WAYNE, Pa. – Sometimes, it’s hard to remember that Zach Pfeffer is still just a teenager.
The 19-year-old midfielder, after all, first signed with the Philadelphia Union more than three years ago, has since played for a couple different US youth national teams, and spent all of last year training with Hoffenheim in Germany.
But there’s still one thing Pfeffer hopes to accomplish before his teenage years are through: become an MLS regular.
And he believes he’s on the verge of making that happen.
“If you look all over the world, usually at 18, 19, 20 is when guys start to break into their team,” Pfeffer told MLSsoccer.com. “That’s absolutely my goal now. I feel like I’m at an age now where I’ve got a few years of experience under my belt and I can utilize that and definitely try to break into the team.”
Considering the Union brought in three new midfielders – Maurice Edu, Vincent Nogueira and Cristian Maidana – in the offseason, it might seem like Pfeffer is in a tough spot.
But the teenager is excited by those additions, saying he’s made a point to ask Edu questions on the field to try to learn from the World Cup veteran. And, at the same time, Pfeffer feels like the team’s deep stable of midfielders can help him raise his own game to the point where he can even challenge some of them for spots.
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“It’s good competition having all these guys on the team,” he said. “And my job is to just try to beat out guys as best I can and get on the field.”
Pfeffer only played 140 combined minutes in his first two seasons in MLS but is confident his year in Germany will allow him to take the next step with the Union.
While he was away, he said he developed what he likes to call the “German mentality” – which he described as “working as hard as possible and fighting for your spot every day.”
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And after fully embracing the challenges of being a young American player in a foreign country, Pfeffer feels like a different person than the 15-year-old who was once the fourth-youngest player to ever sign an MLS contract.
“I was still a little kid when I joined the team,” said Pfeffer, who has since graduated from high school. “Now I have a lot of international experience that’s made me a much more mature and a better player – and a better person as well.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.