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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

From Portland to Toronto: Union training notes

Union manager Jim Curtin lauded new signing Kevin Kratz, center,
for his intelligence and versatility in midfield. (AP)
Sandwiched between a loss in Portland and a daunting trip to Toronto, Jim Curtin addressed plenty of odds and ends Wednesday in his weekly press conference. Here are some highlights:

- Two injury absences from training: Tranquillo Barnetta has some swelling after a knee-to-knee collision with Fanendo Adi last week. He’s getting a scan and sat out the Wednesday morning session, but Curtin said, “I don’t expect him to miss the weekend.” Josh Yaro is underdoing concussion protocols after sustaining a head injury in Portland. With Yaro suspended after “wrongly getting sent off” in Portland, there’s less immediacy to him passing that battery of tests.

- CJ Sapong, as has been written, hasn’t supplied many goals or shots in recent weeks, which seems too narrow a scope on which to criticize for Curtin. Despite Sapong’s lack of tangible statistical contributions, Curtin remains high on the things Sapong does to make those around him better, and it doesn’t sound like rest or a chance for Charlie Davies to start is in the offing. Curtin on Sapong:
“He brings a lot of things to our team. Again, it’s a little deceptive, one shot on target. I guess if you take that as a snapshot and you don’t really look any deeper, he still has created chances. … The margins in our league are very small. He’s still a forward that I very much believe in, a guy that brings a lot of intangibles to every game. He’s a big part of our success and one that we know will get going and get goals. Even if he doesn’t get goals, he’s going contribute and make everyone else’s job easier around him. Still very much a believer in CJ and what he’s about.”
- Given the choice of sitting Sapong or morphing the formation to a 4-4-2 to accommodate minutes for Davies, Curtin seems to favor neither. “We don’t want to get too drastic now,” he said. “We’ve gone through 30 games with one system. We don’t want all of a sudden to completely change. Is it something that you could see if we’re down a goal and chasing a game? I think you could see a second striker in there. … We’re still a 4-2-3-1 team.”

- At field level, the Talen Energy surface is being resodded after last week’s concert. Only the final third in the River End, where the main stage for the Rock Allegiance concert, appears to be getting the facelift.

- Maurice Edu, who played 59 minutes with Bethlehem Steel last week and has logged 181 minutes in three games with the Union affiliate, is in the conversation to make the trip to Toronto. But with Yaro suspended, Ken Tribbett will likely get the start in central defense with Edu available to deputize only in an emergency and his minutes much more likely to materialize in midfield. Curtin on the center back possibility: “He’s done that in an emergency situation. It’s crossed my mind. I’d like him to play in the six role. That’s the ideal role we’ve had for him. … It’s something he could do in a pinch, not ideally where we want to play him. But in an emergency situation, Mo would be a guy that I think has done that job and can do that job.”

- On the Kevin Kratz signing from last week, Curtin mentioned nagging injuries to Brian Carroll (foot) and Warren Creavalle (knee) and uncertainty over Edu as impetus to add the German as cover (both Carroll and Creavalle trained fully Wednesday and made the 18 in Portland). The 29-year-old trained with the Union last week and is not available this week as he sorts out his visa, but he’s a low-risk option at the No. 6, 8 or 10 if injuries swamp the Union. Curtin:

“Kevin’s a guy who, you see his quality in training, he can pass, good range of passing, good attacking, good defensively and an intelligent player. Good fit, good piece and I’m glad to have him on board officially. … He’s more of a thinker. He’s intelligent. He’s not a guy who’s 6-foot-4 and a bruiser and a tackler, he kind of does it by reading the game. Good feet, comfortable on the ball and again that decision making is what we like the best with him.”

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