It’s been more than four years since the Philadelphia Union last signed a homegrown player and Jimmy McLaughlin and Zach Pfeffer have moved on. Here’s a look at players who could be in line to end the drought.
Derrick Jones, Midfielder, Bethlehem Steel FC
Jones made his first team debut on a short-term deal for the Crystal Palace FC friendly last week, but he still has work to do to earn himself a homegrown contract with the first team. His success with Steel FC has shown that signing a player to a USL contract first might be the preferred route to bringing players into the first team.
Yosef Samuel, Midfielder, U18 team
Samuel carried the U18 team’s offense this season, similar to how Jones did when he was in more of an attacking role last season. He tied for the team lead in goals with seven and was often the best player on the field. He plans to turn pro now that his Academy career has ended, hopefully either with Bethlehem Steel FC or the first team, which he has trained with on a number of occasions.
Auston Trusty, Defender, Bethlehem Steel FC
Trusty has been a regular in the USL as an amateur player on the team after being promoted from the U18 team at the start of the season. He’s seventh on the club in minutes all while also spending time with the U.S. U20 team. He’s slated to join a powerful North Carolina squad in August if he isn’t signed to a pro contract first and would actually get more opportunity to play between now and December (Steel FC’s season ends in late September) if he goes to college.
Sebastian Elney, Forward, University of Maryland
Elney hasn’t spent his summer playing in the PDL like a lot of other college players and was left off the United States U20 roster for their NTC Invitational Tournament so it’s hard to say where he rates right now going into what would be his sophomore season at Maryland. His size, strength and ability to play up top would certainly fill a current need in the first team provided his one year with the U18 team and subsequent training hour fulfillment has him still eligible.
Justin McMaster, Forward, U18 team/Bethlehem Steel FC
McMaster led the U16s in goals this season with 13 and added a pair of goals for the U18s in nine games. A speedy forward with a ton of potential and a nose for goal, McMaster appears to be poised for more playing time as an amateur with Bethlehem Steel FC.
Rayshaun McGann, Defender, U18 team
Other than Trusty, McGann has been the most consistent call-up to U.S. youth national teams in the Academy system and spent the better part of this season not only playing up with the U18s but anchoring the back line. The next step for him is likely to play as an amateur for Bethlehem Steel FC, which he hasn’t yet done.
Isaiah Young, Midfielder/Winger, Wake Forest University
Young hasn’t played for the Union Academy since he was a member of the U16 team in 2013-14 so his homegrown status is unclear, but he’s definitely been a star on the rise the past two seasons with PDA and the U.S. youth national team. He’s committed to join a strong Wake Forest team in the ACC in August if he isn’t signed to a pro contract first.
Matthew Real, Defender, Bethlehem Steel FC/U18 team
Real is an uber-talented left back who is ranked No. 19 in the class of 2017 by TopDrawerSoccer.com and a regular call-up to U.S. youth national teams. He’s committed to Wake Forest next fall but might put himself in position to sign a pro contract before that happens.
Connor Maloney, Forward, Penn State University
It’s questionable whether the diminutive forward is eligible to sign as a homegrown after the claim on his former Academy teammate Keegan Rosenberry was denied but he did recently train with the first team and is a proven goal scorer at the college level.
Joseph DeZart II, Midfielder, Wake Forest University
DeZart is heading to Wake Forest in August to begin his college career. The defensive midfielder had an impressive season with the U18s and his hard work in the middle of the field protecting the back line was a big reason why goals were hard to come by against the team this year. His play hasn’t gone unnoticed in his native Jamaica either with a recent call-up to the Jamaica U20 team.
Anthony Fontana, Midfielder, Bethlehem Steel FC/U16/U18 team
Fontana has been in the Academy so long it’s hard to believe he doesn’t turn 17 until October. His recent stint of three games with the Bethlehem Steel FC has seen him jump ahead of many of his U18 teammates in terms of development.
Michael Pellegrino, Midfielder, U14/U16 team
Pellegrino is a name for the future to keep an eye on. The 15-year-old had a standout season splitting time between the U14 and U16 teams and earning U.S. youth national team call-ups.