Meet the new trialist: Chilean Santiago Dittborn
The 22-year-old spent the last four years on the books at Chilean club Universidad Catolica with two loan stints and has been capped six times by the Chilean national team. He’s on trial for the week with the Union. He seems to have impressed so far.
“He’s a player that came across that we had an interest in. Obviously a guy who has a very good left foot, young player still,” Curtin said around a digression that I’ll get to in a minute. “… Has impressed over the past few days. It’s three days so it’s still early, but he’s been impressive. His ability to make a final pass, and he can strike a ball with his left foot and score a good goal. Again, a young player though. It’s only three days so I won’t get ahead of myself, but he’s done well in the short time that he’s been here.”
Information about Dittborn is fairly limited, although there are a couple of highlight compilations out there worth a look if you can ignore the hideous soundtracks. He’s 22. He measures around 5-8. He’s a midfielder with some versatility – you’ll see him playing on the left wing in a 4-4-2 or centrally in a No. 8 role similar to what Vincent Nogueira would occupy if they Union went 4-4-2. He’s probably not a direct replacement for Cristian Maidana as a No. 10, even in MLS. He’s also extremely left-footed.
Dittborn has been at Universidad Catolica in his hometown of Santiago since he was a kid, ascending through their youth ranks. He rose to the senior team in 2011, which is when he started to get senior national team looks (including making the squad for this game with the U.S. in January 2011). He’s been loaned out twice to teams in the Primera Division in Chile – Cobreloa in 2013 and newly promoted San Marcos de Arica in 2014-15.
If there’s an issue with Dittborn, it’s that he hasn’t played much lately. He played somewhat regularly with Catolica, but based on a handful of outlets, it looks like he’s played fewer than 20 games since the start of 2013. His last goal appears to be with Catolica in May 2012, three years ago, a long drought for a supposedly attack-minded player.
Then again, he’s also capable of doing this off a dead ball.
Curtin alluded to a few mitigating factors. For one, the Union have to make the best offer to Dittborn, who is a free agent and will likely have other suitors. Curtin isn’t just determining if Dittborn is an MLS player but if the Union will use him. He reiterated Wednesday a common sentiment that the Union won’t use an international spot on a player unless he’s consistently in the starting XI. (That’s likely one of the reasons why they passed on Facundo Coria when he trialed in May.)
Curtin concurred that Dittborn fills an area of need in terms of depth, but the club is pursuing “upgrades across the board.”
“We have priorities all over the field,” Curtin said. “There’s always room to improve. To say that we just need one piece, I’d be lying. The league and the table doesn’t lie over the course of the games. We know that we need to get better. I’m happy with a lot of the guys and how they’ve performed, but if we’re not doing our homework and looking to upgrade and improve all over the field, then we’re not keeping up with the rest of the league.”
Curtin also offered a glimpse at the Union’s transfer strategy. He insinuated that Dittborn, if signed, will be one of the smaller moves, a prelude to bigger things.
“There will be some minor improvements to the roster and then there will be some bigger ones that we’ll look at,” Curtin said. “I’m confident in the guys that we currently have, but I’m not naïve to the fact that we constantly need to upgrade our roster, just like any team in our league. You’re always looking to upgrade, and there will be younger guys that will be signed and there will be some bigger guys that we’re looking at, as well. He would fall into the category of a good young player that was willing to come here on trial.”
Technical director Chris Albright said Tuesday that nothing big was imminent for the Union as the transfer window opened, but that is always subject to change. Wednesday’s revelation by MLS of the new “Targeted Allocation Money” also gives another arrow in the quiver.
Absolutely dire money situation for the Union right now— Kevin Kinkead (@KevinKCBS3) June 23, 2015
There are financial constraints, but finding a way to get Rais M’Bolhi’s massive contract out of town would open up significant funds to make additions, especially since Brian Sylvestre replaces him at a fraction of the cost.