The Philadelphia Union have announced that former academy and Bethlehem Steel product Matt Real has been signed to a homegrown deal. Real becomes the seventh homegrown player in Union history.
The Drexel Hill, Pa. native spent last year with the Union’s USL affiliate, Bethlehem Steel and really grew into the starting left back role on the team. With Steel FC Real totaled 17 appearances, none off the bench for a total of 1,607 minutes. He debuted against Toronto FC II in May and bagged an assist in September against the Rowdies and picked up a great goal in the season finale against St Louis FC.
He’s now traveled through every level with the team from Union Juniors to the first ever Union U14 team in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy in 2013-14, through the academy and Steel. Internationally, Real has also been a regular in U.S. youth international camps since his early days in the academy.
“This moment is pretty surreal for me,” Real said in a video posted on the Union website. “Ever since it was announced that the Union was forming a team in the Philadelphia area it’s been my dream to play for my hometown.”
Earnie Stewart had this to say about the team’s latest signing:
We couldn’t be prouder to welcome Matt to our first team as a homegrown player. Matt has truly earned this contract through his outstanding work along our path to the pros, first in our Academy and then in the USL as an 18 year old. Leftback is a difficult position, and Matt was exceptional against good competition for Steel FC last year. He brings an attacking-minded outlook to our fullback corps. We look forward to seeing him take the next step here in Philadelphia.
Personally, I would expect to see Real play more at the USL level again this year to really refine his game, but I don’t think anyone made a better case for being “ready” to move up the ranks than Matt last year.
The Union are hopefully signaling a shift in personnel with Real joining other Union homegrown players Derrick Jones, Auston Trusty and Anthony Fontana on the 2018 Union roster.