Two's company, 26 is a roster ... or so it appears for Union
And with that, I present the 2016 Philadelphia Union…
OK, maybe there’s no need for that level of drama. But in practice, this roster is essentially finished for the winter window, it would seem. The Union avowed in the offseason not to make hefty changes to the roster. Sporting Director Earnie Stewart has made it clear that the aim is not to fill every spot just to fill them. Jim Curtin has said – and other MLS clubs operating “II” USL franchises have illustrated – that a spot or two of roster flexibility is preferable to accommodate high achievers in the minors (which the Union have preemptively done with Tribbett).
This is not to say that the Union will absolutely, 100 percent enter the FC Dallas game March with this exact roster. The conclusion of camps often brings a flurry of trades and transactions as positional battles are settled, players are deemed expendable, strengths and weaknesses are weighed and injury subtractions are compensated for. If a low-cost, MLS-experienced, American forward were to become available, then maybe the Union could be enticed into an addition. (Please, no Amobi Okugo questions here.)
But barring that possibility, the Union’s roster stands at a healthy, albeit midfield-heavy, 26 players:
Goalies (3): Andre Blake, Matt Jones, John McCarthy
Defenders (8): Fabinho, Anderson, Ray Gaddis, Richie Marquez, Keegan Rosenberry, Ken Tribbett, Taylor Washington, Joshua Yaro
Midfielders (13): Roland Alberg, Eric Ayuk, Tranquillo Barnetta, Brian Carroll, Warren Creavalle, Maurice Edu, Leo Fernandes, Ilsinho, Sebastien Le Toux, Cole Missimo, Vincent Nogueira, Chris Pontius, Walter Restrepo
Forwards (2): Fabian Herbers, CJ Sapong
On the face of it, there’s a fair amount of balance. The goalkeeping situation has been ironed out. The eight-strong defensive contingent involves four center backs, two right backs and two left backs, with Ray Gaddis and Anderson Conceicao adding left-back flexibility, plus Warren Creavalle. The search to be two-deep at every position is taken literally for the center-forward pairing.
In the midfield, there are four players that can play at either the No. 6, No. 8 or No. 10 positions. One area of redundancy is the wings of the 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 or whatever we’re calling it. Normally, that would be fertile grounds for a swap for a forward. But considering that the Union 1) just added Chris Pontius, Walter Restrepo and Ilsinho; 2) wrangled for the return of Leo Fernandes; 3) rightly see Sebastien Le Toux as the backup center forward; and 4) view Eric Ayuk's age and talent as an asset for the future on the field and for his sell-on value, a trade for a short-term forward stopgap seems unlikely.