Interview with Philadelphia Union rookie defender Joshua Yaro
The #2 overall pick in the 2016 MLS Superdraft talks about adjusting to being a pro, the importance of academics, and about managing his money.
After an elite career at Georgetown, Josh Yaro was selected with the 2nd pick of the 2016 Superdraft by the Philadelphia Union. The Ghanaian defender has split his time between the first team and the club’s USL side, Bethlehem Steel FC, as he continues to impress with his development early in his rookie season. I was able to catch up with Yaro to see how his season is going, and let him share some lessons he learned from his family and at Georgetown.
Q: You had a 3.7 cumulative GPA at Georgetown, a school strong in academics. Who taught you the importance of education?
Yaro: Both of my parents used to be teachers, so coming from a family like that, it really motivated me to do good on my academics. It’s tough trying to be a student athlete, but the value on education instilled in me by my parents really set me up well for my time at Georgetown.
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Q: Some MLS scouts thought you were too small to play center back professionally, how are you able to succeed despite this perceived disadvantage?
Yaro: That’s their perception and everyone is entitled to think the way they want. I can’t say they are wrong or right, but it’s left to me to prove that I can play equally, if not better than, a 6’2” guy or an average, normal sized guy. I heard that a lot and I never took it to heart. I just said, I’m going to go out there, do what I do best, and prove everyone wrong. I just do what I am good at and try to improve every day.
Q: What has been the biggest adjustment, on or off the pitch, as a professional compared to college?
Yaro: The biggest adjustment is learning to take care of yourself, on and off the field. In college, I had a dining hall where I could get meals, and everything was served and all that. While here, I am on my own for some of the meals. What I eat and how I take care of my body is critical in staying healthy so I think that’s the biggest challenge, and filling your time with stuff to do when you’re not playing.
Q: How helpful is it to have your former college teammate and fellow rookie, Keegan Rosenberry, with you on the Union?
Yaro: It’s been awesome. I played with him three years in college, so I know a lot of the things he does well, and he knows a lot of the things I do well. That partnership we’ve developed the past few years is critical in understanding how he plays and how I play. The bond between us keeps getting stronger, which is the key to any good defense.
Q: Who has been your toughest mark so far as a professional?
Yaro: I think my toughest mark was probably making my debut in Seattle. In a situation against the Sounders, where it’s loud, they’re a good team, on the road, and it was my first time stepping in that environment, that was a tough assignment. But at the same time, I really enjoyed that moment.
Q: Do you think, someday, you’ll earn a spot with the Black Stars, the Ghanaian national team?
Yaro: Yeah. That’s a lot of players’ dream, to play for our national team. Now that I’m playing professionally, I think that’s definitely a possibility, and a possibility I’m looking forward to.
Q: What players on the Union have given you the best advice?
Yaro: A lot of guys have been helpful. Obviously some of the older guys, like BC (Brian Carroll) is always looking to help and he’s had a long, successful career, so he’s seen it all. He’s very helpful when things are not going well, encouraging me and giving me advice, helping me become a better pro.
Q: Did you make any flashy purchases after signing your rookie contract?
Yaro: No. That’s a good thing about having an education because you learn how to manage yourself and manage your money. So no, other than furniture that I had to get for my room because I didn’t have any from college.
If you look at the statistics, these athletes in most sports that make a lot of money, go bankrupt within 3 years of being done playing. I don’t want to be in that boat, where I don’t save any, so I just get what I really need and save some for life.
Q: Have any veterans made you, or the other first year guys, do any fun rookie stuff, like singing or carrying their bags?
Yaro: Singing, yes. I actually really enjoyed that. It was in the preseason, when you’re really getting to know the guys, and getting to do that in front of everyone and have a good time, that was fun. It was a good way to get a feel for how the team is. Besides that, we haven’t done anything too crazy.
Q: What are some songs you listen to before matches?
Yaro: I don’t have any specific songs, I usually just play an R&B station on Pandora or Spotify, just random.
Q: What’s your favorite Ghanaian food that’s hard to find in the United States?
Yaro: It’s called joloff rice. You can find it in the US, I went to a lot of Ghanaian restaurants in D.C., but I haven’t been able to find any in Philly yet. You can find it in the US, but there aren’t a lot of restaurants that have it.