BRIAN SCIARETTA - Thursday, December 6, 2012
As he gets set for his loan to Hoffenheim in 2013, Philadelphia Union midfielder Zach Pfeffer is excited for the opportunity to head to Germany.
Pfeffer, 17, is currently in Germany adapting to his new surroundings and his loan will technically begin on January 7 which is the day after his 18th birthday. The loan will expire on December 31, 2013.
The plan is for him to begin playing with Hoffenheim's U-19 team but quickly move up to the U-23 team Regionalliga which is one level below the senior team. Pfeffer is excited for the opportunity to play regularly since the current MLS reserve league only offers around 10 games per season
"I'm looking forward to playing more competitive games and taking the next step in my development as a young professional," Pfeffer told YA on Wednesday. "I think I will start with the U19s to get comfortable with the culture and language and then hopefully move up to the U23s eventually if everything goes well. The level of play is very good at both age groups."
In 2010 Pfeffer became the first ever homegrown signing for the Philadelphia Union when he was just 15 years old. He has been seen as an important piece of their future but at the same time has only played in four first team league games along with various friendlies and exhibition matches.
The lack of playing time made this loan necessary for Pfeffer in his development. Off the field, the youngster is expecting challenges of homesickness and culture shock but he believes he is ready. He prepared to learn the German language and will be in frequent contact with the Union while there.
"I am expecting a much different lifestyle and culture," Pfeffer explained. "The challenges are moving half way across the world without my family and friends and also I will have to learn a new language. I will probably be in contact with the Union staff very often just letting them know how everything is going over at Hoffenheim."
Industry sources have confirmed to YA that Hoffenheim rate Pfeffer, a US U-18 international, highly and are interested on bringing him in for a full year. Due to FIFA rules, Hoffeneheim were never able make a push to sign Pfeffer permanently before he turned 18. They have, however, brought him over for two trianing in the past and this loan will be the third time that Pfeffer has been with the Bundesliga club.
Youth players at European clubs are generally an expense to their organization. The sole purpose of youth teams is to either groom players for the senior team or to develop players that can be sold. Hoffenheim's interest in taking Pfeffer on loan is for an extended look and should he impress in 2013, the club will be better prepared to make an offer for a transfer. There is no set option to buy on this loan and the Union has already exercised the club option for 2014 on Pfeffer's contract.
For Pfeffer, he is simply excited to return to Germany and rejoin the club since he enjoyed his previous experiences there.
"My previous experiences at Hoffenheim were fantastic," Pfeffer discussed. "I really enjoyed them and also performed really well. I'm very excited to join Hoffenheim on loan because the club is first class and has great facilities, coaches, and players."
As for his future beyond 2013, Pfeffer does not rule out making a permanent deal with Hoffenheim but he believes that should he return to the Union, he will be able to become a regular player with the first team.
"Playing in Europe is certainly a goal of mine," Pfeffer concluded. "I am going to go to Hoffenheim and do everything I can to improve and play very well and we will see what happens in the future. I definitely believe that I would be able to come back and be a regular with Philadelphia Union in 2014."