As the resident Scottish person, it was left up to me to write this article for the Brotherly Game and ask the following question: Should the Philadelphia Union sign James McFadden? McFadden is currently on trial with the team and even if it ends without an offer being made this is as much of a transfer link than there usually ever is concerning the Union. That being said, it was not the Union who initially announced the trial, but a podcast with his first club Motherwell:
On Saturday James McFadden flew to America to begin a two-week trial with @PhilaUnion. All the best Faddy! pic.twitter.com/xfpC8fRxAy— MFC Podcast (@MFCPodcast86) October 5, 2015
1) Scottish players fail in MLS 2.0.
A few seasons back, Kenny Miller, Kris Boyd, Steven Smith and Barry Robson came to MLS and didn't "succeed." This year, Chicago signed Shaun Maloney to be one of their DPs, and he ended up a failure. Steven Caldwell is still officially with Toronto but has barely played this season. You could say that there hasn't been a successful Scottish invasion in MLS since Mo Johnston and John Spencer in the 90s/2000s when MLS was just setting up. With Scotland currently having major issues in their national team, is someone who can't make their national team currently good enough for Philadelphia? I know some prominent local soccer people would rather not have anyone in MLS from Scotland.
2) He is coming off a major injury and is 32 years old.
James McFadden's career was going well in 2010. He was likely to be an important part of Birmingham's premier league season under Scottish manager Alex McLeish. However, a few games into the season McFadden picked up an ACL injury, keeping him out for the rest of the season, costing him the prime of his career. Birmingham were relegated and McFadden was released. Since then, he has been going from club to club, hoping to get his match sharpness back but has been unable to stay around at any team for very long. His last club were Perth team St Johnstone in the 2014-15 season, and despite training with Motherwell he wasn't offered a contract. It seems that his injury and age may be keeping him from getting a team in the Scottish Premier league, and teams in lower divisions don't have the money to offer him a job. That doesn't suggest he will do well here.
3) He is a "striker" with a poor goalscoring record and there is no room for him in the Philadelphia lineup.
A lot of fans who probably have never heard of McFadden before the rumor came out instantly checked out his Wikipedia seeing his age, injury problem, and that he is a striker with a scoring record of only 76 goals in 376 games with 32 of those in his first 70 games with Motherwell. That isn't a very good record, especially when compared to others who "failed" in MLS recently Kris Boyd and Kenny Miller. However, the fact is that he isn't really a striker, but more of a player who would play in behind the main striker, think Cristian Maidana.
That's where the main issue here is - is there room for him in the Philadelphia lineup? Right now, the Union have Maidana, Tranquillo Barnetta, Sebastien Le Toux, Andrew Wenger and Eric Ayuk at the winger position/CAM and CJ Sapong, Conor Casey and Antoine Hoppenot as the "striker" (I am assuming that Fernando Aristeguieta is not going to be kept on next season). This suggests that the positions that McFadden would be useful in are already full, and if the Union are going to spend a six-figure salary on an attacking player it should be a new striker that is going to get goals. If that is the case, and Barnetta and Maidana are still with the team next season then there is no room for McFadden.
1) He is a Scottish hero.
If you have a look at the comments from the @MFCPodcast86 tweet, as well as any other Motherwell or Scotland fans you will see that McFadden is a hero there. There isn't a single person who doesn't wish him well, and that isn't only because he is a "nice guy." While Kris Boyd may have scored a lot of goals, the majority were against poor teams, and were easy tap-ins. McFadden may be the opposite of that, having scored winning goals in important games against the Netherlands and France twice for Scotland. The goals he scores are often fantastic too. His ability to score important goals as well as great goals are what have catapulted him from good player to hero.
2) Do Scotland players really fail in MLS?
Kris Boyd - 7 goals in 26 games. That was also in a bad team, and he actually ended up top scorer on the team. Boyd is also a player that does a lot of his scoring against bad teams, and doesn't have the ability to get goals against top teams throughout his career.
Kenny Miller - 13 goals in 43 games for Vancouver. Unlike Boyd, Miller hasn't necessarily been a guy that has scored a huge amount of goals. He is more a player that would fit in with Philadelphia as brings a lot of hustle. Therefore, the 13 goals he scored or Vancouver isn't a terrible amount for him, and is right around where I would have expected him to be at in terms of goal tally. I wouldn't necessarily call him a failure, unless all you look at is the money he earned.
Shaun Maloney was playing in a very bad Chicago team, and just never settled in the team, so he did fail. Would he have succeeded if he was with a better team? Who knows, but getting there late as well as being unable to settle meant he had no chance of succeeding in that team.
Steven Smith, Barry Robson and especially Steven Caldwell are just not very good, particularly compared to James McFadden. The truth is that McFadden would be by far the best player to have come over carrying the distinction of Scottish National player. While the other players may have been more recognizable names because they played for the Old firm, they don't have the quality that McFadden does.
Also, depending on the role, there has been at least one Scottish player who had a succsesful career in MLS - Adam Moffat went from Scottish third division nobodies Elgin City to being an important role player for a few MLS teams. McFadden at 100% is far better than Moffat, and at 60% would be a good role player for the team, coming off the bench and maybe even getting some important goals.
3) He is going to be hungry to get back playing Soccer.
One issue with the recent Scottish "failures" is that they may not have been hungry enough, and were just playing for the money. MLS can pay more than any Scottish team not called Celtic can pay, so it is going to be a good payday for them. It may be that they didn't really put the effort in that they should have, and they went back to the UK quickly. However, that isn't going to be the case for McFadden, he is going to be hungry to get back into playing the game. He wants another chance to play for Scotland, and this may be a great opportunity for him. His wage is likely not going to be more than $200K which is less than both Wenger and Le Toux, and for me McFadden, if healthy and hungry is a far far better player than either in my opinion.
So the question is, would I sign him? As much as I'd love to have a Scottish player in the team so I could see the Saltire above the River end (if the Sons of Ben put up the Union Jack up, McFadden would walk out) I don't think McFadden would fill a need for Philadelphia if his wage is over $250K. We have Barnetta and Maidana who are similar players. However, if his wage is $100K-200K, and he proves his fitness in his trial, then I'd definitely sign him, and I would think he may even take Le Toux's position in the starting lineup. Come on Curtin, make the wages reasonable and give me that fellow Scot that you promised at help kick hunger.