When Jack Elliott drove into celebration towards the end of the 2022 MLS Cup Finals, you must have thought he had won his first title with the Philadelphia Union.
It was the 123rd minute of a heated match against LAFC, and union usually wins when centre-back Elliot scores. So when he shoved the ball into the empty net, almost everyone in the nearly stunned Bank of California Stadium (now BMO Stadium) thought Elliot had made a dramatic conclusion.
The stadium was mostly silent, but 1,000 Union fans hid in the corners of the ground. LAFC earned the right to play the Finals at Patch as they have the best regular season record in the league, but Elliott’s close-range poke stunned the home crowd. “It just popped out a few yards and was an open goal,” says Elliott. athletic“When I’m in that situation, I try not to make a fool of myself and focus on cleaning it up. But from there, it just faded away.”
Six minutes later, after extra time with one minute remaining in injury time, Gareth Bale repeatedly of A talisman throughout his career, he outdid Elliott, leveling the game at 3-3 and taking it to a penalty shootout. It turned out to be the last club goal of his career, as Union, who had been left deflated by his punches, missed all three of his kicks and the trophy went to his LAFC. Given.
“It’s a difficult compromise,” says Elliott. “It will be on my mind, but you have to learn from things like that and make sure things like that don’t happen again.
Q&A: Philadelphia Union’s Jim Curtin about his time in Philadelphia, USMNT, etc.
“We have a lot of competitions to try to win this year,” says Elliott. “We all have the same perception and enjoy coming to training every day. It’s a good changing room and a good culture. It’s important to me to play and how successful I’ve been in the last two years.”
Last season the Union allowed only 26 goals. This is his MLS record in a 34-game campaign. This included 15 clean sheets, a club record (lasting from 12 in each of the previous two seasons), all with Elliott in the backline.
But for all records there was no silverware. As Elliot says, “I will go again.”
Elliot may be flying under the radar, which seems odd given the 198cm frame.
Born in Surrey, just south of London, he didn’t spend his early years in a professional academy (despite a year at Fulham at 12 and then at Crystal Palace). Instead, he was playing school football, a Sunday league with his brother’s team, and a five-a-side in the local Power League. He was tiny and tiny when he was a kid, and he says that, believe it or not now, it actually helped him grow up.
“[At Fulham]I wasn’t physically or physically strong enough. Over the course of a year, I learned a few things, like how to play against opponents who are bigger and stronger than me, but now it helps,” he said. increase. “The summer when I was 15, I had one leg, so it was a shock when I came back from vacation and everyone was like, ‘What happened?! I’m a pretty technical player, smaller than everyone else, so I had to find a way where I could really imprint my authority on the game in a way that didn’t physically bully people.”
By the age of 17, Elliott may have thought his dream of making it in professional football was over. I was enjoying my level and preparing to study geography in college.
He played Walton Casuals at Old Wilsons in the quarter-finals of the Surrey Premier Cup. They lost in overtime, but Elliott impressed not just in that game, but throughout the cup run. His teammate, Dan Stratford, was a coach at West Virginia University, with Marlon LeBlanc (now head coach of the Philadelphia Union II), whom Stratford invited to the game after the game to watch Elliot. The Defenders were approached about joining their scholarship program.
Elliot didn’t think twice.
In the summer of 2013, a heat wave hit Morgantown in the mountains of West Virginia. Elliott had just begun his university experience, and the draining temperatures were a far cry from the leafy suburbs of London he was used to.
“I was looking for a plane ticket back home!” he laughs. A grueling workout in 35°C (95F) heat—“the bane of my life”—was his brutal introduction to his freshman year, but they should come to him. prepared me for it.
After three years and 68 games with the Mountaineers, he qualified to join the MLS Combine in 2016. After his intense week of sprints, jumps, agility tests and showcases his matches, Elliott was selected as his 77th overall pick by the Philadelphia Union. 2017 MLS Super Draft.
“I didn’t go[to America]expecting to be a pro, but as I graduated from college I thought I was doing well and got the chance to go to the Combine which is a showcase for all MLS. Club During my final season, it started to become what I see as a real possibility.
But the journey wasn’t over. “If you get drafted, you have a glorious trial at that club,” he said. “Some people get a deal right away, but most of the time they come pick you up, see what you have, and they might offer you a deal from there.”
Elliott was drafted alongside defender Aaron Jones, who spent ten years at Ipswich Town. He currently plays for Kings his Lintown in the sixth tier of English football. However, Elliott has his sights set on further heights, and at the end of his first campaign with Union Ouston, now on loan from Arsenal to his second-tier Birmingham City after building a good partnership with his trustees. , was nominated for MLS Rookie of the Year.
“I don’t know where he is and everything he does is so clean you can hardly get close to him. I almost spun towards goal and I have to beat him at the halfway line in under 30 minutes.” But it was cool to start my career that way and it gave me confidence that I could handle whatever was thrown at me.”
Elliott has spoken out about marking David Villa in his MLS debut against New York City FC in 2017. It’s one of many high-profile stars Elliott has faced in recent years and reflects the growth of the league.
The other is Zlatan Ibrahimovic (LA Galaxy). He “didn’t say much on the pitch” but it was clear that he “dominated the roost”. Elliott adds: If he hugs you, you have no chance of getting around him. ’ So did DC United’s Wayne Rooney. The former England captain returned to his ninth-place finish and paired well with Luciano Acosta (now Cincinnati). “Everything Rooney does is clean, and if the ball hits him, he doesn’t lose it,” Elliot says. “But again, an incredible player and if you give him time or space, he will punish you.”
And Bale said, “When you go into extra time and see him warming up (like in the MLS Cup final), you won’t be overjoyed! But he’s incredible. He was as good as ever and he showed it at the World Cup.” But the best player he has faced? Joseph Martinez (Inter Miami, ex-Atlanta United). He’s a very good finisher who can run away from behind or come forward and beat them. He is a difficult person to deal with. ”
His experience with these elite-level players has helped him cement his position as one of the best center backs in MLS to lead the Union defense today. Curtin is entering his 10th season as Union boss, and Elliot credits that continuity as being a big factor in the Union’s recent success. , he holds players accountable by “letting them play” and giving them responsibility.
“We have quite a few players who have been around for years and have systems that suit us,” he says. “That’s what leads me to being there with the best defense and the best offense almost every year.
“Our way of playing really suits the players we have. There is a lot of pressure and if we win we move forward as quickly as possible. is sometimes looked down upon, but it helps us win games.
“It may be an oversimplification, but we have 11 players and they are good with the ball. If you don’t have players who can’t do it, you can’t press for 90 minutes every game, especially during the summer.
Elliott has personal ambitions as well as fighting over the Union and silverware. He was born in England, his parents are Scottish and does not hesitate when asked about his international ambitions.
“Scotland is a dream place for me,” he says. “I was raised that way, so[getting the cap]is great. I hope so, but I’ll keep working and see how it goes.”
(Photo above: Omar Vega/Getty Images)