When the Home Grown Hopefuls series debuted here at the Brotherly Game, its purpose was to introduce some of the young players in the Union Academy to the average fan in the hopes that one day, one of those players would become a Union Home Grown signing. During the time since HGH's inception, no player has separated himself from the rest of the pack quite like Jimmy McLaughlin.
The FC Delco midfielder has impressed Union fans and coaches alike and has gone from captaining the Union at the 2010 U-17 SUM Cup to becoming part of the Reserve Team. McLaughlin has become a staple of Brendan Burke's Reserve side and frequently goes 90 minutes even when several Union first team players only play 45 minutes or so. McLaughlin also participated in a recent Union friendly with Reading United where he was able to share the field with members of the full first team.
During the course of the season, Home Grown Hopefuls will expand to include interview sessions with some of the top Union Academy players. Naturally, the first of the players that we will profile is McLaughlin, who has as good a shot as anyone at earning a Home Grown contract in the future. Jimmy was kind enough to give me a few minutes of his time, and here is what he had to say. Find the full interview after the break.
BG: Last year, you were chosen to represent the Union at the 2010 U-17 SUM Cup. How did that opportunity come up for you, and what did it feel like to play in Union colors and wear the captain's armband?
JM: It all came up pretty quickly; the coaches took looks at the local clubs and put together a team. They reached out to me to be a part of the team and I was ecstatic with the news. I had no idea I was even going to be captain until seconds before our first game. When I was given that responsibility it really took my confidence to the next level and I believe really attributed to my success. It was an honor to wear the Union colors and play for the first youth team ever.BG: What was your reaction when you got word that you would be playing in the Union's Reserve Team games?
JM: My coach [at FC Delco] Alan Metzger told [goalkeeper Zach Steffen] and I on the bus when we were traveling to Connecticut for an academy game. I was very excited and anxious with the news. I had no idea what to expect and did not even know if I would play. I was just very excited to be a part of the team, let alone play a full 90 minutes. This is an experience I will never forget and would not trade it for anything.
BG: What has the experience with the Reserve team been like for you?
JM: It's been unbelievable. I think it is really helping me take my game to the next level. Just being around professionals and seeing how they conduct themselves has been very beneficial to me. It has also shown me that I can play with anyone and how close I am to making it to the professional level.
BG: Recently you took part in the Union's friendly with Reading United. Many Union Academy players will probably play with Reading once they go off to college. Is that a path you see yourself taking?
JM: It has been rumored I was going to play for them, but it was funny to find my pictures and profile already under the Reading United team in the program. But yes, I've talked with Coach [Brendan] Burke several times and I plan on playing with the team in the summer when my schedule permits. Reading is a great team and has several older FC Delco players who I've looked up to my whole life.
BG: Has it always been your dream to be a professional soccer player? Do you want to play with the Union in MLS, or do you have aspirations to go abroad and play in Europe?
JM: Yes, since day one. I could never be able to picture myself doing anything else. People always doubted it and would always say that I could never possibly make it but I never let these negative opinions deter my vision. My size was always said to be a big issue, but i truly believe it is a blessing in disguise. Right now I am just taking everything day by day, things have been happening very quickly. Although I would like nothing more than to play for my home town team. I am Philadelphia, born and raised. It would be a huge honor.
BG: Yes, many would agree that your size could be a blessing in disguise, especially with smaller players like Lionel Messi, Iniesta, and Xavi excelling in world soccer. On another note, what factors went into your decision to attend Colgate University? Did you look at any other colleges?
JM: There were many things that went into my college decision but it really came down to a balance of athletics, academics and where I felt most comfortable. Colgate's academics are top of the line and has a soccer program that I feel is about to take off. I would love to play a role in taking them to the next level. I looked at and considered a lot of schools and it was a very hard decision. I was also very interested in the University of Pennslyvania, Villanova University and University of Notre Dame.
BG: Finally, I thought I'd give a shout-out to our own Great Valley High School, where I went and where you are about to graduate from. How has your time with coach Dave Moffett and the Great Valley coaches helped your game?
JM: My time with Moff has been something extremely beneficial and shaping to not only my soccer development, but my life. He has not only helped me dramatically improve my game but has shown me how to conduct myself and be a good person in this world. Moff has been an amazing role model and has been one of the most influential people in my life. I would not trade at Great Valley with Moff for anything.