It was announced yesterday that Zach Pfeffer was traded to the Colorado Rapids along with general allocation money for the second overall draft pick that eventually became Joshua Yaro.
This was a bittersweet day for Union fans. It's sad to see the club's first homegrown player leave, but it was a very good trade and the club was able to pick up a very promising center back in Yaro.
Pfeffer became the franchise's first Homegrown Player in 2010 as a 15 year old, making him one of the youngest signees in MLS history. From the moment he signed that contract, he became in a way the chosen one - the local kid who would become the face of the franchise. Unfortunately, things just didn't work out that way. When he came back from an uneventful loan spell at 1899 Hoffenheim in 2014, he struggled to find a place in John Hackworth's lineup. He eventually scored his first professional goal against the Columbus Crew SC after Jim Curtin took over at the helm.
The 2015 season was supposed to be the year that Pfeffer started producing for the first team, and at 20 years old it seemed like he was finally ready to come into his own. Jim Curtin even mentioned during the preseason that he was challenging Cristian Maidana for the starting spot in the central midfield. The young midfielder was never able to get into the starting eleven consistently, and eventually got pushed out of the picture toward the end of the year. Despite his struggle for playing time he still provided us with one of the biggest moments of the season, which was his stoppage time winner against D.C. United in May.
When taking a look at Zach Pfeffer's stats in 2015, they are not that impressive. In 21 appearances for the Blue and Gold, he tallied two goals and a single assist. While he was not very productive this past year, it has to be noted that he never really got a chance to play his in his preferred attacking midfield position - instead he was often forced to play out on the wing or in a deeper lying midfield position. Pfeffer doesn't have the speed to take on fullbacks out wide and also lacks the defensive work rate to play in a deeper midfield role next to Vincent Nogueira. If Pfeffer didn't have Maidana - one of the leagues best passers - starting in front of him in the central attacking midfield role, he would have been able to show off his technical ability, passing, and vision much more.
The Dresher, Pennsylvania native made strides over the course of the season, he improved on his defensive work rate, had a very high passing percentage, and was able to put himself in some good positions to score. The 21-year-old had the 23rd highest pass completion percentage in the league. He was able to hold onto the ball in the midfield and could maintain possession under pressure. He has the talent to be good player in this league, its just unfortunate that he won't have the chance to do that In Philadelphia.
Pfeffer is by all accounts a great guy who loved playing for his hometown. He was the club's first homegrown player, and no one can ever take that away from him. The Union's academy system seems to be picking up steam with the organization signing Derrick Jones and Keegan Rosenberry. There will be more homegrown players in the future, and they will hopefully find it much easier to ease their way into the first team with the foundation of Bethlehem Steel FC to help with their development. Its a shame that Pfeffer became a casualty of insufficient playing time, but it looks like the club has finally found the solution.
Zach Pfeffer is still young and has his entire career ahead of him, I think that I speak for all of us in Philadelphia when I say that we wish him well in Colorado and hope that he makes his city proud.