Joe Tait celebrates his assist on Jack McInerney's goal with the striker, Danny Mwanga and Ryan Ricther. (Photo courtesy of Earl Gardner)
Left out of the Joe Tait signing and information surrounding it is the fact that the Englishman was being tracked, indirectly, by the Union for nearly two years.
Brendan Burke, the Union's Reserve League team head coach, is good friends with Ben Collan and Stuart Hayers, both of whom are agents, and former coaches, of Tait at S&B Kinesis, a sports management and sports performance company. Burke saw Tait play in the Premier Development League (PDL) playoffs in 2010. That's the United Soccer Leagues (USL) connection.
Now, with the 2011 MLS season winding down, Burke's insight into Tait's potential led the Union to sign the 21-year-old. Fans have scrambled around to figure out why a team currently in a top three spot in the Eastern Conference of MLS signed a defender from what was perhaps the worst team in the USL PRO league.
"He's just happy to be with the Union. It wasn't the greatest season result wise with the Dutch Lions," Callon told the Brotherly Game. "He's really excited to play with the Philadelphia Union. Joe spoke to us on numerous occasions about the high standard of the Union and MLS."
"He definitely doesn't look down upon it. A lot of people are now realizing it, from English teams coming across for preseason games, that it's no flap to say that MLS is getting higher. He's very impressed."
Despite his talent in a central role defensively, the questions surrounding Tait revolve more around his positioning ability. Jason Le Blanc wrote in a guest post for the Brotherly Game that Tait is an inside player, someone that is more likely push forward vertically than defend wide. Callon agreed on the most part with that assessment, but wouldn't rule out Tait playing as a fullback.
"I think that'd be the management's decision if he can play [left back]. My coaching position is that he can play there, he'd do his job there, but he won't exactly excel there," Callon said. "Joe would be willing to play goalkeeper if you asked him."
"He's fully prepared to play any roles that the management sees him playing. I don't think clubs will turn down quality players because of the position."Joe is a quality talent and I don't think clubs want to let quality go to other teams."
Regardless of where he's set to play for the Union, Tait is ready to wait for his opportunity with the Union.
"He's very patient. He's ready to excel," Callon said. "He's an ambitious person and he'll always be looking for a starting jersey. I do think it's a good acquisition for Philadelphia, but he has to go out and prove that as well."
"It'll be another step forward for him. He'll bide his time with the reserves or the bench."
Tait's path to the Union has also been a road filled with a need for patience, as the Englishman decided to take his chances across the pond after years in English youth systems.
"He came to America because Hartlepool doesn't have the resources to develop young players. Lower league teams don't have the resources to keep these players ready for development," Callon said about the state of academies in England. "Joe thought about coming to get an education, while in the back of his mind thinking that he has the talent to play here."
"He's from Middlesborough. He was with them as a very young youth player before going toward Hartlepool. There was interest from other clubs upon his release from Hartlepool, but you have to go from the prospective of an 18 year-old, sometime's it's disheartening and you want to go elsewhere. That certainly happened to Joey and he went with the American dream thing."
For the time being, Tait has the chance to make a name for himself in Philadelphia with the limited playing time he receives with the Union. Tait only needs to look at new teammate Sheanon Williams to see how the American dream can come about for a 20-something out of the USL signing with a MLS team.