Int'l experience helps Pfeffer inch toward Union debut

Zach Pfeffer

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www.philadelphiaunion.com

WAYNE, Pa. — In recent weeks, Philadelphia Union manager Peter Nowak has said he wants to give 16-year-old rookie Zach Pfeffer the opportunity to earn playing time.

Until then, however, the teenage phenom has other things to help with his development.

In addition to gaining experience by training with his older teammates and by anchoring the midfield in reserve league games, Pfeffer also has his hands full with international duty. He was recently called up to the US U-17 national team to play in the Mondial Minimes Montaigu Tournament in Montaigu, France.

It was Pfeffer’s first international tourney with a national team, and even though the Americans went 1-3, beating Uruguay but losing to France, Portugal and Japan, the teen was glad to be on the field for the majority of the four games.

“The results didn’t go as planned, but it was a great learning experience,” Pfeffer told MLSsoccer.com. “I got a good amount of playing time under my belt, which was nice. It was a great experience, and I’m looking forward to building off that.”

Pfeffer — who has represented the US at the U-14 and U-15 levels and has also trained at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., as part of the U-17 Residency Program — now has his eyes on the U-17 World Cup, which will be held in Mexico from June 18 to July 10.

When asked if he expects to be called up for that, Pfeffer said, “We’ll see what happens — I would hope so,” before adding, “Playing at any World Cup, at any level, would be great.”

Considering he’s the fourth youngest player ever to sign an MLS contract, earning minutes with the Union might be as big of an accomplishment as playing in the U-17 World Cup.

As of now, both seem like strong possibilities. In his last two press conferences, Nowak specifically mentioned Pfeffer along with 20-year-old rookie Chris Agorsor as players he would like to get onto the field for the first time.

“I’m waiting to find the right time for that,” Nowak said. “Sooner or later, it will happen.

“We just need to make sure those players are ready to succeed,” the Union manager continued. “They need to be ready, mentally and physically, and know the tactical situation so we don’t lose our quality. We can’t just throw them in a game because if something goes wrong, then there’s public scrutiny. We have to be certain. We have to be sure. But if the time is right, I don’t have a problem putting them out there.”

Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DaveZeitlin.