WAYNE, Pa. – After playing for the Philadelphia Union during their expansion season in 2010, Fred received a nice welcome back from his old teammates when he returned to the club as a trialist this preseason.
Well, it was mostly nice at least.
“I don’t like what they call me – they call me Grandpa,” Fred said with a laugh. “But they are happy to have me back.”
It looks like Grandpa is now closing in on a roster spot.
The 34-year-old Brazilian has yet to be officially signed, but Union manager John Hackworth said Tuesday that “the guys that are here we feel like will be here the rest of the year.”
And after a couple of rounds of cuts, Fred has stuck with the Union, having beaten out other trialists and rookies looking to make the team.
“Fred is a really good soccer player,” Hackworth said. “He’s at the upper end of his career, obviously, but he brings a wealth of experience and is a fantastic player to watch still.
“We have a lot of guys in our locker room that are speaking Portuguese this year, so he’s kind of like the elder statesman. You need the balance of having leaders, so Fred has come in and – having been here in 2010 – it’s kind of been a seamless transition for him.”
Fred’s Brazilian heritage is actually one of the main reasons why he’s back with the Union after spending two years with Melbourne Heart in the Australian A-League. Before the Union signed left back Fábinho last season, the coaches sought the council of Fred, a fellow Brazilian who played with Fábinho in Australia.
Following a good reference for his countryman, Fred was then asked by the Union coaches if he would like to come on trial.
Fred, who’s previously played for both the Union and D.C. United, jumped at the opportunity to return to MLS – a league he thinks is quickly becoming one of the best in the world.
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“Every year, it’s getting better and better,” he said. “I think in a couple of years, it will be Europe-level.”
If Fred is signed, the midfielder figures to have a much more limited role than he did in 2010, when he was third on the team in goals (four) and eighth in minutes (1,913). But having a Union original team member back in the locker room should still make for a nice addition – especially when it’s someone as upbeat and positive as Fred.
“One of the best things about Fred is his smile,” Hackworth said. “You make a joke with Fred, you call him Grandpa, and he smiles at you. And it’s contagious for sure.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at email@example.com.