Last week, during a quick break from finals cramming, Colgate University freshman Jimmy McLaughlin talked about what it would mean for him to play professionally for his hometown team.
“It definitely is my dream,” he told MLSsoccer.com.
A week later, that dream has been realized.
On Monday, the Philadelphia Union announced the signing of McLaughlin, who just wrapped up his first season at Colgate and had been a prized piece in Philly’s academy system.
McLaughlin – who starred at nearby Great Valley High School and with nearly club powerhouse FC Delco – will be the franchise’s second Home Grown signing, following in the footsteps of his good friend Zach Pfeffer.
Union fans got a glimpse of what the 18-year-old can do in international friendlies against Everton and Real Madrid over the summer. Unfazed by the world-renowned players on the other side of the pitch, McLaughlin showed his blazing speed and attacking fearlessness on the wing after coming in as a late substitution.
“That was an honor,” McLaughlin said. “That was something that just made me want to strive even more to go to the next level and keep improving as a player.”
McLaughlin also said those exhibitions, as well as the Reserve League games he played in, helped prepare him for his transition to the college game.
He started all 22 games at Colgate, notching three assists and one goal to help the Raiders capture the Patriot League championship. McLaughlin and Colgate failed to win the program’s first-ever NCAA tournament game, falling to Rutgers in the opening round. But the freshman winger still hailed the season as a huge success.
The Union coaches were happy with what they saw, too.
“Jimmy had a really good first year of college,” Union assistant coach John Hackworth said recently. “Right from the start, he came out on fire. And his team won the conference and made NCAAs, and he was a tremendous part of that.”
Although he’s really enjoyed his college experience, McLaughlin admitted that he liked the idea that he had the option of being signed as a Home Grown deal, rather than going through the MLS SuperDraft, which he thought would be “very stressful.”
Now, he hopes to talk to Pfeffer even more about the challenges of being a professional as a teenager. The 16-year-old Pfeffer signed with the Union around this time last year, and ended up making three official league appearances in his rookie season.
“He told me about the adjustments and how competitive it is,” McLaughlin said. “It’s a business and you’re playing for a spot every day. He’s kind of already been through the swing of things and I would love to get that knowledge under my belt.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org