CHESTER, Pa. – It took 2,953 minutes for Jimmy McLaughlin to make his official MLS debut.
For Zach Pfeffer, it took even longer to make his season debut.
But in the end, the long waiting game was worth it for the two Philadelphia Union teenagers, and their appearances in the final two games of the 2012 season, however brief, felt almost like a reward.
“We’ve been practicing all year, and not playing in many games is tough on your mind,” said McLaughlin (above, left), a 19-year-old winger who got into his first league game in last Wednesday’s loss to Sporting Kansas City. “So it’s definitely rewarding to get a few minutes toward the end of the year and help build toward next year.”
“It was still special,” added Pfeffer (above, right), a 17-year-old midfielder who played the final four minutes of Saturday’s season finale against the Red Bulls. “Our biggest rival is New York. And on top of that, it was my first game of the season.”
Despite being happy to get onto the field against the Red Bulls, Pfeffer was admittedly disappointed that he didn’t play more in 2012. In his rookie season last year, the Union’s first-ever Homegrown signing made three appearances, including starts in two key games.
Still, for a player who hasn’t yet graduated from high school and is not even old enough to vote in next week’s presidential election, Pfeffer knows it’s all about thinking long-term.
“Everything has to go in perspective, given my age, the situation I’m in and other guys on the team,” Pfeffer said. “But whether it’s this year, next year or the year after that, I definitely believe I can be a starter in this league. That’s part of the process of being a young player and being patient. You just have to wait your turn.”
When it comes to being patient, Pfeffer has teammates he can relate to in fellow teenagers and Homegrown players McLaughlin and Cristhian Hernandez, who appeared in two matches this season, both in the beginning of the year.
Pfeffer noted their “age and situation” brings them closer together, so when he saw McLaughlin make his MLS debut, he was very happy for him.
McLaughlin was happy, too, even if his first game came in the hostile confines of Livestrong Sporting Park, against one of the best teams in the league.
“It was awesome,” McLaughlin said. “It was a great experience, especially in a stadium like that against the top team in the East. It was a really cool first MLS game.”
Like Pfeffer, he now hopes more MLS games are on the horizon – as early as next season.
“That’s the plan,” McLaughlin said. “It’s not going to be easy but I’m going to do everything possible to make myself a presence and get onto the field.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.