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A Philadelphia Union blog hosted by Christopher A. Vito and Matthew De George

Friday, February 5, 2016

Doing the math: How close is the Union to a full roster?

A move like Thursday’s capture of Dutch midfielder Roland Alberg has been long anticipated, and one could argue that it’s the biggest non-draft acquisition of the Philadelphia Union’s offseason. (Or at least that’s the hope provided by Alberg’s potential contributions.)

The Union stand on the eve of their first preseason game with a roster occupying both ends of the spectrum. On the one side, it stands at 21 players, theoretically nowhere near the MLS-permitted maximum of 28 players. On the other, Sporting Director Earnie Stewart has made it no secret that the objective “(is) not to fill every spot,” but rather to build a stable and sturdy lineup according to the Union’s perceptions, not external expectations.

The guiding mythos of that search seems to be Stewart’s declaration of being two-deep at every position. By that lens, how far are the Union from a completed squad? In basic math, they’re at least one player shy, plus the unavoidable need for a third goalkeeper.

But otherwise, the offseason rebuild may not be far from completion. Consider these two formations, in the assumption of a 4-3-3 (left to right):

Ayuk-Herbers-Le Toux
Extra: Restrepo
Listed above are 22 players, all but one of whom (Taylor Washington) has a deal for the 2016 season. There’s only one bona fide question mark among the first two teams, that being a fourth center back on the depth charter. They drafted Mitch Lurie in the third round of the draft, and he’s one candidate for a cheap, American fix. That player, Lurie or not, would presumably by player No. 23 on the roster.

The second XI indicates a weakness in the lack of a reserve No. 8. Theoretically, Tranquillo Barnetta could play there with Alberg or Leo Fernandes as a No. 10. The defensive responsibilities of that position are probably a little beyond Fernandes. That’s an area to look at for player No. 24.

Another forward option could be player No. 25, as I can’t imagine the idea of entering the season with Fabian Herbers as the only reserve center forward being the ideal situation. And a third goalie, obviously beyond those first two XIs, would seem to be the priority for slot No. 26.

Limiting the roster there would allow the Union the flexibility it desires to bring up players from Bethlehem Steel if they prove worthy. It also provides room for summer dealings if Stewart’s observations of his assets in game action fall short of predictions and he opts for replacements.

For this window, then, the Union’s dealings could be near an end.

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