The Philadelphia Union has created a culture of bringing up players through their academy and signing them to homegrown contracts with the first team. This culminated in 2020 when after the club won its first-ever trophy, they sold two MLSbest-XI players, homegrowns Brenden Aaronson and Mark McKenzie, to big clubs in Europe. This helped the club win on the field, and off it as they got an influx of millions of dollars. In 2022, the Union is hoping for a similar success with a progression of the homegrowns on their roster.
Progression of Union Homegrowns
Not every Union homegrown will be like Brenden Aaronson and Mark McKenzie. Some are moved on earlier in their development on smaller deals, some could be “MLS for life” players with the Union, but the hope is that for every crop of homegrowns brought up to the first team, at least one of them can develop into a star that can be sold to bigger clubs for millions of dollars.
As the team heads into the 2022 season, their current batch of homegrowns looks poised and ready for more minutes in MLS. Could one or more of them be able to make the progression the Union wants to see, or could there be a regression that would hinder this process?
Homegrowns on the 2022 roster
The Union has 10 players on their roster for 2022 that are homegrown players. Of these 10 players in the group, three are in a position that could be similar to what happened with the rise of Brenden Aaronson and Mark McKenzie. The Union is hoping that from that group a player will help Philly win on the pitch in 2022, and then make a big-money move abroad after the season. Before we get too far down the rabbit hole on this, let’s look at all 10 of the homegrowns on the Union’s roster.
- Paxten Aaronson
- Brandan Craig
- Jack De Vries – on loan with Venezia
- Matt Freese
- Nathan Harriel
- Jack McGlynn
- Matt Real
- Anton Sorrenson
- Quinn Sullivan
- Cole Turner
Of this group, Craig, Freese, Harriel, Real, Sorrenson, and Turner look to be good depth pieces for the Union this season. De Vries is in Italy still balling with Venezia’s second team and starting to get looks with the first team. This leaves, Aaronson, McGlynn, and Sullivan. This group of three will have the opportunity to gain the most from an uptick in minutes played in 2022.
Could they be the next group of homegrowns to give Philly success and then a profit with a big sale, or will there be a regression for them in year two?
Could there be a regression?
Let’s start by looking at if there could be a regression from these players in year two with the first team. Paxten Aaronson, Jack McGlynn, and Quinn Sullivan all played over 530 minutes, each played at least 14 games, and in total tallied five goals and two assists between them. This equates to being good substitute options, or starters when called upon due to injury or international duty. In 2022, could we see these three teenagers who gained the trust of Jim Curtin falls off?
I’d have to expect the answer to that question is no. They will most definitely get more minutes in 2022, as they are seen as the “next ones to make it big” by the club and the fanbase alike.
Aaronson is already being scouted by teams in the Bundesliga and looks ready to either be a goal-scoring super sub or push for the starting number 10 job.
McGlynn is being touted as one of, if not the best passer the Union have. He’s also apparently has a very good soccer IQ to see things others won’t. We could very much be seeing more of him in the middle of the field should he keep this up.
Sullivan can play as a second-striker, attacking midfielder, and a number eight. His versatility makes him an easy choice as one of the subs called upon in any match. Will he be able to be the difference and make more of his versatility?
With all this being said, the answer to this question remains to be seen, but these aren’t the only players who have the potential to take a huge step forward in 2022.
Will any homegrown make a huge leap in 2022?
Obviously, we all see that Aaronson, McGlynn, and Sullivan have the highest ceiling. If they do well, earn a major uptick in minutes, and the team is one of the best in MLS, big foreign clubs will come to take flyers on them and might even try to purchase them. This is the plan the Union wants to unfold. However, could other players possibly play their way into making a huge leap forward as well this season?
I’d keep an eye on players like Matt Real, Nathan Harriel, and Brandan Craig. These three homegrown defenders have all impressed in preseason so far and could be called upon in unlikely ways.
Real is the heir-appernt to Kai Wagenr. If the Union’s starting left back does leave Philly in the summer, then it will be Real’s job to come in and keep the Union at their high level.
Harriel came in and played in the Union’s eastern conference final in 2021 when the team was decimated by Covid. He has started both preseason games and looked decent, could he push for the starting role this year?
Craig is another hyrid player who can play defensive midfield and centerback. It seems as though he has progressed enough to be the fourth center back on the Unions roster. Should he be called upon, he has impressed the coaching staff enough to do the job that is needed!
The Union are poised for another good season where they’ll contend in MLS. Their homegrowns will be a part of that, but we’ll have to wait and see as to what part they will play!
Be sure to come back to Philly Sports Network for more Philadelphia Union and other soccer content!
Follow our Union team on Twitter:
Doop on Union fans!
Mandatory Credit: PHILADELPHIA UNION, ANDREW ZWARYCH