Now I've seen everything already this season I never thought I'd see watching the Union ever. The midfield is playing amazing soccer, Danny Cruz and Keon Daniel aren't starting, and Aaron Wheeler is playing center back.
Aaron Wheeler is playing center back? Are you kidding me? Believe me I never thought I'd ever see a striker on the Union playing as defender in a league game again after the Le Toux as right back debacle. Then again this isn't completely out of the realm of possibilities given the fact the Union routinely draft forwards and try to convert them to defender. Aaron Wheeler, despite playing well up top during occasional appearances, was no exception to that routine.
The question is after replacing Austin Berry during Saturday's game against New England, does he belong in the back alongside Okugo?
The staff here at the Brotherly Game weighed in on this hot topic.
Barry Evans - No. I don't think he necessarily had an admirable game. A few nervy moments, but the rest of the team around him helped out.
Jared Young - I thought he made a couple of nice plays back there and was generally in good position. When he had to make the defensive stop he didn't have a misstep, however, moving up the pitch he had a number of bad passes. Only 50% pass completion rate is horrid, especially for a defender.
Matt Ralph - I like Wheeler as an extra defender, particularly on set pieces late in the game, but not as a regular back there.
Heather Reppert - No, he is a big body that we very much need up top.
William Murphy - Wheeler did a job. He's not great at it, but he plugged a hole. If I were Ethan White, I'd be on the phone with my agent. Wheeler looked serviceable because the team sat back and covered him collectively. It was more of a case that New England were so toothless as opposed to him being anywhere near what a center back should be. His size was mostly irrelevant, except once. He was slightly out of position and completely fell for a dummy from Kobayashi I believe and he would have allowed Bunbury in on goal behind him if not for his 37 foot long leg and size 78 shoe. He threw his gigantic leg out behind him and still only barely touched the ball with the callous on his pinky toe.
DOOP Cast - There is more to playing center back than just being a big lump to stick in a hole. His distribution was bad and will be punished by a team with confident strikers. The palpable nervousness towards the end had something to do with the space in front of the center back getting softer and deeper because it was clear the back line didn't trust Wheeler. The real question is, if Wheeler is first off the bench at center back, why did they sign White?
Nicholas Youngstein - He does not belong at center back. It's nice that in case of emergency he can play and not Kolo Toure it up.
Eugene Rupinski - Wheeler should be a good option in the event everybody else is hurt or suspended. I am not sure why he gets the nod over Ethan White - a center back by trade - when Wheeler is clearly a liability in the back.
Aaron Wheeler is not a center back.
I repeat. Let me clear my throat. Ahem, Aaron Wheeler is NOT a center back.
He performed ably thanks to his teammates around him, who are fantastic defenders (maybe not Fabinho, but he's playing well). Aaron Wheeler is not up to speed with the defenders on the field and it clearly showed. Perhaps it was the previous Union teams or maybe just the way the team gave up the front foot in the game, but I felt an equalizer coming from the moment he was subbed in.
I like Aaron Wheeler, he doesn't do anything that particularly upsets me on the field and has been involved in a few nice plays up top from last year. Unfortunately he looked lost in defense. His lack of confidence in the back really showed and he also displayed indecisiveness when moving the ball forward or attacking a 50/50 ball. Also, the way he went in for those challenges. Not a defender risking it all to stop the play of an attacker, rather like an attacker attempting to lure a foul from a defender. If he wants to be successful at center back, the biggest obstacle he'll have to overcome is acquiring a defensive mentality.
Until then he'll never belong in the back.
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