At halftime of Monday night’s Temple men’s soccer match against the University of Pennsylvania, I had the honor and privilege to interview young standout Philadelphia Union defender Nate Harriel live on WHIP Radio, along with my colleague and friend Owen Boyle. Nate was such a class act and he provided some wonderful insight into the Union’s success this season, what it felt like to score his first career MLS goal, and playing in front of the support of the Sons of Ben both at home and on the road.
Harriel first spoke about how dominant Andre Blake has been this season and what it feels like having that security blanket behind him on the back line. In 30 games played this season, Blake has posted 13 clean sheets, recorded 94 saves, and currently holds an 81.7 save percentage, all of these numbers being career-bests.
“With him in the back, you feel so confident because Dre’s the best goalie in the league, easily the best goalie on this side of the world too in North America and South America,” Harriel said. “Just having him is great, the save he had against Red Bull, I have no idea how he saved it but he’s just a different man.”
Nate then spoke about the experience of scoring his first career goal in a 4-1 victory over Atlanta United FC, and how Andre Blake had always told him that he was going to come down and celebrate with him when he scored his first professional goal.
“I really don’t even remember if I’m going to be honest, just a pure joy moment scoring on that end,” said Harriel. “And then you had Jack McGlynn and Paxten in the game as well too so on that play it was all three of us working together for that one. It was just a great feeling scoring at home in front of great fans, the Sons of Ben’s they’re special, they’re not like anyone else so just scoring on that end was the best feeling ever.”
The Union fans and supporters have been out in full forces this season whether the matches are at Subaru Park in Chester or against the Red Bulls in New York. Nate spoke about the fans’ unwavering support that they have shown the team all season long.
“It’s amazing, all of our away games feel like home games now,” Harriel said. “But just having their support with us throughout the whole entire year has been great. Even this whole entire city now getting behind us, we need that support going into the end of the season and the playoffs.”
The 21-year-old showed some poise and maturity when answering my question about the team’s hopes of winning their second Supporters Shield in Union franchise history as he shifted his attention to the current task at hand, which is to finish first place in the East.
“The Supporters Shield would be great to win but we know that at the end of the day we just need to do our job and that’s winning out these last few games at home and away,” Harriel said. “We just control what we can control and that’s becoming first in the East, clinching a playoff spot, and then making everything run through Subaru Park.”
The Oldsmar, Florida native concluded his thoughts by speaking about what the team needs to focus on in hopes of ultimately winning the MLS Cup trophy this season.
“Right now we’re firing on all cylinders, Dániel [Gazdag], Mikael [Uhre], Julián [Carranza], Andre’s playing amazing, everyone’s playing great,” Harriel said. “We just need to keep the consistency and when we get that first goal, make sure we get the second goal and just stay safe in the back.”
In Harriel’s final answer about potentially bringing a championship home to Philadelphia, he stated, “this city deserves it.” Nate Harriel hit the nail on the head with that statement, and for now, Union fans will hope that the young defender can continue to make a name for himself in the city of Brotherly Love while assisting the team towards their ultimate goal.