MLS Closeup: Yaro return is timely for struggling Union

Last weekend was a significant step forward for Josh Yaro and the Philadephia Union.

Sidelined since preseason with a torn labrum in his right shoulder, Yaro made his 2017 debut as an injury replacement Saturday against New York City FC. In the 71st minute, he came on for Warren Creavalle and stepped into his regular place at centerback, with Jack Elliott shifting to defensive midfielder.

"It was a proud moment for me,” Yaro said to the team’s Web site. "I'd been working hard throughout my rehab and get back with the team. My 2017 debut was really nice."

Yaro, 22, played the final portion of the match, which Philly lost, 2-1, but his weekend wasn’t done. On Sunday he started and played 83 minutes in a USL match for Bethlehem Steel. During his stint against Ottawa he contributed two clearances and took one shot in a 1-1 tie.

“I needed those minutes,” Yaro said. “It gave me the assurance that I'm ready to go when I need to with the first team.”

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As a rookie last season, Yaro played 17 games (15 starts) without registering a goal or an assist. According to whoscored.com he averaged 2.5 interceptions per game and completed 85.6 percent of his passes. His absence has been felt.

“It's tough mentally,” Yaro said. “You come out and see the guys playing, and that's where you want to be, you want to play. But I knew what I needed to do to get back on the field, and with the help of the trainers and doctors and everyone around me, I was able to make the recovery.”

He rejoins a Philly team that is in ninth place and four points out of the playoff tier at 4-6-4 (14 points). “Looking forward to having a good season and helping the team get back into top form,” Yaro said. “It feels good to be back. It's been a long road for me. I'm finally excited I can contribute something to the team.”

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