After seeing first action of 2014, Philadelphia Union's "Grandpa" Fred excited to be back in mix

The one they call “Grandpa” finally felt young again.

Philadelphia Union midfielder Fred, a 34-year-old veteran with the old-man nickname, not only earned his first minutes of the season but put in a full 90-minute shift in a 3-0 road win Saturday over Chivas USA.

And he couldn’t stop smiling about it.

“Before the game, I was so excited to play,” Fred said after the win. “I felt like I was 20 years old.”

When the Union signed Fred in the offseason, manager John Hackworth spoke of how the Brazilian would serve as the elder statesman on a team with a few Latino players. And after failing to get any playing time through the first 12 games of the season, it certainly looked as if the veteran midfielder would simply be a locker room leader.

But after recovering from an early-season injury, Fred has come on strong of late to earn a place in the team’s starting lineup.

“Fred has been playing really well in training,” Hackworth said. “We’ve wanted to try to get him into a game for the last several weeks but the situation didn’t present itself. With Brian Carroll having a little hamstring injury at the end of the LA game [on May 25], it just opened up a spot. We constantly talk to guys that when the opportunity arrives, you have to make the most of it, and that was great for Fred.”

Hackworth was pleased with his play Saturday, saying he looked smart and composed as a central midfielder in front of Maurice Edu and Vincent Nogueira.

“It was really good to see another wily old veteran out there,” Hackworth said. “And he still has game.”

For Fred, who was a key member of the Union’s inaugural team in 2010 but hadn’t played an MLS game since 2011 while with D.C. United, it certainly felt a little different when he stepped on the field – but only at first.

“When I started playing, the football flowed in and I’m very happy,” he said. “They call me grandpa, but I felt great today on the field and I think I can help Philadelphia get to the top.”

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