Union sign two homegrown players: Meet Matt Real and Mark McKenzie

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The Union signed two homegrown players last night to first team contracts. Matt Real and Mark McKenzie are both 18 years old and are getting a shot in MLS. The Union add to their young defensive core adding  with these two signings, but if you aren’t familiar with Bethlehem Steel FC then you may not know who these guys are. Meet Matt Real and Mark McKenzie!

Meet Mat Real:

Real is a left back who really impressed Union coaches. He came through the Union Academy in 2013-2014 season. While there he played 46 matches for the U-16 and U-18 teams respectively. Around this time last year Real signed a contract with Bethlehem Steel FC to play in USL. With Steel FC he tallied 17 starts, one assist and one goal; playing a total of 1,607 minutes. His addition to the first team fills a crucial need.

Matt is a young left back with tremendous upside. The Union have been looking for tat up-and-coming left back for a while now. Many thought it was an area worth addressing in this transfer window. However the Union took a different approach. They stayed in their own backyard, so to speak, and gave the opportunity to one of their own. The Drexel Hill PA product has a shot to get some minutes with the Union this season, while learning from one of the longest tenured Union players, Fabinho.

Earnie Stewart said of Real: “We couldn’t be prouder to welcome Matt to our First Team as a Homegrown Player,Matt has truly earned this contract through his outstanding work along our Path to the Pros, first in our Academy and then in the USL as an 18-year-old. Left back is a difficult position, and Matt was exceptional against good competition for Steel FC last year. He brings an attacking-minded outlook to our fullback corps. We look forward to seeing him take the next step here in Philadelphia.”

Meet Mark McKenzie:

Mark is a promising young center back. His path to the Union is different from Matt’s. McKenzie at Wake Forest for one season this past fall. He made 16 appearances  as a freshman in, playing 685 minutes. The Young center back also went through the Union Academy, and made some amateur appearance for Bethlehem Steel over 2016 and 2017 seasons. His addition solidifies the center back spot for the Union.

McKenzie joins Elliot, Marquez,Trusty and Yaro as the Union’s fifth center back. It’s likely that he will competing for the 18, and pushing the already solidified players to do better. It is likely we could see a lot of Mackenzie with Bethlehem Steel FC to get more pro minutes under his belt; however, should he stand out in preseason, he may see a lot more first team action.

Earnie Stewart had high praises for the young center back, saying: “We’re delighted to have Mark begin his professional career by joining us as a Homegrown Player this season, Mark is a promising center back who made an impact for Wake Forest last year, a very good team at the collegiate level. It’s special any time you sign a Homegrown, and Mark is no exception. In this case, he made a difficult decision to leave school to sign with us, and we don’t take that lightly. We look forward to helping him with his development as he takes the next step with the Union.”

Both players fill important roles for the Union, and they also are a testament to the identity the Union want to build. The progression of Union Academy, to Bethlehem Steel FC, to the Philadelphia Union is starting to take shape. Look for more of these types of signings as the years go on!

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Peace out Union fans!

Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

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