It's been almost a month since the Sons of Ben held their march to protest the current state of the team and its perceived lack of direction. The anger that was felt at that time has died down somewhat, thanks in large part to the Union winning three of their last four games. In response to that protest, Union CEO Nick Sakiewicz issued a statement to the fans vowing that the team would do the work necessary to mold the Union into a contender.
Specifically he said,
"We agree wholeheartedly with the Sons of Ben and we share the frustrations of all fans to the start of the season. We are committed to assisting Jim and his Staff in every way so we can get the team back on the right track".
It would be safe to assume that by,"...assisting Jim and his Staff..." he means bringing in new and hopefully more talented players to help the team make a push into the expanded MLS Playoff picture. If the Union are able to rid themselves of Rais M'Bolhi and his very large contract, then the team would likely have some cap space available that could go towards bringing in one or two players to address some needs. With this in mind, I think it would be useful to see what specific positions the Union should upgrade in the near future.
This immediately comes to mind as not only a need for this team, but the most likely position to be upgraded due to recent reports from local reporters. Despite Fabinho's sudden career renaissance at the age of 30, this is a position that should be addressed for the sake of long term viability. Neither Sheanon Williams or Ray Gaddis should be starting at left back save for spot starts and in situations where a player is injured. And despite the aforementioned Fabinho having a fine run as of late, his history suggests he will revert back to the mean eventually.
Kevin Kinkead had suggested the Union were interested in former Liverpool defender John Arne Riise, but those reports seemed to have died down, and the idea that a 34 year-old could be anything more than a short term fix is laughable. Left back should be a priority position for the Union and they should actively seek to find someone that can be a long-term solution at the position, meaning those over the age of 30 should probably be left off the list.
Center back/Defensive Midfield
It may seem like a bit of a cop out to put two positions down for one section, but one of these positions need to be addressed and it all depends on Maurice Edu. Jim Curtin would probably like to see Edu at center back, while Edu himself would no doubt prefer to play in the midfield. Injury and poor play from other center backs have meant that Edu has spent the majority of his Union career shifting back and forth from defensive midfield to center back. Sooner or later there will need to be some certainty involving Edu's permanent position with the Union, if not for Edu's sake, then for the sake of future player acquisitions.
Brian Carroll and Michael Lahoud have performed with varying levels of success in the midfield, but neither should be relied on too heavily. In defense, there has been yet another rotating carousel of Ethan White, Richie Marquez and Steven Vitoria. All three have had their good and bad moments throughout the year, but on the whole the defense has allowed far too many goals.
The winger situation for the Union is an interesting one. On one side you have Sebastien Le Toux, an effective, but nonetheless ageing club legend. On the other there is Andrew Wenger, a former number one overall pick, who despite showing flashes of real talent, has yet to put together a consistent performance all season. Outside of those two, the only true winger on the team is the young Eric Ayuk. Ayuk has looked amazing at times, but his small frame has allowed him to be bullied in MLS thus far. Zach Pfeffer and C.J. Sapong can fill in on the wings as needed, but both players have looked better as a central midfielder and striker respectively.
At first glance, it seems as though the Union could have a much worse set-up on the flanks, but if you look closely there are two important questions to be asked. When do the Union bring in someone that can take over for Le Toux if and when his age beings to catch up with him? And how long do the Union give Andrew Wenger before deciding to move on from him? These questions along with the team's belief in Ayuk and Homegrown Player Jimmy McLaughlin should drive if and when a winger is acquired this summer.
What do you think Union fans? Are these positions high on your shopping list? Or do you have other positions the Union should fill first?