Zach Pfeffer better start brushing up on his conversational German. He's certainly going to need it during the next 12 months.
On Tuesday morning, the Union announced the 17-year-old midfielder was putting Philadelphia in the rear-view mirror for the time being, heading to Bundesliga club Hoffenheim on loan for a full calendar year – January 2013 until the end of the first half of the 2013-14 Bundesliga season in December. Philly have already picked up the United States U-18 team prospect's contract option for 2014, meaning he will return to the Union once his loan stint is complete.
Pfeffer will be eligible to play for the club upon receipt of his international transfer certificate (ITC). Per MLS and club policy, terms of the loan will not be disclosed.
“We looked at it and it was really probably the best spot for me in terms of my overall development as a player at this point in my career where I am, you know with my age and everything included in that,” Pfeffer told philadelphiaunion.com. “The main thing is I need a place to play games most importantly good competitive games. … In [the MLS] Reserve League, we have 10 and that’s really not enough, not even close to enough.”
The transition to life in the Bundesliga, or more likely Hoffenheim's reserve and youth sides, shouldn't be too intimidating for Pfeffer, as the youngster spent the past two offseasons training with the club. He is currently in Germany on a two-week training stint, and will return home before officially reporting for duty in early January.
The Dresher, Pa., native was the Union's first Homegrown signing, joining the club in Dec. 2010, and made three appearances in 2011 (two starts) and one substitute appearance during the recently concluded 2012 campaign.
As Pfeffer alluded to above, the primary reason for the loan was to provide the burgeoning young star more playing time than the MLS Reserve League could offer, but the intent is clearly to prepare him for the rigors of MLS rather than provide a prominent place in the shop window.
"Loaning Zach to Hoffenheim is a win-win situation for all parties involved,” Philadelphia Union manager John Hackworth said in a statement. “While we will miss Zach for the 2013 season, we know that the experience at this stage of his maturation process will be invaluable to both him and the Philadelphia Union in the future."