CAROUSEL AT CENTERBACK SLOT?
|(Courtesy Philadelphia Union)|
The Union have one centerback they counted on, another who's turned heads of late, and a third they inked within the international transfer window. If you're doing the math, that's three players for two spots in the starting 11.
When Bakary Soumare, pictured, is healthy (and every indication – including Soumare's – lends itself to a two-week timetable), his place in the Union's formation could threaten the starting spots of Carlos Valdes and Amobi Okugo. Valdes, the club's captain, has been a staple on the backline since the start of the 2011 season. Okugo, meanwhile, is a natural midfielder who has been thrust into the centerback spot since the May trade of Danny Califf to Chivas USA.
So where does that leave the Union? If you ask interim manager John Hackworth, he's not prepared to make a decision any time soon.
“We have (had that discussion),” Hackworth said. “I think we’ll be a little bit conservative with him. One (reason) is we’re playing really well right now. Amobi Okugo is turning out to be a fantastic centerback. His consistency alone, I mean, Baki’s got a tough job.
“I told Baki he’s got to come in here and beat out Carlos Valdes and Amobi Okugo for a job right now. That’s a big challenge, but when I look down at this sheet and I’ve got nine games in 27 days, there are opportunities to spread those minutes around. And we’re going to have to. Guys are going to take a little knock here or there. … We need to rely on our depth.”
That part is true – the Union play their third of nine games in a 27-day stretch Saturday at Houston. At some point, the Union will have to count on reserves to get consistent minutes in critical matches, including MLS play and U.S. Open Cup competition. Chances are there will be plenty of minutes to go around.
But it still begs the question, 'Who's job is it to lose?'
"It's good to have competition,” Okugo said. “I'm here trying to keep my spot, so I welcome the challenge.”