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Thursday, February 1, 2018

The topsy-turvy 10: Where the search for the Union's biggest roster need stands

Jim Curtin: Looking out for a new No. 10?
Union manager Jim Curtin sounded definitive on several points Thursday in a conference call from the Union’s training base in Clearwater, Fla. The only issue was that those points seemed to be moderately in opposition to each other, befitting the bumpy process of roster building.

Here’s Curtin’s response to two questions regarding the No. 10 position, which has long been tabbed as an area to upgrade. The first was a query about whether the praise that Curtin has lavished on Anthony Fontana at all changes the priorities in the transfer market:
No. We’re still actively looking but at the same time we know that we have some young guys that are capable. This offseason has shown just by the actions of it that there is more of a commitment to youth. Our roster is significantly younger. I think that is also seen on the field in terms of the intensity of training, the amount of ground guys are covering. The No. 10 position specifically, we’re happy with the work Ilsinho has done there with Adam Najem and also Anthony Fontana. Fontana can play the 10, can also play the 8 and has gotten some reps at both. These games will tell us a lot. It hasn’t changed. We haven’t stopped searching, that is not the case at all. Every team right now is looking to make little tweaks and upgrades, but we know in the back of our mind we do have capable guys there. We are going to lean heavily on playing young guys this season.
Later, a question was posed as to whether Curtin’s preference is to have said reinforcement in sooner rather than later, and the response included more equivocating:
I’m confident in the group that we have right now. I think the addition of David Accam makes us different. I think some guys have another year under their belt. Obviously the quicker you can get the entire group together is better, but we know that this isn’t our final roster quite yet. We still have some flexibility in terms of some roster spots. We still have the ability to sign a young player or two to the supplemental side of the roster. We’re not the complete group that you’re going to see quite yet on March 3. Whether it happens this window or next window, it still remains to be seen. But at the same time, we like our group that we have, the training sessions have been good. We’ll get our first test against Red Bull to see what it looks like.
OK, I hate to be the guy who dissects this within an inch of its life, reading between the lines. But this isn’t a normal situation. The lack of a No. 10 was the defining struggle of the Union’s 2017 failures. It has been highlighted since last fall as the issue. And to not add a playmaker in the offseason will not only be a missed opportunity after the astute acquisition of David Accam, but will leave the club open to all manner of anger from a fan base starved of success and excitement.

So here’s how I read the tea leaves:

- The Union will bring in new players. Curtin said elsewhere Thursday that they’ll have a couple of names in training to be released Friday, young players they’ve tracked but no household names. I don’t know that another Homegrown is on the horizon, but the roster has room for young players to stash.
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