Michael Lahoud was probably more renown for his achievements off the field than on it this year.
That isn't a bad note. Lahoud showed signs this season that he was committed this season to winning back possession in the middle of the pitch more consistently, and his efforts in building schools and helping to eradicate Ebola in his native country Sierra Leone are nothing short of exemplary. Despite missing three months due the summer due to a hip flexor injury, Lahoud was still able to make 19 appearances this year in the Union midfield. When he was paired with a more offensive-minded central midfielder like Vincent Nogueira, the 29 year old international did a fine job marking opposing attackers and winning the ball in the open field. Still, Lahoud's inability to provide an offensive spark and turn the ball over in his own half was costly at times.
Many figured 2015 would be Brian Carroll's swansong, but the 34 year-old surprised fans and media alike by reemerging as a stabilizing force in the midfield. In his fifth season with the club, Carroll made 22 appearances in central midfield. Injuries to key players in the midfield like Nogueira, Maidana, and Lahoud plagued the Union and forced Carroll to step up and play more than expected in the preseason. He did an admirable job, and it's widely believed that he'll be back in blue and gold in 2016.
When featured alongside a more offensively minded central midfielder in Vincent Nogueira, both Lahoud and Carroll held their own in spots. Lahoud figured out how to better use his athleticism to mark opposing attackers in the middle of the field and allow Nogueira to concentrate on his role as a major conductor of the attack. His performance in the Open Cup final helped the Philadelphia Union stifle the Sporting KC attack for 120 minutes, although he did ask his coach to be subbed out after 70 minutes (Curtin refused). Carroll utilized his experience to avoid getting caught out of position or in spots where his lack of pace at 34 might get him in trouble. There were times when pencilling Brian Carroll (especially in the second half of the season) was a no-brainer, an unconscionable thought some 12 months ago.
On the other hand, when Lahoud and Carroll played together as a double pivot, the result was an unmitigated disaster. The offense would often fail to link play with the duo starting (similar to when Carroll and Keon Daniel started in 2012) and as a result, opposing teams would press the Union in their own half with little fear of consequence. By the end of April, the team had managed a poor -6 GD when Lahoud and Carroll played together. Each player showed that even though they help the Union in a pinch, they probably shouldn't be relied on for long stretches. Lahoud still has the tendency to lose focus and give the ball away in crucial moments, and neither player offer much in attack through scoring or starting counterattacks.
Curtin and the Union front office will have to decide to bring back, in addition to summer addition Warren Creavalle. Any player that returns to the Union for the 2016 season should probably do so in a valuable bench role. If the Union want to escape the basement of the Eastern conference, finding a defensive midfielder that can clean up the middle of the pitch as well as contribute to the attack (not named Maurice Edu) is one of the most important additions new sporting direect Earnie Stewart can make this winter.