COMMERCE CITY, Colo. - It’s hard to predict what a club will do during the MLS SuperDraft. Teams will either seek fresh young talent, or trade away picks for a player with experience.
In this year’s SuperDraft, the Colorado Rapids did both, acquiring 21-year-old midfielder Zach Pfeffer and general allocation money from the Philadelphia Union in exchange for Colorado’s second-overall pick.
“He’s younger than any player that you’ll find in the draft, but he has years of experience in this league,” Rapids head coach Pablo Mastroeni said of Pfeffer. “He’s a proven young player. He has a ways to go, but he’s great technical player. He has a tremendous upside.”
The move surprised many, including Pfeffer himself, a native of Dresher, Pennsylvania who had originally signed with the Union as the team’s first ever Homegrown player at just 15-years-old.
“Philly is my hometown. It’s where I grew up, where I started my career and I have my family and friends there as well,” He said. “I was a little bit surprised at first, because Philly had picked up my option for the year.”
But now that he has had time to settle himself, Pfeffer sees the move as a welcome change.
“Now actually being here in Denver, I’m excited for a new opportunity and a fresh start,” he said. “I’m here now in a great environment with new teammates and new coaches and I think it’s going to be a great year.”
He’s coming off of his best statistical season in his five-year career in Philly with two goals and one assist in 21 appearances (11 starts) for the Union in 2015. But with added midfield support that comes along with Colorado’s signing of Marco Pappa this offseason, Pfeffer will have to fight for playing time at his preferred No. 10 role.
“We’ll see how it shakes out but he’s quite comfortable at many different positions,” Mastroeni said of Pfeffer’s role in the midfield. “He’s a good footballer and can play anywhere. He’s got the ability to find a spot, work for it and keep it.”
Regardless of how it all shakes out, the young midfielder is excited to take the next step as a professional.
“It’s absolutely [an opportunity for growth],” Pfeffer explained. “It was a dream come true to sign at a young age. I really had to grow quickly because I was thrown into the professional world, a man’s world at such a young age. I just tried to bide my time and learn from the older guys to see how everything worked as a professional athlete. I think I was lucky to be in that environment because it gave me a head start.”
Pfeffer has been able to apply that professionalism off the field as well, completing his high school diploma through online courses. He’s now doing the same for college, working towards a business degree from Penn State.
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He was reliant on the support of friends and family back home in Philly, but in Colorado he won’t be going at it alone. Rapids goalkeeper Zac MacMath has provided a familiar face to aid in the transition. The pair joined the Union in 2011 and played as teammates until MacMath joined Colorado on loan in 2015.
“He’s been great,” Pfeffer said of MacMath “He picked me up from the airport and took me downtown to look at some different places to live. It’s been making the transition a little bit easier for me.”
He can now set his mind on the task at hand, as the Rapids prep for the upcoming 2016 campaign.
“I think moving away from home and being more on my own is going to be good for me,” said Pfeffer. “My focus is to perform well and to get integrated and start off on a strong foot.”