Photo: Earl Gardner
Chase Harrison could have given up on pro soccer long ago.
It could have been after the 2006 season, when Real Salt Lake drafted him, loaned him out to a USL team that folded at season’s end, and then waived him before he appeared in a single match. (The club drafted Chris Seitz several weeks later.)
Or it could have been in 2010, when weeks-long stints with D.C. United and Columbus ended with him right back where he started, back in USL without a single MLS start.
It could even have been last fall, when Philadelphia Union signed and released Harrison before he appeared in a single game.
But Harrison never gave up.
On Saturday, after spending time with 10 different professional soccer teams, including two separate stints with the Harrisburg City Islanders, Harrison finally got his first start in American soccer’s top tier.
Harrison played so well that he’s PSP’s Philadelphia Player of the Week.
Playing behind a Philadelphia Union back line lacking in size, Harrison was aggressive in his box all game against Dallas, and he had to be. With Danny Califf traded to Chivas USA, the Union started a back line with just one player (legitimately) over 5-9. The Union faced mismatches on corner kicks all night when trying to mark center back George John and striker Blas Perez. FC Dallas took seven corners in the match, and Dallas made the Union pay for Peter Nowak’s makeshift back line in the 6th minute. John headed on a Bryan Leyva corner to Perez, who lost his marker, Keon Daniel, and put in a diving header for the first goal.
Harrison could have suffered a crisis of confidence there that opened the floodgates.
Instead, he manned up and offered his own aerial game, aggressively coming off his line in traffic for punches that some goalkeepers wouldn’t dare to attempt. Time after time, Harrison punched away the Dallas aerial threat, and it kept the Union in the match.
Eventually, it came to bite him, as it often does with keepers who play so aggressively. Around the 60th minute, Harrison went up in traffic and rolled his left ankle on the landing. The impact was such that he couldn’t take goal kicks. It wasn’t his only injury of the game either, as he smacked his head off the goal post on a separate play. But Harrison stayed in the game, despite an obvious limp, and preserved a much-needed substitute for the Union.
Harrison finished the game playing behind a back line consisting of three fullbacks and an attacking midfielder. Many are shaking their heads over what’s become of what was one of the league’s best defenses last year, but they’re giving just as much credit to Harrison for his performance behind it.
Harrison was the only guy even mentioned this week. Yep. Respect.