Last weekend the Philadelphia Union reduced their roster to 30 players by releasing Mozambican trialist Clésio Bauque and unsigned draft pick Aodhan Quinn. Bauque is a 19 year-old forward with some national team experience who had previously played in S.L. Benfica's youth setup; Quinn was a former Akron midfielder drafted by the Union in the fourth round of January's MLS Superdraft. The Union made more moves today as they signed their two remaining unsigned draft picks, Pedro Ribeiro and Richie Marquez, and waived defender Matt Kassel. It looks like John Hackworth will be heading to Portland this weekend with a 29 man roster.
So what now? Well, now I ask myself a few question, and you, the reader, can indulge in my self-Q&A.
Who are you surprised to see gone?
Second round picks Kevin Cope and Robbie Derschang didn't make it past the second round of cuts. Cope was seemingly beat out by third round pick Richie Marquez, and Derschang was cut despite being the only left footed fullback on the roster besides Fabinho. And though Clésio Bauque wasn't seen by fans at any point after the team's open practice, if there was one trialist expected to make the team it would've been him and not Fred. Bauque has scored 2 goals for the Mozambique national team (though they are currently ranked 106th in the world by FIFA) in 4 appearances and was signed to Portuguese powerhouse S.L. Benfica just a little under 18 months ago. Finally, it was odd to see Ivorian striker Yann Ekra, who was on the team for the last two months of last season, not even make it past the first round of cuts.
Who are you surprised to see remain on the roster?
The first man that comes to the minds of many (except Ed Welsh) would be Keon Daniel, whose numerous poor performances symbolized the futility of last season's midfield. He was so poor at times that Hackworth had to sub him out at halftime in a couple matches Not only is Daniel not starting anymore, but his role on the roster as a midfielder who can keep the ball has seemingly been usurped by first round draft pick Pedro Ribeiro. In addition, he occupies an international spot on the roster. It's clear Keon's playing time will be drastically reduced this season with the new offseason additions; perhaps Hackworth can find a trade partner during the season looking for midfield depth. Until then, Daniel will be the "veteran presence" in the locker room.
Fred is back. Somehow. After appearing 25 times and scoring 4 goals in the Union's inaugural season, "Grandpa" spent the last 3 seasons with DC United and the Melbourne Victory in the A-League. Now he looks to be a mentor to the Portuguese-speaking contingent on the roster (Leo Fernandes, Pedro Ribeiro). Perhaps he can also contribute during a US Open Cup run.
Some will be surprised to see Richie Marquez, a centerback from the Division three University of Redlands making the roster. Hackworth remarked during training camp that Marquez was one of the "biggest surprises of camp". With the acquisition of Austin Berry and the conversion of Aaron Wheeler to centerback, it's highly unlikely Marquez will see any playing time this season. Which leads us to our next question....
Who will get loaned out to Harrisburg?
Marquez seems destined to play for the City Islanders during the season due to his predicament, but who else? New signee Brian Holt might want to get some reps in a lower league since he's currently the 3rd goalkeeper on the Union depth chart. Homegrown players Jimmy McLaughlin and Cristhian Hernández might return to Harrisburg if they fail to carve out spots on the gameday bench. Zach Pfeffer is young and could also needs to see the field, but with his enormous promise I think he will be better off sticking with the senior squad.
What is the current state of the Union's depth chart?
|Position||Starter||1st Backup||2nd Backup|
|Goalkeeper||Zac MacMath||Andre Blake||Brian Holt|
|Left Back||Fabio Alves||Raymon Gaddis||Cristhian Hernández|
|Centerback||Austin Berry||Aaron Wheeler||Richie Marquez|
|Centerback||Amobi Okugo||Ethan White|
|Right Back||Sheanon Williams||Raymon Gaddis||Michael Lahoud|
|Central Midfielder||Brian Carroll||Maurice Edu||Michael Lahoud|
|Central Midfielder||Maurice Edu||Vincent Nogueira||Keon Daniel|
|C. Attacking Midfielder||Vincent Nogueira||Pedro Ribeiro||Corben Bone|
|Left Wing (Midfielder)||Cristian Maidana||Danny Cruz||Cristhian Hernández|
|Right Wing (Midfielder)||Sebastian Le Toux||Danny Cruz||Zach Pfeffer|
|Striker||Jack McInerney||Conor Casey||Antoine Hoppenot|
I should note that this is my opinion; as there's no official record of the depth chart and it's not set in stone that John Hackworth will be utilizing the 4-3-3 like this all season. It's just a starting point.
Where can the Union look to add talent during the season?
Let's take three spots where I feel the Union will need an upgrade this season.
Left Back - I'm a lot more comfortable with Fabinho as a left midfielder than as a left back. As a defender the result with him will always be all or nothing. The Union will likely have to look to the international market to satisfy this need; as the left back position in MLS is generally the most shallow talent pool of any spot on the field.
Striker - As it stands now, the Union have only three true strikers on the roster. Wheeler has been moved to centerback, and Pedro Ribeiro can play up front as a center-forward. In addition, it's unclear whether a classic poacher like McInerney is suited as the lone striker in a 4-3-3. In the past he has always excelled alongside another striker like Conor Casey. Hackworth might need to look for an efficient finisher during the summer.
Right Wing - I have a good feeling this will prove to be a serious issue during the season. Le Toux is at his best when he is freewheeling all over the field using his endless motor to make things happen. That will need to be restricted on the right wing, as an out-of-position Le Toux can lead to the Union succumbing to a textbook counterattack. Le Toux has also shown to be a tentative finisher in the attack, and is prone to productivity droughts during the season. Danny Cruz's deficiencies are well-documented at this point. He can get by defenders with his speed and toughness, but his crossing almost always leaves a lot to be desired. Either current U-20 USMNT Zach Pfeffer must be counted on to realize some of his exciting potential, or the Union will need to add another attacker who can trouble opposing left backs.