Pfeffer, 19, impressing Union staff
UPPER MERION — The anticipation in Philadelphia Union circles surrounding Zach Pfeffer makes it easy to forget that he’s only 19 years old.
In his fourth preseason with the club, hopes are high that his place in the first team is on the horizon, aspirations aided by a successful stint in 2013 in the youth setup of German club Hoffenheim.
It’s a lot to put on most 19-yearolds, but it’s nothing new for the native of Dresher. His arrival in MLS — signed as the Union’s first homegrown player in 2010 just before his 16th birthday, then the third-youngest signee in league history, and handed his debut in 2011 — invites the hype.
But what Pfeffer and the club are focused on is his incremental improvement, and the consensus is that he’s been one of the more impressive performers of the first week of Union camp at YSC Sports.
The diminutive Pfeffer is never going to be a physically imposing presence, but at 5-8 and 145 pounds, he’s grown into a sturdier attacking midfielder more likely to absorb the rigors of MLS. His technical ability has always been obvious, but his stint in Germany has helped shore up the off-field aspects of the game.
“I think there’s a lot of things, in all aspects of the game,” Pfeffer said. “I think the biggest thing I can take away is that German mentality of every day showing up, being tough in training every day, giving it 100 percent and always fighting for a spot.”
His residency in Hoffenheim was a big step in maturing as a player and a teen, and his approach to this offseason sounds more like that of a three-year veteran than a 19-year-old.
“I’ve been with the team a few years already, so with each year, I’m getting more and more experience,” he said. “And obviously being over in Europe, I was in a different country, different culture, and I learned a lot of different styles of play, so I think I’ve just continue to grow and that’s made me more prepared.”
Both player and club have tried to diffuse the expectations around Pfeffer, and the midfield rebuild this offseason lessens the onus on Pfeffer to be the injection of creativity the club desperately needed after last season. That gives the club a little more time to develop its investment.
“I’ve spoken with (the coaches) since I’ve been back as well and before I started camp,” Pfeffer said. “The expectation is that I’m coming in and showing them everything I’ve learned, and hopefully that’s going to translate to minutes on the field.”