CHESTER, Pa. – It didn’t take Chris Albright very long to relay an example of the types of jokes he often hears from teammates.
“Sheanon [Williams] just told me, ‘You must have scored a lot of goals when goalies didn’t wear gloves,’” the Philadelphia Union defender said after a recent practice. “That’s what he just told me five minutes ago.
“I hear a lot,” he added, “but, you know, I have my fair share of jokes for those guys as well.”
At 33, Albright isn’t very old by most standards. But on the Union, whose average age is younger than 24, he’s pretty much ancient. That, of course, leads to some playful ribbing, which the 14-year MLS veteran takes in stride. And in return, he tries to dish out some wisdom, along with jokes, to his younger teammates.
“I’m the oldest guy on the team and I’ve been around the longest, so I try to approach every day by being professional and I try to set an example for the younger guys,” Albright said. “I try to help the coaching staff whatever the message is for that week, try to keep the locker room in order and do whatever is needed as the oldest guy.”
WATCH: Albright tracks back to clear line
Albright is one of only two players on the Union over the age of 30. But while the other – Brian Carroll – is one of the team’s regular starters, Albright has played only 153 minutes this season, and just 10 since March.
Even still, he almost seems happy at times to be a behind-the-scenes leader.
“I think part of that comes with the realization he’s in the latter stages of his career,” Union manager John Hackworth said. “But, at the same time, a lot of the guys wouldn’t do what he’s done – which is play the role he’s asked to play. We’ve asked him to play many, from starting to being in the 18 to not being in the 18. And he’s showed up every single day and been consistent and has done a phenomenal job.”
Albright admitted he’d prefer to be more than just a reserve defender who rarely gets on the field. But the Philly native is also happy that he’s playing for his hometown team, no matter the role.
“My commitment is to the organization,” he said. “If that means helping the younger guys along, then that’s what it is at this point.”
Albright hopes to maybe even stay with the Union after he retires, perhaps in a coaching capacity. Hackworth said Albright would make a good coach and that the well-liked defender “can probably write his own ticket in a lot of different ways.” But in what way that develops remains to be seen.
“I’m not sure what the future holds at this point,” Albright said. “I’m playing right now. I would love to stay with the organization long-term. But that’s something that we can probably discuss at the end of the season.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at email@example.com.