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

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The sophomore slump: On Keegan Rosenberry and a draft class in limbo

It's been nearly four months since Keegan Rosenberry, seen here in
the U.S. Open Cup fifth round at Red Bull Arena, has found his way
into a starting lineup for an MLS game with the Union. (DFM/Mikey Reeves)
Of the first 3,690 possible minutes in Keegan Rosenberry’s MLS career, the defender played 3,684.

In the Union’s last 16 MLS games, a span of 1,440 possible minutes, Rosenberry has played 56, all the while healthy as a horse and rotting on the bench.

That stat seems unthinkable for a player who so impressed last year that he became an MLS All-Star, Rookie of the Year runner-up and earned a call to a U.S. national team camp. But a year on, Rosenberry finds himself the subject of an incomprehensible stat: The native of Ronks hasn’t started an MLS game since April 14.

So how exactly did a player that was the apple of manager Jim Curtin’s eye come to such a pass? And when will he pull out of this spiral?

“It’s earned in training each and every day,” Curtin said Wednesday at his weekly press conference when asked what Rosenberry would have to do to play again. “I had a good talk with him today, keeping him posted and improve on in training. Defensively, different ideas of staying right off the outside (shoulder) of your center back. Keegan’s going to be a big part of the future of this club. I know he’s frustrated. He wants to get on the field where he can help the group. And that’s something that he’s working to improve each and every day. But again, it’s earned in training, and it’s earned in the 90 minutes. He’ll have another opportunity at some point. When that point comes, he’ll be called upon to be ready.”

That non-answer treads very close to the John Hackworth era “he has to play to be fit, and has to be fit to play” circularity. And it speaks to a frightening correction for a player who exceeded his anticipated talent ceiling last year and has plummeted through his talent floor this year.

Cracks formed in Rosenberry’s game late last year. An accomplished one-on-one defender early, teams started to figure out how to attack him, isolating him and forcing tough decisions on him by exploiting seams of space left by the positional awareness of what was, to be fair, a 22-year-old rookie. He contributed to and was dragged down by a collective malaise to end last season by conceding 17 goals in a nine-game winless streak, playoff cameo included. His gifts were obvious, but so too were flaws, including a youthful tendency to play out sequences instead of ending them early with a swift kick out of bounds.

So this year, when the Union tumbled and Curtin sought to stanch defensive bleeding, Rosenberry made sense as a temporary change. Ray Gaddis has stepped in and played capably, the defense has stabilized and Curtin hasn’t wanted to mess with a good thing that, for the Union’s lowly table placement, is the fourth stingiest defense in the East.
So that leaves Rosenberry out in the cold, unable to fight his way back in. And even after Gaddis had one of his weaker showings last week in a 3-0 loss in New England, Curtin’s answer evinces a lukewarm reaction to Rosenberry’s potential reintegration.

“He still is a great player, still will be a great player for the club, and had a little bit of a dip early in the season and a change was made,” Curtin said. “That happens in almost every player’s career. … I think you learn from that.”

There was talk early in the season, on both the right and the left, about the possibility of altering backline emphasis for home and away, contrasting Gaddis’ defensive solidity to Rosenberry’s attacking instincts. (Oddly, it seems Rosenberry’s attacking sensibilities might be more valuable on the road, where the Union have had greater difficulty generating chances.)

Indeed, the more worrying tend is purgatory the Union’s 2016 rookie class finds itself in. Last year, the trio of Rosenberry, Josh Yaro and Fabian Herbers accounted for 5,340 minutes in MLS, a Union franchise record and the second-highest in MLS over the last decade for a SuperDraft class. Around an adductor strain and an ongoing rehab from sports hernia surgery, Herbers has made just four starts and played 395 minutes. Yaro’s preseason shoulder injury has limited him to one start.

Together, that trio has played 1,128 minutes. If not a step back, it’s certainly a missed chance at a step forward, and their fringe status and injuries have precluded them getting time at Bethlehem Steel.

“Still three guys that the club believes in a great deal,” Curtin said. “Really bright futures, I believe. They’re still working on things.”

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Anonymous SilverRey said...

Curtin is absolutely killing Rosenberry's career. I put this squarely on Jim's inability to grow Keegan, and in the beginning of the year, not putting Keegan in a position to succeed. Keegan was failing early in the season because the back 6 players were an unmitigated mess of unorganization - i.e. bad coaching.

August 3, 2017 at 1:53 PM 

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