CHESTER, Pa. – Jorge Perlaza had just arrived in Philadelphia when he found out the coach who traded for him, only days earlier, was being replaced.
What did he think about the sudden upheaval surrounding his new club?
“I had only one training session with Peter [Nowak] but the rest of the guys took it as quite a surprise when the coaching change was made,” the Spanish-speaking Perlaza said through a translator. “But with coach John [Hackworth], we still have the same system of play, so we’re going to keep working hard.”
At this point, it’s unclear how the coaching change will affect Perlaza, who came to Philly in exchange for the Union’s first-ever draft pick in Danny Mwanga two weeks ago. The trade would turn out to be Nowak’s final one as the Union’s manager and executive vice president of soccer operations.
In his first game in charge this past Saturday, Hackworth gave playing time to the team’s four youngest strikers in Jack McInerney, Josué Martínez, Antoine Hoppenot and Chandler Hoffman, before inserting the 26-year-old Perlaza into the contest for the final eight minutes.
Between those five players and top-choice striker Lionard Pajoy – who served a one-game suspension this past Saturday – Hackworth has plenty of options up top for the rest of the season, starting with Saturday’s game vs. Sporting Kansas City at PPL Park (7 pm ET, MLS LIVE).
And while the Union’s interim manager said he prefers a stable lineup, he also said he likes having that much depth, meaning Perlaza could certainly work his way into the rotation.
“I don’t know if we’re going to have one individual that carries the workload,” Hackworth said. “But I do think we have numerous guys who can score five, six, seven goals.”
Perlaza, who’s scored six goals since arriving in MLS from Colombia in 2011, believes he can help the Union find the back of the net if given the chance to play. But he also knows there will be some stiff competition just to get that opportunity.
“All of the forwards on this team are very good,” he said. “The important thing is to keep working hard and hope to contribute whenever you’re called upon. And if you’re not called upon, you’re just supporting those that are because the competition will always be healthy.”
Perlaza said he’s been working hard to fit in with his new club. And even though he’s already had to impress two coaches in his first two weeks, his transition has been aided by his familiarity with the team’s fellow Colombians in Pajoy, Roger Torres and Carlos Valdés.
Now, he’s just ready to show what he can do.
“I’m very mobile in front of the attack,” Perlaza said. “I like to encroach in the 18-yard box. I like to get the ball on my feet and I think, with this team, I can contribute on many levels.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.