CHESTER, Pa. — Jack de Vries spent the last few weeks going over a few options to further his soccer career before signing a Homegrown Player deal for the 2020 season with the Philadelphia Union.
The 17-year-old holds a Dutch passport, which led to interest from PSV Eindhoven in the Netherlands and FC Copenhagen in Denmark. De Vries was also looking at going the college route by way of scholarship at the University of Virginia.
After going through the vetting process, de Vries opted to stay with the Union, a club whose academy he spent the last four years playing for.
“It’s been a pretty busy couple weeks because I’ve had some other options,” de Vries said on Wednesday. “Obviously, Uva and then I had some other options in Europe, which were also great options. At the end of the day, it came down to where I was going to be happy and where I think I could excel the most and that was here just because of the support system I have around me and the people that believe in me. I just feel like they really want to see me excel.”
“It’s always a factor when the market is demanding somebody, then you have to react in an appropriate way,” Union sporting director Ernst Tanner said. “And our goal is basically to fetch our players that have been developed so far and continue developing them. That’s what happens with Jack now. We are absolutely happy and grateful for the family that he decided in our way.”
De Vries, who has a U.S. U-17 call-up on his resume, believes he will benefit most from the player development model the Union have as well as the trust from the coaching and technical staffs.
“I know I have the belief from (sporting director) Ernst (Tanner), (technical director) Chris (Albright) and (head coach) Jim (Curtin) and then also I’ve been here for a long time so I know what to expect and I know the people believe in me. I’ve literally dreamed about playing for the first team since I moved here. It was easy just because of the support system and the fact that I could excel here.”
The Union’s ability to give Homegrown Players minutes right off the bat, like what happened with Brenden Aaronson at the start of the 2019 campaign, also drew de Vries to inking a deal with the Eastern Conference side.
“That was a big thing for me to sign Homegrown because I see Brenden and he signed at this time last year,” de Vries said. “I just look up to him and it gives me hope that maybe I could do that.”
De Vries carved out his love for the game during time as a child in Belgium, where he was associated with Anderlecht.
“It was different than the U.S. It’s a much bigger soccer country,” de Vries said. “It really made me think that I could actually make it in this sport. I saw players like (Romelu) Lukaku, who was 17 at the time, and he was on the first team and it made my dream a lot bigger to become a professional soccer player. It really changed my mindset from playing soccer for fun. It’s still fun, but it turned into a job then.”
After moving back to the country of his birth, a connection between De Vries’ father, Raimo, and his former Wake Forest teammate Chris Brewer, who was the Union’s U-14 academy coach at the time, led him to the Union.
“My dad had a teammate that he played with in college that gave me the opportunity to trial for the team,” De Vries said. “I went there, I liked it and I really saw myself coming here.”
“I had a couple options before moving to Philadelphia,” De Vries said. “I moved here with my family because of the Philadelphia Union and my sister because there’s a good field hockey team here. My dad had a job opening here. It was a good option for us.”
De Vries is a left-footed player who can play up top, or in different sections of midfield, a trait the coaching staff values in young players.
“I see a very versatile player in him,” Tanner said. “We can use him as a midfielder, as well as an attacker. We can use him wide or centrally, it doesn’t matter. That’s also our job and probably his as well to find out his best position.”
“You don’t find it that often, that you have left-footers here,” Tanner said. “In particular, not when they are technically well. He really was doing a physical step in addition over the last season. I think it’s time now that he really gets competition and playing against real men.”