Matt Polster has had a banner year in his rookie MLS season.
On Friday, the 22-year-old – nearly seven months on from inking his first professional contract with the Chicago Fire – was duly rewarded with his first invitation to the United States Under-23 men’s national team setup.
“When I got the email, I was pretty excited,” he said. “This is something I’ve wanted to do since I was young. Finally to get the call-up to go represent the country is something huge, and I’m pretty excited.”
Added head coach Frank Yallop: “Matt should be in the squad, he’s a very good, young player and I’m very happy for him. He’s had a great season so far. Good things happen to guys that play well, and he’s certainly that. He’ll do well for the U.S. for sure.”
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Through 26 regular season games, Polster – who’ll train with Andreas Herzog’s group in Manchester, England from Aug. 30 to Sept. 8 and could feature in friendlies against England on Sept. 3 and Qatar on Sept. 8 – has appeared in 25 with the Men in Red, started 23 and missed just one altogether through yellow card accumulation.
Plying his trade predominantly as a holding midfielder, the Southern Illinois-Edwardsville product has become a surprise package among Yallop's offseason acquisitions. Polster has prided his play on protecting the back four with his physicality, switching the point of attack with his vision and distributing and maintaining possession with his poise on the ball, facets that justifiably garnered deserved praise at the player combine and led to his seventh selection in the first round of the MLS SuperDraft in January.
The shift from the collegiate to professional level has certainly had its share of teaching moments arise since.
After cementing his place in the center of the midfield in 14 consecutive matches between early March and mid-June, Polster retreated to a center back role – a position he occupied for two years at SIUE – in a pair of U.S. Open Cup fixtures. The Milwaukee, Wis. native was then selected at right back in a three-match span in July, and most recently in the Fire’s last three consecutive games.
“I want to play center mid, that’s my favorite position,” he said. “Right now, for me, just getting on the field, getting minutes and working as hard as I can in any spot they need me is what I’m going to do.”
Growing pains? Sure. But for Polster, who’s posted six starts at right back, the transition is all part of his coming-of-age.
“In the Colorado game, we wanted to be high and wide as wide-backs," he added. "Against New York, I didn’t do that as much; I let Pat [Nyarko] do his thing. The up-and-down I didn’t do as much in the New York game because I thought that benefitted us a little more.
“Right back isn’t ideal, but I’ll work really hard, do the simple things and be as simple as possible in that position.”