Philadelphia Union II

The rise of Cole Turner

Photo: Marjorie Elzey

At only 18 years old, Cole Turner has progressed perfectly through the organization’s and Ernst Tanner’s youth model.

A homegrown Academy midfielder/defender who played for the Steel and is now on a signed contract with the Union, Turner is exactly what the organization wants to produce. In fact, Turner could be the next “play your kids” homegrown poster child. Of course, that would depend on him, considering that the Union’s back line could be tough for Turner to get into with Kai Wagner, Jack Elliott, Mark McKenzie, Ray Gaddis,  Aurelien Collin, Jakob Glesnes, Olivier Mbaizo, and Matt Real vying for playing time.

However, Union coach Jim Curtin has nothing but good things to say about the young defender this preseason.

This year, Turner has gotten minutes in every one of the Union’s preseason matches. The loss to Atlanta was a rough learning experience, but Curtin summed it up as a trial by fire basically, stating that his younger players would continue to get experience during preseason.

“The only way that young players learn are in games and Cole Turner and Jack de Vries both agreed that they had not experienced something quite like that in terms of the speed of play,” Curtin said. “Until you go through it, you won’t know what its like so that was their first time going through something like that and I think they’ll be better against Chicago because of it.”

So, how did Turner get to be competing for a spot in the Union’s lineup? Credit his development to the then Bethlehem Steel, now Union II. Last year, Turner had quite the season as one of the Steel’s starting defenders. Originally Brendan Burke had Turner playing in defensive midfield, but quickly moved him to centerback, where Turner did well. It was a transition for Turner, who had always been a midfielder in the Academy (and is still listed as a midfielder on the Union’s roster now), but it seemed to be the best fit as he began to grow into the position.

After his year with Bethlehem, Turner announced he would by playing for the Naval Academy. Soon after, Turner deferred because he signed his pre-contract with the Union. When he spoke about his decision to go skip college and go straight to the MLS, he said it was a dream come true to be able to play for the Union, something he had been working towards his entire life. Turner isn’t the first to go straight to the pros, and the Union organization can only help in his development.

One of the best things about Turner seems to be his ability to adapt. He’s also got the height, the building strength and attacking defender style going for him. Turner is aggressive, like Kai Wagner, always trying to push the play up, to win the free balls, to attack. This is what set Turner apart, and what makes him so appealing to Curtin and Tanner. All that Cole Turner needs is some time, time to develop in the position and time to get some professional experience.

Turner will face heavy competition for a spot in the Union’s back line this season, but the young homegrown has the talent to compete, it’s just up to him.

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