NPSL Alum Michael Sheridan Impresses with Philadelphia Union II

By Matt Ralph/NPSL.com

When Michael Sheridan was struggling to find playing time in goal on his high school team, the closest he ever thought he’d get to the field at Subaru Park seven miles down the road was in the stands as a fan cheering for his hometown team.

But thanks to perseverance, hard work, and a local NPSL club that gave him valuable game minutes and exposure, the 22-year-old was on that very pitch making his professional debut in goal for Philadelphia Union II last month.

“I’ve been coming to the stadium since it opened,” Sheridan said in a recent interview after training. “The best part was really the Doop song when we scored.  The amount of times I’ve been in the stands for that and to be experiencing it as a player was just awesome.” 

Sheridan’s journey to the Philadelphia Union organization is unorthodox but not completely unprecedented coming out of the West Chester United organization.  He’s the third goalkeeper to play with the team and turn pro and the third player to sign with Philadelphia Union II after spending time with West Chester United. 

Like current New York Red Bulls goalkeeper and West Chester United alum AJ Marcucci before him, Sheridan took a route through NCAA Division III soccer in the Northeast.  His arrival at Saint Joseph’s College in Maine, however, was even less heralded. 

“I started at St. Joe’s Maine on the reserve team; I wasn’t even training with the first team,” Sheridan said. “I had to pay for my own training gear so to go from that to all of the perks here has just been great.” 

Sheridan did work his way up to the first team and in 2022 had a standout year, making 19 starts and earning conference Goalkeeper of the Year honors.  Rejoining West Chester United in the summer of 2023, he was part of a team that won the Hank Steinbrecher national championship in Arizona in June and helped lead the NPSL squad to within a win of hosting the national final. 

“Playing high stakes games with West Chester really helped me a lot,” Sheridan said. “I’ve never really been in big games like that before and I didn’t have a ton of college experience so just being there with so many talented players and playing against really strong teams in the postseason was great.” 

Sheridan’s unlikely journey to the pro game really has as much to do with the work he’s done off the field as he has on it.  Rather than return to Maine for another year of eligibility he transferred to Villanova for the fall season and spent as much time training and pushing himself off the field as he did getting minutes with just three appearances on the campaign. 

“He was always getting better and visibly you could tell that he was getting better when he’d come back to West Chester United in the summer and during college breaks,” West Chester United head coach Blaise Santangelo said. “I know he was really working on his craft.  Even when he wasn’t training with his school, he was working on his craft and would hit balls 1000s of times against the wall.”

For Sheridan the work he’s put in improving his game even when he wasn’t playing has been natural outgrowth of his passion for the sport.

“I never really honestly thought I was working that hard,” he said. “I always felt like there was more I could be doing but it was always about consistency and everyday just getting touches and just being ready for any opportunities that might come my way, which worked out really well.” 

Like former West Chester United teammate Kyle Tucker, who is captaining the Union II squad this season, Sheridan is older than a lot of his teammates and didn’t go through the Union’s academy setup.  Still, he has a different level of lived experience to offer and isn’t above learning from his younger teammates.  Goalkeeper Andrew Rick, an 18-year-old who was on the bench for the first team in Nashville on Saturday, is a top prospect in the organization.

“He’s been here so long, he’s had the coaching and he knows what the club wants, so I’m learning a lot from watching him,” Sheridan said. “And he’s a great kid.” 

That willingness to learn and soak up the coaching being offered is one of the reasons the Union II staff were drawn to Sheridan.  While MLS Next Pro is young and focused on developing players through the academy system, the Union have shown the value in also mining local talent and finding late bloomers who still have room to grow within a professional environment.

“He’s earned the opportunity to not only be with us and get a contract, but also to get a selection on that match day,” Union II head coach Marlon LeBlanc said. “It was obviously a great moment for him too.  I think he probably had about 50 percent of the crowd himself the way the introductions went.”

Sheridan didn’t wait long to return to his former club.  Within days of signing his pro contract he took the field during the pregame ceremony with Tucker and first team striker Chris Donovan prior to West Chester United’s U.S. Open Cup game against professional side Maryland Bobcats FC.

Maryland won the match – played at YSC Sports near King of Prussia – but the attendance of three professional players in the stands who otherwise would’ve been playing for West Chester was a clear message of how Santangelo sees his program. 

“We have this platform here where guys who still want to play at a high level and kids who are trying to get to that dream come together to compete,” Santangelo said. “It’s a good mix.  It’s almost like salt water and fresh water coming together and it works.” 

His initial plan was to stick around for grad school since he still had his “COVID-19 year” of eligibility but after impressing with West Chester United, he came home to finish his college career at Villanova University.  From there he took the opportunity to spend time with Union II initially as a training keeper but he showed the staff he could be much more than just a guest with the team.

“It just all came together, Santangelo said. “He started rising to the top and dominating the amateur game and became someone we could count on,” Santangelo said. “And he’s done the same thing with the Union.  In a short period of time, he went from where he was to where he is now, it’s just really impressive.”

 

Photo Credit: Don Robson and Matt Ralph

 

Other Articles

U.S. Open Cup