As we countdown the days until the MLS season begins, we will be looking at 25 players from greater Philadelphia who have made an impact on the league 25 years after the first ball was kicked. Read the rest of the series at brotherlygame.com/philly-mls-25.
Auston Trusty wasn’t the first Philadelphia Union fan to sign with his hometown team, but by playing every minute of the 2018 season the defender who grew up 10 minutes from the stadium opened up new possibilities for the team’s long-heralded development program.
Trusty, who is entering his second season with the Colorado Rapids, made his MLS debut in his third season on the first team roster on March 3, 2018 against the New England Revolution and he didn’t step off the field during a game until he was sent off with a second yellow card for a tackle on Sebastian Lletget 41 games later.
After serving his suspension, Trusty started 15 of the next 16 games and then mysteriously didn’t play again for the rest of the 2019 season. His last game in a Union uniform ended up being in a 4-0 loss to Montreal in late July.
Four months later he was traded to the Colorado Rapids in a deal worth up to $750,000 in allocation money. The deal came after the two sides failed to negotiate a new contract for the homegrown center back and left things on a sour note between Trusty and his hometown team.
News of Trusty’s deal wasn’t too surprising after some comments he made to reporters at training a few weeks earlier. He told them “the truth will come out” in response to a question asking him why he suddenly stopped playing.
The drama of his departure hopefully well behind both parties now, Trusty remains the Union homegrown player with the most minutes played in team history with 5,026 and will continue to hold that distinction for at least another season. Matt Real is second on that list in terms of active players with just 925 minutes.
The other Union homegrowns in the top 5 in minutes played are Mark McKenzie and Brenden Aaronson No. 2 and 3, followed by Zach Pfeffer and Derrick Jones.
Pfeffer was part of the Union’s first wave of homegrowns that came through a “club and country”-type partnership with top area youth clubs like Pfeffer’s home club FC Delco but with no second team to provide valuable professional minutes Pfeffer spent 2013 playing in Hoffenheim’s youth team in Germany, played some games on loan with the Harrisburg City Islanders and ended up logging just 1,226 minutes over five seasons with the first team. Jimmy McLaughlin and Cristhian Hernandez combined earned fewer than 50 minutes in MLS during their tenure with the club.
In contrast, Trusty as a University of North Carolina commit earned his stripes with Bethlehem Steel as an amateur and finalized a homegrown contract with the first team right as training camp was opening in Chapel Hill in August 2016. After turning pro, he continued to play in USL Championship while also earning youth national team call-ups. It’s a similar path Brenden Aaronson took that led to his transfer in January to Red Bull Salzburg.
Though he’s no longer playing close to home, Trusty’s success could still benefit the Union, which would get 30 percent of any transfer fee above what the Rapids paid to the Union in allocation money if he is sold outside the league before December 31 of this year. Trusty made just five starts in his first season in Colorado, but a year like he had in 2018 could see the 22-year-old back on the radar for teams abroad.