Cole Turner, a Churchville resident, is a professional soccer player. The 6-1, 169-pound, 19-year old, is a midfielder for the Philadelphia Union of Major League Soccer.
Turner, who has been playing competitive soccer since he was 6, is in his first full season with the MLS club, but has yet to see game action.
“It’s definitely challenging, but I’m just embracing the grind, day in and day out, just going in and putting in the work. So, hopefully one day I get my chance,” Turner said.
Turner’s soccer love started many years ago, a youth soccer team member of the Baltimore Celtics and Baltimore Bays at the ages of 6 and 7.
“When I was probably 9 or 10 they had a Union juniors program, which was like we practiced once or twice a month and I would go up there then and I did that up until I was 13,” Turner said. “I made the U14 academy when I was 13, still in middle school.”
Turner did his middle school learning in Havre de Grace.
High school, however, was not attended here in Harford County. Not even in this state for that matter.
As part of the Philadelphia Union’s academy, Turner was enrolled in the YSC Academy. The school in Wayne, Pa. was for all players who were part of the Union academy.
“During the week, we had team practices in the morning and afternoon and then on the weekends we played games in our league. Which was the development academy league,” Turner recalls. Teams in the league were from all over the East Coast.
Graduating in 2019, Turner spent last season with the Union’s second team. The second team plays in a professional league, just a league below the MLS.
“It’s a completely different level, but coming up through the academy definitely helped prepare me and my time with the second team,” Turner said. “I did well.”
It was that level of play that really set Turner up to be a member of the Union in MLS. “My contract was guaranteed to move up to the first team after they saw me developing,” Turner said.
So, what’s a pro soccer player’s schedule look like? “I still live at home, so I travel just about an hour every day to practice and we practice every morning up in Chester, Pa. We do whatever we need to do up there, whether or not it’s regeneration or whatever extra work we need to do. I come home after,” Turner said. “I get there at 8:30 a.m., practice is at 10.”
Turner says every day is different. Some days are longer than others depending on whether it’s a game the next day. Practices are roughly 90 minutes.
Turner is a paid professional and he was not drafted. “They have my so called rights, because I played with them for a certain number of years. They could just sign me right out of high school,” he said.
A signing that might not have occurred if it cam any later. “I was committed to the Naval Academy and about two weeks from going and signing my papers there and this all happened,” Turner said.
The Union season, like everything else, has been majorly interrupted by COVID-19 and the pandemic. The season started with two games, one in late February and the other in early March. The season picked back up in June with games restarting in July.
Of the 11, Turner has made the game day roster nearly half the time. “We have a certain number that travel, a certain number that are rostered for the games and then a certain number that can play,” he said. “I usually make the roster, but I haven’t played much. I haven’t played.”
Usually, players who make the roster for a game know the day before, especially for away games and it might be game day if it’s a home game.
Playing professionally has always been Turner’s goal. He says he’d like to play into his 30′s, but he does have a backup plan. Turner is taking online finance classes through Southern New Hampshire University, an affiliate of MLS. Turner says he’s about a year in with the classes.
Turner knows he’s fortunate to have been involved in the Union academy at a young age. He knows what it takes to get where he is. For those who may have this same dream, Turner said, “The work you do on your own, while nobody’s watching really sets you apart. It’s a lot closer than you think and you’ve got to be ready when it comes.”
As for COVID and its effects as its stands, Turner said, “On the field nothing’s changed, it’s kind of behind the scenes, that we have to wear masks in the building and a certain number of people are allowed in certain places in our facility. When we step on the field, it’s kind of all thrown away, because you can only play soccer one way.”