The Philadelphia Union currently have a skeleton roster of just thirteen players, so there figures to be a lot of activity between now and March. Exactly who the Union target to fill out the roster will depend largely on where their most expensive player Maurice Edu lines up next year. During his first two seasons Edu has roughly split time between the holding midfielder role and center back with mixed results. Unless he is traded, Edu figures to be a starter in one of those two positions. Exactly which one is critical to how the off-season plays out.
Defensive results given where Edu played
In 2014 it appeared that Edu made a big difference on the defense when he played center back. He played on the back line twelve times that year and the team allowed just 1.1 goals per game, compared with 1.7 goals against when he was a holding midfielder. This year however, the advantage seems to have disappeared. Edu started 17 games at center back in 2015 and the team allowed 1.7 goals per game, compared to 1.5 when he was not. Again, his holding midfield results were poor as well. In five games as holding midfielder the Union allowed 1.8 goals per game. Now is Edu to blame for these results given the sample size and shuffling players around him? Perhaps not, but it is interesting that the team's most expensive player does not have a noticeable impact on defense.
If Edu is at center back
Right now Richie Marquez is the only true center back on the roster. If Edu is paired with Marquez next season on the backline the Union will still need to add depth to that position. But that would also leave Michael Lahoud and Brian Carroll as the pivot midfielders on the roster (and at this current time the club is in negotiations with both players, but neither one is on the official roster). This would basically be the same lineup that allowed a disgusting 1.6 goals per game last year. With Marquez worth investing in and Edu the most expensive player on the roster, the Union would more than likely make the investment to add a high quality #6 to move Lahoud and Carroll to depth roles. That's not a bad outcome but that outcome may be better from an offensive point of view. Lahoud and Carroll were effective as defensive stoppers last year. Their weakness is picking up the ball and starting the offense. It appears that if the defensive is to improve, and it must, that the backline must upgraded.
If Edu is a holding midfielder
If Edu starts at holding midfield and moves Lahoud and Carroll to bench positions, then the Union will have a huge gap to fill at center back. Marquez will need to be paired with a seasoned player to improve the defense. If it's true that Earnie Stewart wants the team to play a 4-3-3 formation and press higher up the field defensively, then the Union might be intrigued by Edu's speed and athleticism in the midfield, which would be useful for that high energy approach.
Jim Curtin recently stated that the club was looking at Jeff Larentowicz, a 32 year old defensive player in the mold of Edu. Last season he played 29 games at center back for the Chicago Fire, but spent most of his career as a defensive midfielder. At this point that signing would be more of a depth move to add a veteran player to the mix, but it's worth noting. If Larentowicz does join the Union that doesn't really indicate where Edu might play.
Where do you think Edu should play? If he is moved to the midfield that opens the door for the Union to acquire a veteran center back. If he stays at center back next year then the Union should use their money on a difference making defensive midfielder. As you can see this answer drives where the Union will focus their spend over the coming months.