. Strikers Christian Hernandez and Cristiano Francois, both of Players Development Academy, each got a chance to play in the reserve game as well and it was Hernandez who delivered the assist to Chris Agorsor on his game-winning goal. 

Dodds nets for DELCO; U16 Teams Shine

As I mentioned above, many Union Academy players were missing for their teams across the U.S. Soccer Development Academy this weekend. McLaughlin missed both games for the DELCO U18s, but in his absence, fellow Union Academy midfielder Ryan Dodds stepped up. He scored in a 2-2 draw with Seacoast United. Ryan Bertando also missed a game for PA Classics U18s on Saturday, but returned for the team's 1-0 loss on Sunday to Empire United.

The U16 teams of DELCO and Classics had a stellar weekend. Combined, the two teams took an astounding 12 points out of 12 from their games. DELCO U16s had the play of Union midfielder Connor Ryan to thank. PA Classics won Saturday without their best players, Union duo Christian Kaschak and Jonathan Wenger, but the two returned on Sunday and the team kept rolling. 

Next week, McLaughlin and Steffen will return to FC DELCO with some newfound confidence as they take on Match Fit Chelsea and NJSA. The duo will hope for a return call-up to the Union Reserves' next game, which will be on May 16 against DC United.

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