Adjusting to a new team in a new place, especially when joining that team requires you to leave home at 15, can be a challenge for young soccer players chasing their dreams with the Philadelphia Union Academy.
For Caden Stafford, a now 16-year-old forward who starred at Syracuse Development Academy before joining the Union over the summer, the adjustment to the different level of play has gone pretty well. He’s been sharp in the early going in the Development Academy, scoring a couple goals while putting in work defending and doing a notable job in hold-up play in his first five games.
His hat trick on Monday in his third Generation adidas Cup qualifier for the Union U17s was a continuation of that positive start to the season.
“It’s a good accomplishment, anytime you score goals so obviously it was a great feeling,” Stafford said. “Coming to a new team that is so high quality is so awesome because everyone is reliable and will create chances for each other.”
Stafford got on the score sheet early on Monday when he headed home a second ball initially headed by Sean Bettenhausen off a Brandan Craig corner.
He headed home a chipped cross from Bettenhausen and scored off a breakaway in the second half to complete the hat trick.
“I was happy for him,” head coach Ryan Richter said. “He works really hard, he’s clever around the goal and he’s improving and getting more and more used to the environment.”
Quinn Sullivan also scored with a blast off an assist from Anton Sorenson in the 4-0 win over the New England Revolution on Monday, which gave the Union U17s six points from the weekend.
They squandered an early 2-0 lead against Real Salt Lake and lost 3-2 on Friday before coming from behind to beat the New York Red Bulls on Saturday. GA Cup qualifying will resume in February in Utah, where they’ll face Inter Miami CF and D.C. United.
“Bouncing back from the loss on Friday that we should have won that was a strong rest of the weekend,” defender Jackson Gilman said. “It puts us in a good situation for the season and the rest of the tournament.”
The U17s return to Development Academy play against the New York Red Bulls on Saturday at 1.p.m. at YSC Sports.