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    A 2023 breakdown with Union II midfielder Christopher Olney

    Larry Henry Jr Avatar
    December 10, 2023

    Christopher Olney is one of several Philadelphia Union prospects to keep an eye on for 2024, and rightfully so.

    The 16-year-old enjoyed a successful debut MLS NEXT Pro campaign in 2023, scoring four goals and registering eight assists in 23 appearances. After excelling for Marlon LeBlanc’s squad this past season, Olney signed a second-team contract ahead of 2024.

    After the past and current developments of Brenden Aaronson, Mark McKenzie, and Jack McGlynn Olney is just one of many young Union players who fans should monitor for many years to come.

    ALL PHLY caught up with the Union midfielder to discuss his 2023 season as a whole, his long-term aspirations and more:

    LHJ: “Hey Chris, thank you for your time! What were your overall thoughts of 2023?”

    Olney: “Yeah, 2023 was really good for me and for the team. Our campaign was pretty successful. We were one of, if not, the youngest team in the league, and we made the playoffs for the second year in a row. For me as an individual, I think that being with Union II this whole year has been really good for me in terms of getting used to playing against adults. It’s been a really good challenge and I thought that I’ve dealt with it pretty well this year.”

    LHJ: “Can you talk about the scenarios that MLS NEXT Pro provides for young players week-in and week-out?”

    Olney: “Especially with our team it was a different team each weekend. Some weekends it would be just the young guys, but some others would have a few first-team guys drop down. I think being able to have that balance, to be able to play with those experienced players and play against experienced players was really good for my development.

    “Playing with younger guys too was great because we all have a really good connection and we all get along super well. Being able to hang out with guys that you train with and go to school with is really important and it was nice to be able to do that this season.”

    LHJ: “Is there anyone in particular that you spend time with the most outside of school and training/games?”

    Olney: “I’d say probably David Vazquez. I go to school with David and we both play side by side on the field. I feel like me and him get along really. He’s like my brother and it was really cool to see him score at the FIFA U-17 World Cup. I was really proud of him and congratulated him after he scored. Can’t wait to get back playing with him in January.”

    LHJ: “Does the Union’s model of providing early opportunities to young players have you excited for what’s to come in your career?

    Olney: “Yeah, it’s exciting because the goal for me someday is to get to Europe and play in big-time games like a lot of the former Union players (Brenden Aaronson, Mark McKenzie) are doing now. It’s really cool to see those guys who worked hard in the academy and are now achieving their dreams abroad and for the national team. I’m really excited for the challenge, to be able to compete and play in that sort of environment.”

    LHJ: “Union II were able to play English side Wrexham AFC in a friendly this past summer. What was that experience like for a young player like yourself?”

    Olney: “The experience was amazing. Walking out of the tunnel and seeing the stadium packed with fans supporting us and them was awesome. To play a team of seasoned professionals like Wrexham was an experience that I will never forget. You have a lot of guys who have worked hard to get to where they are at. Ben Foster, the goalkeeper, has a lot of experience from the English Premier League and not many players my age can say they’ve played against someone like that. Unfortunately it kinda sucked that the weather caused a lengthy delay, but I was glad we were able to play 90 minutes against them.”

    Photo Credit – Philadelphia Union

    LHJ: “What has your relationship been like with Marlon LeBlanc?”

    Olney: “My relationship with Marlon has been positive all year. He has shown a lot of trust in me and has continued to do so even if I have made mistakes. If I have a bad game, he doesn’t yell at me or anything, he tries to talk it out with me on how I can improve and bounce-back from it. He is always quick to give feedback and for a young player, that is a lot of what you want in a coach. He has helped me grow a lot as a player in 2023.”

    LHJ: “How pleasing was it to sign an MLS NEXT Pro contract for 2024?”

    Olney: “It was extremely rewarding for me and my family because my goal since I was probably four or five years old was to become a professional and it’s honestly a dream come true. To be able to have another year with these guys and another year with this franchise is something that I want. I’m very excited to have another year with these guys and to try and go win next season. I think the more experiences I have with Union II, the better my chances are to get to the first team.”

    LHJ: “Are there any pro players that you like to watch film on to try and learn from for your game?”

    Olney: “Even though I am a Manchester United fan, I have always loved watching Kevin De Bruyne from Manchester City. His vision and moving off the ball is so impressive. He has been my role model since I started playing. As for the Union side of things, Jack McGlynn is a guy I love watching play. He is so calm with the ball and creates a lot of opportunities for himself and his teammates. I think those two guys are who I try and watch the most.”

    LHJ: “Can you talk about your experiences to date with the U.S. youth national teams?”

    Olney: “I’ve attended three domestic camps since the last Under-17 cycle started. I kind of felt that my performances throughout the season warranted an opportunity to try and go to the U-17 World Cup, but unfortunately I wasn’t on the final roster. I’ll continue with my development through and try and work hard to be in the next U-20 cycle since that starts in January. Obviously I want to be able to represent my country, whether it’s just in a regular camp, or if it’s at a tournament or anything like that. I aspire to represent my country.”

    LHJ: “We still have a few months until the 2024 MLS NEXT Pro season begins. What have you been working on this fall?”

    Olney: “My trainers have sent me a workout plan and a running plan so that way I can stay in good physical shape over the offseason. Now that I am getting older, I want to get stronger and more fit. In addition to that, every day I just work more on the ball and doing individual workouts with my private trainer. I am trying to constantly stay sharp over the offseason. During the Christmas period I’m definitely going to take a week off so that way I can just let my body kind of decompress.”

    LHJ: “What are your goals for 2024? Can you see this team continuing the hard work that was put in over the last two seasons?”

    Olney: “Yeah, I do. I think there definitely will be a lot of moving pieces whether it’s with the first team or the second team and guys also going off to college. We have a lot of good players here that will want to show what they can do as well. I think that our mentality and our goals as a team will definitely stay the same. I think that the demands are always going to be high. Just because we’re losing guys, we’re not going to let up our standards. We obviously want to challenge ourselves and put our best foot forward to go win games and succeed as a team.”

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