Friday afternoon, Nathan Harriel inked his first professional contract with the Philadelphia Union. The 19-year Oldsmar, Florida native plays primarily right back.
The Homegrown Player Contract is effective January 1, 2021. In the meantime, Harriel will play with Union II on a USL Championship contract.
In order to successfully sign Harriel, Philadelphia swapped a 2021 1st round SuperDraft pick to Orlando City SC. Why?
Oldsmar falls inside Orlando’s Homegrown territorial rights boundaries, meaning the draft pick is compensation for Harriel’s contract rights.
Harriel made the move from Florida to the Philadelphia area in January of 2019 after officially joining the Union Academy system in 2018.
Harriel will become the seventh Homegrown player on Philadelphia’s roster once the calendar flips to 2021. It’s a growing trend for the club and Harriel’s contract is yet another sign Philadelphia have almost perfected the ‘Pathway to Pros’ pipeline.
“It feels good, I’ve been working for it for my whole entire life actually,” said Harriel in a video post released by the team. “Last year when I came into Philadelphia, everything really changed for me, my mindset changed.”
The exposure to a professional environment coupled with an opportunity to play professional-level soccer with the then Bethlehem Steel FC helps young players like Harriel make major strides. It’s an environment where growth both on and off the field is strongly encouraged, if not expected. And logging minutes with fellow pros also aids a great deal.
“Getting those games last year with the Steel and being a younger player, it gave me a lot of confidence,” said Harriel.
In 2018, Harriel became a near regular starter along the backline for former coach Brendan Burke – Burke now works as the Head of Recruitment Operations and played a key role in Harriel’s development.
Last season, Harriel made 23 appearances with the rebranded Union II. He logged over 1,800 minutes and showcased his speed in wide areas while helping in the final third as well.
His work ethic is noteworthy, one main reason Ernst Tanner was keen on the 5’11 defender. Tanner, Union Sporting Director, mentioned the first time he saw Harriel with Steel it became obvious that he can thrive and begin a career with the club.
“Nate is a promising young player who has a lot of potential to thrive in our style of play,” said Tanner in a team press release. “He can dominate wide areas with his speed and looks to play forward quickly after winning the ball. His versatility on the backline makes him a valuable asset to the team and we look forward to watching him develop as he continues to progress through our system.”
In a video call, Tanner congratulated Harriel with a smile. “You have all the physical conditions, you have the right attitude, the right mindset,” said Tanner. “And of course, you always need some kind of luck, but you know to work, and the ones who work hard, they deserve luck.”
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Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union