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

Monday, January 30, 2017

Under the bubble: Union training notes

Oguchi Onyewu has gone from just training
to signed by the Union in one week.
The Philadelphia Union ship out to Florida Tuesday for some long-awaited preseason work in the sun, but before that, the club squeezed out one more chilly training session at Penn’s bubble at Dunning-Cohen Field.

The group was thinner today, with Bethlehem Steel’s preseason starting, so not much to see in training. But a few highlights from post-practice availability:

- The big news was the signing of Oguchi Onyewu to a one-year deal, the 34-year-old American central defender finally landing with an MLS club. He’s been out of contract since the end of the 2014-15 season with Charlton Athletic in England, and he impressed sufficiently in a week of training (not even a trial) to warrant a deal. Here’s manager Jim Curtin’s thoughts:
“It started as just an idea to keep him going in terms of seeing where he was at training wise and almost as just to keep his fitness and maintain it, and it kind of evolved into seeing very fast that he still has a lot more to give to the game. Still a decent age for a center back, 34, ton of experience, a guy who has done it at the highest level in Europe, with our national team. He can sprinkle down some wisdom to our young corps of center backs. The message was, yes that’s part of why he’s being brought here, to help and mentor and coach on the field, but also we want him to push to be a starter. Sat down with him with Earnie (Stewart) a couple of times now and it kind of started and has kind of evolved into us not wanting to let him continue on anywhere else. We locked him up pretty quickly, happy with where it is and now he’ll join the group down in Florida.”
Onyewu was back in D.C. today and not training with the club, but he will meet them in Florida. More reaction in the paper Tuesday.

- Also absent Monday were the Union’s other two big offseason signings, but with positive caveats. Jay Simpson’s visa has been cleared, and the English striker will meet the Union in Florida. Giliano Wijnaldum is with the club but remained in Chester to undergo a physical. The Union had hoped to have him train Monday (had the session been at the Power Training Complex, he might have).

- Back at training was Keegan Rosenberry, who spent two-plus weeks with the U.S. National Team camp but was released last Friday, not making the gameday roster for Sunday’s friendly with Serbia. Rosenberry admitted disappointment at that but also saw the positives of his training stint. “It was a good experience,” the right back said. “I was happy to be out there. Very honored to get the call and to be a part of it. Obviously disappointed not to be involved in the friendlies, but I think they’re in an interesting situation going into March with the friendlies. I just use it as motivation going forward.”

- Curtin said that both of the Union players to play against Serbia, Alejandro Bedoya and Chris Pontius, turned in solid shifts. Bedoya started and was replaced in the second half by Pontius, who came inches from firing in the game-winner in his international debut.

- Your daily trialist update brings good news on Adam Najem and Fafa Picault. Curtin:

“Picault is in a good situation right now, positive. And Najem has come in each and every training session and done well on the ball. He’s confidence and his goal-scoring record is strong. We’ll have hopefully some final news coming up hopefully in the next couple of days on those guys, but guys who seem they can really contribute.”
- Another rookie impressing is Santi Moar. The Spanish attacking mid picked in the fourth round of the SuperDraft has a deal with Bethlehem Steel in place, per Curtin: “Santi Moar, who has already been signed with Bethlehem, is also a guy that has caught our eye enough that he’s also going to come to Florida with us.”

- Also on the trip to Florida will be Union Academy standout Anthony Fontana, an attacking midfielder. He’s been one of the few Academy products regularly training with the Union this preseason. (Justin McMaster and Mark McKenzie would’ve, Curtin said, if not for callups to the U.S. Under-18 camp). Curtin: “Anthony Fontana has been out here and he doesn’t just look like he belongs, but he’s leaving a mark on every training session and doing well.”

- Curtin offered a little clarity on the goalkeeping situation. The Union have only two under contract, and John McCarthy has been limited by a shoulder problem. Curtin’s preference is four goalies in camp, so they’ll have to balance McCarthy’s issues with Andre Blake’s callup to the Jamaican national team in the coming weeks. Several academy keepers, including U-18 Jahmali White and U-16 Tomas Romero, are slated to travel to Florida while the Union hope to cycle in college or out-of-contract keepers in Florida on a training basis. Curtin threw cold water on the possibility of an Academy goalie, like – or Harvard-bound Matt Freese or University of Michigan freshman Andrew Verdi, being the third guy under contract right away.

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