Two injuries, two questions remain for Union's first starting lineup
Perhaps it’s coincidence that that number equals the amount of practice absences this week – midfielders Maurice Edu and Tranquillo Barnetta. Edu (stress reaction in leg) has yet to train with the club and has been in and out of a walking boot in recent weeks. While Curtin stopped at doubtful in his assessment, it’s almost assured the midfielder won’t play.
Barnetta received an injection in his knee, which was surgically repaired during his stint in Germany, and didn’t train with the team Tuesday or Wednesday. Curtin said that the Union, “(will) monitor that and be smart.” That seems to peg Barnetta as doubtful for the opening week with no need to rush him back.
Without those two, what does a Union lineup look like? Try this one:
Bench: McCarthy, Anderson, Creavalle, Carroll, Ilsinho, Restrepo, Herbers
Curtin’s two battles are likely for the starting center back spot alongside Richie Marquez and the composition of central midfield. He’s said that Vincent Nogueira has played as a No. 6 in preseason, and with Edu’s absence open-ended, Nogueira may see significant time there. Brian Carroll could get the nod if the Union want to go defense-first with Nogueira as the No. 8 bumping Roland Alberg, but omitting Carroll would signal that the Union want to play differently, not reverting to the caution of the past.
As for defense, Anderson has made strides, but Ken Tribbett has been one of the “revelations” of preseason and is further along in familiarity and fitness. Through Tribbett, Curtin can send the message that players who train well will be selected. The same goes for Leo Fernandes, who scored twice in training Wednesday and has impressed in preseason. He’s the logical replacement for Barnetta.
There’s no question about CJ Sapong up top. Fernandes would be an option to supplant Chris Pontius or Sebastien Le Toux on a wing was he not needed centrally, or if either of those two faltered this preseason, which they haven’t. And we don’t even need to talk about goalies, for once.
One understated aspect of the positional debate is the captaincy void. Barnetta and Edu are the last two players to wear the captain’s armband, and while Curtin lauded each for their contributions behind the scenes, someone has to lead the team out in Dallas. The need for veteran presence could shift the Nogueira/Carroll discussion in the latter’s favor. Or if could fall to a new captain – Le Toux or Ray Gaddis, perhaps – to earn that honor.