The Philadelphia Union on Tuesday added an intriguing prospect to an already-young backline, signing Olivier Mbaizo, who will occupy an international roster spot.
Mbaizo, a 20-year-old native of Cameroon, signed with the club’s USL affiliate, Bethlehem Steel FC, ahead of the 2018 season. He’ll likely continue to see most of his minutes this season with the Steel, along with fellow Cameroonian Eric Ayuk.
“Olivier trained with the Union first team throughout our preseason, and it became clear that he has the potential to immediately contribute at the MLS level,” Union sporting director Earnie Stewart said in a statement. “He has earned this quick ascension to our first team through his play in preseason, and we look forward to further integrating him and assisting with his development.”
Before coming to the Steel in January, Mbaizo played in Cameroon for Union Douala and Rainbow FC, where he had four assists in 10 appearances last season. With Douala, he helped the club earn 12 shutouts in 34 games and also started two matches in the 2016 Confederations of African Football Champions League.
Internationally, Mbaizo recently earned a call-up to train with the Cameroonian senior national team after stints with their U-17 and U-20 squads. He started three matches and scored a goal in the 2017 Africa U-20 Cup of Nations.
The Union have focused a lot on defensive youth this season. In last Friday’s 2-0 loss to Orlando City SC, due to a couple of injuries, teenagers Auston Trusty, Matthew Real and Mark McKenzie all played together, along with 24-year-old Keegan Rosenberry.