Curtin calls up 10 academy members during first week of training
Plenty of storylines from the first week at Union training camp, but among many of the new faces has been an influx in the amount of talent from the Philadelphia Union Academy.
Last week, the club announced seven players had been called up to National Team duty throughout the month of January. While some of those players had returned for camp, and a few others still yet to depart, the first week of first team training camp offered the staff an opportunity to see a handful of them up close and personal.
And they took advantage.
Throughout the week, 10 members of the Union academy were at training. This includes national team call-ups in Anthony Fontana, Mark McKenzie, Matthew Real and Auston Trusty. Also with the club this week has been Alex Soto, Lamine Conte, Manny Perez, Josue Monge, Joseph DeZart, and Andrew Verdi.
“The young men from the academy have been excellent,” head coach Jim Curtin said. “They have come in with mindset of not just being happy to be here, but rather to make an impact on each session. It’s exciting to see.”
While still in their respective infancy stages, the integration between the academy and the first team has really grown under Curtin’s leadership since the head coach was officially given the job prior to the 2015 season. In training camp alone last year, Sebastian Elney, Will Campbell, Derrick Jones and Yosef Samuel were staples for the club while in Florida.
While Elney and Campbell went off to college, Jones continued to flourish at the academy and signed a deal with Bethlehem Steel FC – becoming the first player to do so. Samuel, also still on the U18s, continues to train with the first team and appears to be a realistic option for the future.
Last year, Jones, Samuel and Verdi, in particular, spent plenty of time training with the first team. The club has continued that commitment here in 2016 and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see some of these 10 again in Florida.
Start with Trusty, a versatile 17-year-old defender who left training for the Copa de Athletico tournament in the Canary Islands for the U.S. U-19s on Wednesday. They’ll play Spain, France and the hosts next week. Trusty played for the U.S. in the U17 World Cup last year and appears to be a front-runner for the U20 World Cup in 2017.
McKenzie, Real and Fontana are all 16 years old and were called up to the U.S. U18s. They returned on Sunday from a January camp in Florida where they all earned starts in friendlies. McKenzie and Real have both been staples on the backline for the Union U18s this year.
Verdi, a goalkeeper in his first season with the Union U18s, has started in all but two games this year for the team. It seems likely he’ll continue to be in the mix for training sessions with the first team this year.
DeZart (12 starts), Perez (11), Soto (5) and Conte (5) all occupy the midfield for the U18s. Monge (11 starts) does the same, but for the U16s. It’s an extended look for some in this group, who were all apart of last year’s U16 team who finished 21-3-2 and went to the national semifinals in California.