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

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Change could be a good thing on long trip to Seattle

The trip to Seattle might present a chance for the Union
to rest midfielder Brian Carroll, left, though manager Jim Curtin
has plenty of options to try. (AP)
Game 6 of the Philadelphia Union’s season presents the fourth road trip, so Jim Curtin isn’t a stranger to the demands of the road with this group.

But the confluence of factors in Seattle – a cross-country flight, a 10 p.m. Eastern start time, the turf at CenturyLink Field on which the Union will also train Friday – makes it unique among the Union’s away dates this year. It’s one of only two trips to the Western time zone in 2016 (Portland being the other).

But the circumstances Saturday mean that the Union’s squad depth will be tested in a way it hasn’t this season. Or, put another way, the Union can flex their tactical depth to change things up.

“We actually have options to juggle things and rest,” Curtin said Wednesday, a statement so simple yet so rare in the Union’s history. And two training sessions from Saturday’s game with the Sounders, the Union’s options are plentiful and obvious.

First, there’s the return of Warren Creavalle from last week’s red-card suspension. Creavalle has impressed in training, and with Brian Carroll earning praise from Curtin and Vincent Nogueira as seemingly the first-choice No. 8, Curtin has decisions to make. Add in the choice between Roland Alberg and Tranquillo Barnetta at the No. 10, and the possibility of one shuttling out to the wing, and you have the “good problems” that Curtin often references.

Here’s Curtin on the situation:
“Warren comes off of playing some very good games. Had the unfortunate red card vs. Chicago, which is difficult. He’s learned from it. He’s hard on himself about it. His play in training has been excellent. Again, good problems to have. Is there a rotation? Is it with the distance, the travel, the turf, is it a game where you’re smart with BC, who’s put in a heck of a great five games? We actually have options to juggle things and rest. I’m not a guy, as you guys know, I like consistency of lineup. I think it’s important. But if you’ve learned something in your first year as a head coach, to use all 28 guys is critical. To have that rotation is important, and it might not seem like that now, but as you get into August and September, the minutes start to wear and is it an option where it’s Warren and Vince? Is it BC and Warren?”

The two injury questions this week concern Ilsinho and Ken Tribbett. The latter’s ankle knock doesn’t seem severe enough to preclude his trip to Seattle, and even if it were, Anderson is the ready-made replacement.

The Ilsinho situation has more moving pieces. In last Friday’s win over Orlando, Curtin brought on Fabian Herbers late, using him up top and moving CJ Sapong to the wing. Sebastien Le Toux is the obvious choice out wide, given his defensive responsibility, but options exist. Curtin again:
“Fabian’s great. We just had individual player meetings, and Earnie (Stewart) and I have gone through with each player individually, a couple a day. We went through Fabian’s and he dropped the hint, too, that ‘I can play wide, too, coach.’ He just wants to be on the field. He’s a good soccer player. He could play wide left. He could play wide right. I like his movement as the No. 9. It’s a little different type of player, different look than CJ gives. CJ’s the big, strong guy who will fight for everything and hold balls. Fabian does it in a different way where he draws fouls and has a way of moving his body that manipulates defenders. Both have a tremendous skill set. Both are good attacking options.”

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