Trialists arrive as Philly-Harrisburg partnership bears fruit

Lucky Mkosana and Kheli Dube in Florida

Photo Credit: 
Courtesy of Chicago Fire

WAYNE, Pa. – The Philadelphia Union are feeling Lucky.

So they decided to bring him into the fold.

On Thursday, Union manager John Hackworth revealed that two players on the team's USL Pro affiliate Harrisburg City Islanders – forward Lucky Mkosana (above, left) and goalkeeper Nick Noble – began training with Philadelphia this week and both have a chance to get signed.

“To give Lucky and Nick a chance to come in and train and actually compete for a roster spot – because they earned that opportunity by being the best players at Harrisburg – is good,” Hackworth told MLSsoccer.com following a training session at YSC Sports. “That also forces everyone in our locker room to look around and say, ‘Hey, we better step up our game too.’”

The Zimbabwe-born Mkosana is an intriguing prospect for Philly. Selected by the Chicago Fire out of Dartmouth College in the second round of the 2012 MLS SuperDraft, Mkosana signed with Harrisburg in May after failing to make the Fire roster.

Hackworth said the Union scouted him a lot last year and then helped him get placed with the City Islanders, where he scored seven goals despite not playing the entire season. He was named an all-league player in the USL Pro and is a Rookie of the Year finalist.

The 28-year-old Noble, meanwhile, is up for USL Pro's Goalkeeper of the Year award after earning nine shutouts for the City Islanders. Like Mkosana, Noble was drafted by Chicago, where he played from 2007-09. The West Virginia product spent the next two seasons with Sweden’s Ljungskile SK before suiting up for the City Islanders.

“Lucky is a guy that earned it,” Hackworth said. “He came in late to Harrisburg and ended up being a starter there and their most productive player. And Nick Noble, according to [City Islanders head coach] Bill Becher, is arguably one of the best goalkeepers they’ve ever had there.”

If Mkosana or Noble were to be signed, they’d follow the path paved by defender Sheanon Williams and goalie Chase Harrison, both of whom excelled at Harrisburg before joining the Union.

For Hackworth, it’s an important relationship to have with their affiliate club – and one that works both ways.

Philadelphia rookies Greg Jordan and Jimmy McLaughlin only recently returned to the Union after getting loaned to the City Islanders for the final month of the USL Pro season.

“Greg Jordan started and played every minute and I think they had shutouts in six of the nine games he played in,” the Union manager said. “And Jimmy came on and was a really dangerous attacker. So for them to not only get minutes and game experience but to get it in a playoff game, where it’s as real as it gets, that translates to them coming back here and being better.”

Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at djzeitlin@gmail.com.