It's not often that a Union player finds success on an international level. But, the Union's Zach Pfeffer is doing just that as Team USA prepares for the Under-20 World Cup, beginning on May 30.
In an international friendly against Croatia on Saturday, the 20-year-old midfielder assisted the match-winning strike by forward Romain Gall to give his team a 1-0 win.
“Any time you get called up to the national team, it’s a huge honor,” Pfeffer said. “It’s getting into crunch time leading to the World Cup."
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The call-up came at an interesting time for Pfeffer. Just two days after the call, he played in 78 minutes for the Union in a 2-1 loss to the New England Revolution. Pfeffer left for Austria to join Team USA immediately following the match. He has one goal on seven shots in six appearances for the Union this season..
"It's part of the profession and I enjoy it," said Pfeffer, on the back-and-forth from the Union and Team USA. "I always want to be here and help [the Union] first and foremost, but we've got the World Cup coming up in a month. This is the first time I'm in camp for the U-20's in a while so I'm excited to get back into the mix."
Pfeffer was the Union’s first homegrown player to sign with the team back on December 22, 2010 at the age of 15 years and 350 days. At the time, he was also the fourth youngest player ever to sign an MLS contract, behind Freddy Adu, Fued Ibrahim, and Diego Fagundez. Union manager Jim Curtin praised him earlier this season for his abilities on the offensive side of the ball.
“He’s always had the ability on the offensive side of the ball,” Curtin said. “He’s special in that regard. He can score a goal, he’s got that fast twitch, he’s got a quick first step – things you can’t really teach as a coach and you either have or you don’t. And he has those traits."
The Union only have a handful of players with international experience for Team USA. Maurice Edu, Conor Casey and Brian Carroll all registered appearances in their careers and Pfeffer is hoping to do the same.
Team USA has never won an U-20 World Cup before. Their best finish came in 1989 when they lost to Nigeria in overtime in the semifinal and Brazil in the third-place match to finish fourth.
Pfeffer hopes his assist in Saturday's match is enough for him to make the final roster, but he knows nothing is guaranteed. He'll be available for the Union's (1-5-3) match on Saturday against Toronto FC (2-4-0).
“I think as a soccer player it’s always good to be exposed to different styles of play and different cultures,” Pfeffer said. “You want to be as well-rounded of a player as you can be. I’m just trying to mix everything that I’ve learned from the German style of play with what I’ve learned growing up here in the U.S. and what I’m learning now playing in MLS.”
Saturday's match will air at 4 p.m. on 6abc.