The trio of 2018 Philadelphia Union draft picks officially began their journey with the organization on Tuesday with the first day of training camp for Bethlehem Steel FC at YSC Sports.
“We’re really happy with those additions,” head coach Brendan Burke said of the unsigned draft picks Mike Catalano, Aidan Apodaca and Matt Danilack. “We tried to do our homework on these three guys and what we saw is they fit right in at the start so now it’s a matter of how quickly they can grow and adapt with the group.”
Catalano, a Roselle, Illinois native who starred at Wisconsin, is perhaps the most familiar of the three to the organization having spent the summer of 2015 playing for Union PDL affiliate Reading United. He was part of a Badgers team that won the Big 10 in the fall and ended up with four players drafted.
“My freshman year we were the laughing stock of the Big 10. To go from that to winning it, to having guys get drafted and get national recognition just shows you the drive we had as a group to transition the entire culture, to make a winning culture,” said Catalano, a box-to-box midfielder. “Now we have to replicate that championship mentality at the next level individually.”
Catalano drew a lot attention in his senior season scoring 10 goals, but it’s the lesser known aspects of his game that he thinks will help him find success at the next level.
“The winning mindset, the relentless mentality, I think that stuff is going to really propel me,” Catalano said.
Before being drafted earlier this month, Danilack’s familiarity with the Union came from playing with two Union Academy grads Dawson McCartney and Tiger Graham at Dartmouth in the fall. Collectively, Danilack knew McCartney, Graham and fellow YSC Academy grad and former Continental FC goalkeeper Aaron Schwartz as “the Philly boys.”
“I’m one of them now,” Danilack joked.
With the Big Green, Danilack played as a holding midfielder but there’s a chance he could end up on the back line. Burke acknowledged that as a possibility but left it open-ended where the Rockville, Maryland native will end up positionally with the team.
“I think my best position is a holding central midfielder but I hear maybe center back as well,” he said. “I’m open to whatever the team needs.”
Danilack was drafted 77th overall by the Union, the same number as 2017 MLS Rookie of the Year finalist Jack Elliott. Elliott also started the season with Steel last year and had experience playing in midfield in college with West Virginia.
“Someone told me that I was the same exact pick as he was,” Danilack said. “But no matter where I was picked I still gotta prove myself. I have to prove myself at this level and make my way into the first team. Where I was drafted doesn’t really matter.”
Rounding out the trio of draft picks is the Division 2 national player of the year in Apodaca, a California native who lit up college soccer in his senior season with 29 goals for Cal Baptist.
“I’m definitely not a guy who can win all the headers but I definitely feel like I’m able to break through with my pace and get behind defenses,” Apodaca said.
Apodaca’s profile is similar to that of second-year attacker Santi Moar, who was a finalist for USL Rookie of the Year in 2017 after being drafted by the Union out of Division 2 Pfeiffer University.
“Philadelphia as well as Bethlehem chose me to come in and do something, which is score goals,” he said. “I’m excited to come here and show what I have.”