This will be a night that Zach Pfeffer will never forget. Not only did the 16-year-old junior at Upper Dublin High make his first Major League Soccer start and appearance for the Union, but the midfielder more than held his own.
Pfeffer had played in reserve league games and friendlies, but here he was thrown in the middle of a playoff race against a first place team.
The fact that the Union beat the visiting Columbus Crew, 1-0, might earn Pfeffer some additional minutes.
He was lifted in the 63rd minute for Danny Mwanga. Both Pfeffer and the Unio realized that it was a successful debut.
“This was a big step for him, but it was a fully deserved step,” said Union team manager Peter Nowak.
What is interesting is how much was at stake The Union, despite entering the game 0-3-5 in their previous eight contests, are very much alive in the playoff race.
Columbus entered the evening in first place in the Eastern Conference and now own a two-point lead on the Union (9-7-12, 39 points).
Actually Pfeffer had double reasons to be a little nervous.
“It was not only my first appearance but my first start,” he said.
Yet Pfeffer didn’t seem overwhelmed by the moment, just eminently grateful.
“I was so excited and I thank the coaching staff for putting trust in me,” Pfeffer said.
Don’t think that the winless streak didn’t weigh on Nowak and the team. Going with Pfeffer may have been a way to shake things up.
“This win is good for the group after a difficult two months,” Nowak said.
The Union have six games left and things are so tight they can end up first in the Eastern Conference or out of the playoffs, where 10 of the 18 MLS teams qualify.
Every game means so much, and Nowak showed true confidence in going with Pfeffer.
And in return Pfeffer rewarded his team manager’s confidence and quite possibly earned some future minutes as the Union continues its playoff run.