MLS rookie Pedro Ribeiro hoping to lead both Philadelphia Union and their USL PRO affiliate to playoffs

CHESTER, Pa. – Pedro Ribeiro is ready to help his team make the playoffs.

Both of them.

Fresh off his MLS debut this past Friday, the Philadelphia Union rookie said he’s preparing to see more action for the Philadelphia Union while also still continuing to star for the Harrisburg City Islanders, Philly’s USL PRO affiliate.

“I’ve been going back and forth with Harrisburg,” Ribeiro said. “The idea is if I don’t make the 18 here, I’ll try to go to Harrisburg to help them out a little bit. They’re in a playoff push right now with four games left.”

Getting shuttled back and forth between the two clubs is not uncommon for Union players, and Ribeiro said he doesn’t mind doing it. It’s also seemed to benefit the 6-foot-4 rookie, who has four goals and two assists in 944 minutes with Harrisburg and was recently named the USL PRO Player of the Week.

Shortly after that honor, Ribeiro was flown into Houston to help an exhausted Union team play the Dynamo three days after they went 120 minutes in a US Open Cup semifinal win over FC Dallas. Considering he had yet to log an official MLS minute, the 2014 first-round SuperDraft pick was surprised – as did the fact that he started the game up top and put in a full 90-minute shift.

“It was kind of a surprise when he told me I had a chance to play in that game,” Ribeiro said. “I was in Harrisburg the day before and he told me to come in, so I was expecting to come off the bench or something. But it was a good surprise. That’s something I’ve been ready for since I got here after the draft.”

Even though Philly dropped a 2-0 decision in Houston, it doesn’t appear like Ribeiro seeing action will be a one-time thing. In his weekly press conference, interim manager Jim Curtin praised Ribeiro’s poise playing as a center forward in a hostile road environment, before gently critiquing the rookie for not drawing a second yellow card on David Horst, which could have changed the course of the game.

“I thought Pedro was good in the first half,” Curtin said. “He held the ball up well for us. The one lesson Pedro gets from the game is when Horst is on the yellow card and he’s got the guy hanging off him… if he stops there, the ref is forced to make the call.

“Pedro, to his credit, is an honest kid. He wanted to fight through. He said, ‘Coach, I knew I could get to the ball.’ I said, ‘You knew it but you didn’t see the other center back out of the corner of your eye.’ It’s an experience thing.”

Despite that one play, it’s clear that Ribeiro has climbed the depth chart under Curtin and could be in line to see more minutes for Sunday’s game against the San Jose Earthquakes at PPL Park (8 pm ET).

Also working to the rookie's benefit is the fact that he has a lot of versatility, having trained as a center back, midfielder and forward with the Union this season – and throughout much of his career.

“In games, I’ve had to play in a holding mid role, up top, out on the wing, so I don’t mind,” he said. “I just want to get on the field. That’s my main thing.”

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