While the homegrown tag is reserved for players developed through the academy ranks in Major League Soccer, new Philadelphia Union U19 head coach Kevin Coleman deserves that distinction as a coach.
Long before Philadelphia was awarded an expansion franchise in Major League Soccer, the Media native was fetching balls at practice at La Salle, where his father Jim Coleman was a coach for 20 years.
“I grew up around the game,” Coleman said. “I was a ball boy, I road the bus to away games with the team and was just always around the team.”
After playing at La Salle and in the USL with the Virginia Beach Mariners, Coleman started his own coaching career back at Penncrest High School before returning to his alma mater. He also had stints coaching locally at his former youth club FC Delco (now known as Continental FC) and Villanova.
But it was his time as a part-time coach with the Union Juniors before the first team had even kicked a ball that set him on the trajectory that has led him through the ranks to the head coach of the U19 team.
Current homegrown players Auston Trusty, Anthony Fontana and Matthew Real were all part of the Union Juniors in the early days of the club, where Coleman coached alongside head coach Jim Curtin and Bethlehem Steel FC head coach Brendan Burke.
As part of his new role with the U19s, Coleman is on Burke’s sideline staff on game days.
“It’s nice to come full circle and work with Jim Curtin and Brendan Burke again,” Coleman said. “It’s been amazing. It really is an environment where the message is consistent with the boys from the top to the bottom.”
When he was still coaching the U14 team, Coleman said he would show photos of Trusty, Fontana and Real when they were younger to remind them of the trajectory they are on.
Coleman, who was named a Development Academy coach of the year in 2017 for his work with the U13 team, has been on a trajectory of his own.
Just last month he was announced as the U19 head coach successor to Jeff Cook, who took the head coaching job at Penn State. Academy Director Tommy Wilson had plenty of options to fill the post from a national search but the decision to hire from within was telling of the organization’s philosophy.
“As a club, culture is critical, and a key part of that is looking inside first not only for players but for staff,” Wilson said at the time of the announcement.
Other recent additions and promotions within the academy ranks include Southampton native and former Bethlehem Steel FC captain and Union draft pick Ryan Richter, who is working with the Pre-Academy after retiring as a player from the New York Cosmos and former Union players Kleberson moving up to U12 head coach and Fred da Silva moving up to take over the U14s.
The change for Coleman has also meant reuniting with players he coached when they were much younger and smaller like Tonny Temple, Nyk Sessock, Tomas Romero and Daniel Bloyou.
“There’s a group picture I still have when we went to Aspire Academy in the Middle East,” Coleman said. “It’s great to see how they’ve grown over the last few years.”
The U19s have won all five of their league games since Coleman took over as head coach by a combined score 23-1. They travel to Massachusetts next weekend for games on Saturday and Sunday against FC Boston Bolts and New England Revolution.