Peterson was a late addition to Liverpool’s traveling squad for its visit to Boston and 2014 U.S. Tour. Peterson’s standout performances in Liverpool’s first two preseason games — against Brondby on July 16 and Preston North End on July 20 — compelled manager Brendan Rodgers to add him to the Reds’ road show a few hours before it left for Boston.
“It was really hard to understand what was going on,” Peterson said after practice Thursday at Harvard when asked about that whirlwind weekend. “I was very pleased and honored to go on the plane to America. In this business, you don’t have time to enjoy too much, so I need to keep focus and work hard, but I was really pleased and couldn’t stop smiling.”
Peterson played the last 30 minutes of Liverpool’s 1-0 loss to AS Roma on Wednesday night at Fenway Park. Two minutes after entering the game, he unbalanced Roma’s defense with a powerful dribble and cross, which a defender repelled with a vital clearance. Peterson remained impactful, serving as a point of attack and useful outlet for under-pressure teammates for the rest of the game.
Peterson’s overall display belied his youth and inexperience with the first team. Yet the opportunity to play at Fenway also surprised the Swedish winger.
“I wasn’t expecting that. I was just hoping for the best,” he said. “To get 30 minutes against a team like Roma was a great experience. Unfortunately, the result reduced my happiness a bit, but it was a great experience for a young guy like me. What you want is to start a game like that in the future.”
It’s a far cry from where he was 12 months ago. Peterson started last season on Liverpool’s U-21 squad without much fanfare, but a month-long loan spell at League One (English third division) club Tranmere Rovers last December changed his outlook, improved his form and altered the trajectory of his nascent career.
“I came back a different person and player,” Peterson said. “It really motivated me to take my (professional) lifestyle to a different level and work even harder. I came back stronger and fitter to Liverpool’s U-21 team and started scoring more goals.”
Having had the chance to travel and practice with the first team, Peterson is more determined than ever to earn more first-team playing time in both exhibition and competitive games.
“The aim has always been to try to get into the first team, and now it’s even closer,” Peterson said. “So it motivates you to take your lifestyle to another level and be ready to impress the manager day in and day out and be ready when your chance comes.”
While Peterson is staying grounded for now, the example of Swedish soccer’s most beloved son, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, reminds him to dream big and pursue it every day.
“I don’t think people understand how big he is in Sweden,” Peterson said. “He’s the king, basically. He’s the motivation for us young players that you can make it big if you have the talent and put in the work. He’s something special.”