Philly's Trinidadians stick together in debut season

Union midfielder Keon Daniel

Photo Credit: 
Courtesy of Philadelphia Union Communications

CHESTER, Pa. – When Trinidad and Tobago native Thorne Holder arrived at the Philadelphia Union’s preseason training camp, he was excited to learn that another player from his native country was right behind him.

And just knowing that his journey as an MLS trialist would be shared with another T&T international – Keon Daniel (pictured above) – made the whole experience that much easier.

“I knew him pretty well,” Holder told MLSsoccer.com. “It was nice. It was a little more comforting to have someone I could talk to, trying to achieve the same goal as me.”

Both Holder and Daniel ended up achieving their goals as they were signed by the Union after successful preseason camps.

Holder is currently the third-string goalkeeper, biding his time behind veteran starter Faryd Mondragón and rookie backup Zac MacMath, while Daniel has recently emerged as one of the club’s top options at outside midfield.

Daniel debuted as a substitute against the Galaxy on April 2, before starting in each of the last two games – a US Open Cup qualifying loss to D.C. United and last Saturday’s 1-0 win over the Red Bulls.

“Now that I’m starting to play, I’m just trying to get comfortable,” said the left-footed Daniel. “I think when I get comfortable, my best comes out.”

Holder – who has not seen any minutes yet himself but played a full 90 in net for the club’s first Reserve League game last Saturday – is not surprised his Trinidadian buddy is beginning to make an impact for Philly.

The two 24-year-olds played together for the Trinidad and Tobago Under-20 national team, before Holder left to play college soccer in the United States – first at the University of Maryland and then at Adelphi University – while Daniel turned pro in his native country and then surfaced with the Puerto Rico Islanders of the USSF D-2 last year.

Holder has seen firsthand what Daniel can do on the field.

“He’s a very elegant player on the ball,” Holder said. “He has excellent touch, excellent vision. And he’s the type of player that delivers on the biggest stage, in the biggest matches. That’s when he’s at his best. I know he will be a very important part of this team.”

Like his countryman, Holder is hoping to get his own shot with the Union first team, but is cognizant of his place in the pecking order behind Mondragón and MacMath.

“I have a prodigy and a legend in front of me,” Holder said. “It’s a situation where I have to be very patient and learn as much as I can. When the opportunity comes, I have to be ready.”

And if he ever needs some support, he knows where to turn.

“I’m excited for him to get his chance, as well,” Daniel said of Holder. “Coming from the same country, we both have someone to motivate each other.”