While there aren’t many new faces in training camp for the Philadelphia Union their first week back before they head to Florida, the one newcomer to the group is an intriguing addition.
Like Julian Carranza last year — who came in a bit under the radar after a couple frustrating seasons in Inter Miami — Andrés Perea is a player with a high upside who didn’t fully reach his potential during his time with Orlando City.
“He’s a U.S. international quality player,” head coach Jim Curtin told reporters on Monday about his newest player. “He wasn’t getting a ton of minutes consistently with Orlando and we saw a real talent that has a lot of the characteristics we’d like in a midfielder.”
Curtin hinted that the 22-year-old may get a look for the upcoming U.S. men’s national team camp. The Tampa, Florida-born Colombian-American has one U.S. cap he picked up when he came on at halftime in a friendly against Trinidad and Tobago last January. He represented Colombia at the U17 and U20 levels before filing a switch to the U.S.
“We are going to play 55 games this year; we have to use a deep midfield,” Curtin added. “I really like where our midfield is at and that group will push each other for minutes.”
A ball-winner with an ability to score a goal from time to time from distance — the Union has been his favorite opponent to score on — Perea is expected to be an option both as one of the wide midfielders or the holding midfielder in the diamond formation.
“I need to work a lot to be in the squad,” Perea said earlier this week. “But I hope I can play two or three positions here. I’m just trying to fit into the system and we’re going to see what the coach has for me.”
The weather training outside this week isn’t quite what Perea has been used to in preseason in Florida but that hasn’t stopped him from already impressing in a group that has looked the part of a team that barely took any time off after the MLS Cup final.
Perea said he’s had a warm welcome from his new teammates and looks forward to playing with fellow Colombian-American Alejandro Bedoya. The 35-year-old Bedoya hasn’t been known for taking many days off in his seven seasons with the team but even he acknowledges the schedule — which will include Concacaf Champions League, the U.S. Open Cup and a new month-long Leagues Cup competition with Liga MX — will require rotation.
“He brings versatility and he’s got a shot from distance as we know first hand,” Bedoya said. “He’s a Parcero, another Colombian guy on the team so it’s nice talking a bit and getting to know each other. I think he’s going to bring a lot to this group on and off the field.”
Perea was part of an Orlando City team that lifted the U.S. Open Cup trophy last year — Perea scored the winner to knock the Union out in the Round of 32 — but he’s also well aware just how close the Union came to winning the league’s biggest prize.
With most of the team back training this week (something that still could change) the expectations have never been higher.
“I’m really excited to be part of this team,” he said. “I’m just trying to go in and play and be ready for the opportunity and hopefully we can win a lot of games and make it to the final again.”