Taking it Day by Day; a conversation with Union Homegrown Nate Harriel

Nate Harriel isn’t too high or too low on himself, he’s taking it day by day. The 20-year-old right-back impressed coach Jim Curtin in the preseason and won the starting job just one week into the 2022 regular season. The Union won both games since Harriel secured the starting spot. Harriel sat down with Philly Sports Network to have a conversation about his rise to a starting role.

Day by Day
MONTREAL, QC – MARCH 05: Look on Philadelphia Union defender Nathan Harriel (26) during the Philadelphia Union versus the CF Montreal game on March 05, 2022, at Montreal Olympic Stadium in Montreal, QC (Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire)

Taking it Day by Day

Speaking with Nate it is clear to see that he understands this opportunity is not set in stone. When asked if he expected this opportunity to come his way this early in the season, he responded “maybe not this early.” To which, Harriel elaborated that it’s all about taking things day by day. He feels that his hard work is being rewarded and that it feels rewarding to get the opportunity.

What Make’s Nate Tick?

“I like being on an Island”

– Nate Harriel on his style of play

If you’re a Union fan who has yet to see Harriel play in his handful of games, you might not know what makes Nate tick on the field. When asked about his style of play, and what a good game looks like to him, Nate gave some great insight into how he sees the game. First and foremost he spoke to winning his 1v1 duels. This has been evident in Harriel’s recent play as he’s won 14 of 25 ground duels and 9 of 11 aerial duels in the last two matches.

He is very much focused on the defensive side of the game, and likes to be on an island to shut down the opposition; “1v1, best man wins,” said Nate. Harriel also mentioned that the most important thing is doing his job the best he can, so far it’s looking like he’s doing just that.

Of the opportunity awarded to Nate, he said that there’s “Nothing better than playing in front of our crowd.” When asked about how he’s managing this new role, the answer was simply, just playing and relying on the guys around him.

Learning from the Vets

“They (the veterans) always try to keep you humble. They don’t wnat you getting too cocky. When you get too cocky you get complacent.”

-Nate Harriel on the impact veteran Union players have made on him

The guys around Nate are capable players, but one that seems to be very important is captain Alejandro Bedoya. Harriel and Bedoya have created quite the partnership over the last two matches. Harriel credited Bedoya with helping him understand when to move forward, and stay back in recent games. Essentially, Nate stated that the captain is helping him get in all the right spots. It’s leading to wins on the field.

When thinking of other players who have helped him grow, Harriel spoke to Ilsinho’s efforts last season. He said that the ever-smiling Brazillian would help both he and the other young players with their confidence most of all. Nate continued and mentioned that Ray Gaddis helped him get acclimated to first-team training two years ago when Harriel was a Union II player before he signed his first-team contract.

The Union’s ethos is to bring up young players, and it seems that the veterans in place are a real force in helping Harriel and the other homegrowns feel welcome and confident to reach their full potential.

The next big Union Homegrown?

It’s impossible to predict the future. I’ve had Mark (McKenzie) talk to me, he just said take it day by day.

-Nate Harriel on possibly being the next Philadelphia Union homegrown star

Nate Harriel is the next Union homegrown to have locked a starting spot down in his second season. This is a similar path that Brenden Aaronson and Mark McKenzie took in 2020 that saw them get big moves to European Clubs. When asked if he could be the next big Union homegrown transfer, Nate’s answer was a mature one.

“It’s impossible to predict the future,” said Harriel. He said that Mark McKenzie was the one who told him to take it day by day. Harriel doubled down on this advice, as he said it’s so easy to give up your spot or have it taken. When it comes to team of the week accolades, or other headlines out there, Harriel said he’s not concerned with them. Rather he wants to focus on working hard to not lose his spot.

It’s clear that this homegrown’s mentality is a humble one focused on hard work. While it’s impossible to predict the future, Harriel sure seems to have the correct psyche and skill on the field to be great in MLS and wherever else the beautiful game takes him!

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Mandatory Credit: Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire