As the Philadelphia Union approach their home opener against the expansion Vancouver Whitecaps, the team is faced with a tough decision: who will, potentially, replace left midfielder Justin Mapp?
Mapp is the only Union player that remains on the injury list for the team heading into Saturday's game. The lefty is named on the list because of a left hamstring strain. Though the team began 2011's preseason with a congested midfield that carried over from 2010, there aren't many options remaining in that midfield today that could properly replace Mapp's presence on the field.
The aforementioned list of replacement players is long but at the same time short. Long because there are a lot of names in the outside of the midfield - Roger Torres, Gabriel Farfan, Michael Farfan, Levi Houapeu, Chris Agorsor, Keon Daniel, Kyle Nakazawa, Ryan Richter and Sebastien Le Toux - but short because only a few of them have the ability to play on the left side with any success.
Of that list, Torres is the only left footed player and Sebastien Le Toux is the only one who has the ability to change sides with respectable results. Houapeu was shifted to the left side, for the first time ever, during the MLS Combine in 2011 and it may have hurt his draft status (though it helped the Union land him in the third round of the SuperDraft). Gabriel Farfan is very much a right sided player, having spent time throughout his career at all three positions available on the right side (forward, midfield and defense). Michael Farfan is similarly a right sided player but has stated multiple times - including to this writer, at the SuperDraft - that he is willing and able to play on the left side of the midfield (and the center) as well.
Agorsor is more of a winger or striker than a midfielder, as he isn't the most defensive of players, nor is he known for his crossing. Daniel only recently signed with the team and only made it as a trial player. His ability to play on the outside in MLS is up in the air at this point as only his record with the Puerto Rico Islanders can be referenced (need I remind anyone of Cristian Arrieta, another former Islander). Nakazawa is competing for the right side slot and wasn't particularly impressive in Houston. Richter appears to be head coach Piotr Nowak's faux cover at right back and Le Toux is strongest on the right side of the attack.
That really leaves Torres as the only feasible option for Nowak. The young Colombian's creativity brings something that the team sorely lacked in Houston. Philly Soccer Page detailed this theory through the writing of Ryan Pine. Pine discusses his "fantasy ability" and why the young Torres adds flair to the Union that reminds Pine of what Xavi and Paul Scholes bring to FC Barcelona and Manchester United, respectively.
It can be pretty much expected that Nowak would turn to the one true option at left midfield... but then again, what can one every expect something out of Nowak?