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Old Legs, New Legs

With all the injuries and absences for the Philadelphia Union, Fernando Aristeguieta's departure to join up with the Venezuelan national team means a major hole has opened in the club's offensive structure.

Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

It appears that the aging legs of Conor Casey, once a leading striker in Major League Soccer, will move up top on Sunday versus DC United. The already sad-to-watch nature of Casey's decline will be amplified if he's trotted out against the Union's regional rival.

Heading into the season, SuperDraft pick Dzenan Catic looked like the striker awaiting in the wings, a suitable super sub for the incredibly hard working Aristeguieta. Instead he's languishing in USL, sitting on the bench for a rather average Harrisburg City Islanders squad. In spite of a four goal performance in a preseason friendly, Catic can't seem to break into the lineup for the Islanders.

In a season of disappointment thus far, the Union (1-7-3) have failed to introduce Catic or Home Grown Player (it's been three years since the Union signed one) Jimmy McLaughlin to MLS play. Both have watched from the training ground as players like Fabinho and Antoine Hoppenot make the bench.

In Hoppenot's case, a single substitute appearance, stemming from an 86th minute introduction during Philadelphia's March  29th loss in Chicago to the Fire, is more appearances than Catic and McLaughlin combined. The not-so-affectionately nicknamed Scuba Steve proceeded to call out fan faithfulness on Twitter afterward.

Eric Ayuk has also been forced to wait on the legs of older players. Both Sebastien Le Toux and Andrew Wenger have not only declined since 2014, but have failed to provide anything of substance beyond set pieces in eleven games. The two have zero goals combined and have caused numerous tactical problems for the Union offensively and defensively.

At some point the Union need to live up to their publicly stated desire to create a development system that not only produces first team players, but also minutes for them. The philosophy of the club never seems to match up with on-the-field choices.

Head coach Jim Curtin most certainly is not in a position to take risks with youth players, but at the same time it's yet another year where mistakes made across the board by the club have hindered the growth and potential quality of younger players in the first team and the possibility of adding more through the academy.

At some point the team will have to determine that the season is lost and preparations for the future must be made to prevent a post-2011 future from continuing. The Union would have to finish the season on a franchise record 1.55 points per game streak over the final 23 matches of the year to meet last year's point total (42). It doesn't look likely. Neither does a youthful emphasis, no matter what Nick Sakiewicz says to the press.