While there never seems to be an ideal situation for the Philadelphia Union to play a U.S. Open Cup match, the suspension of CJ Sapong due to a dubious red card in the last U.S. Open Cup match against D.C. United leaves a huge hole at the striker position in the Union's 4-5-1 formation. The Union have few options available for their match today against the New York Red Bulls - their first match up in the tournament against the Red Bulls since being eliminated 2-1 in a Qualifying match back in 2010.
Designated Player Fernando Aristeguieta hasn't played since suffering a left fibula contusion in a game against Columbus Crew SC on June 3, coming out of the match in the 37th minute. Veteran Conor Casey got a goal against Toronto FC on Saturday, however those 19 minutes were the first since he suffered a quad injury on May 24 against New York City FC.
Beyond that, the Union are thin at the striker position. Sebastien Le Toux could be moved up, however the Union are also thin on the wings - especially with Andrew Wenger out due to a concussion suffered against Toronto.The only other forward left is Antoine Hoppenot, whose season thus far is probably better defined by his comments on Twitter than the four minutes he played against the Chicago Fire on March 29.
I posed two questions to the staff here at the Brotherly Game: 1.) "Will Aristeguieta's lack of playing time hurt the Union?" and 2.) "Who would you start as a striker?" Here are the answers.
Jared Young) 1. It will hurt the Union for sure. 2. Casey should start and Nando can come off the bench. He should probably have played on Saturday if he really is going to play for the first time in almost 2 months.
Barry Evans) 1) Yes. In games where you might get one chance, you have to be sharp to take it (are Le Toux awful whiff for what happens when you aren't sharp). 2. I would start Casey. He likes to score against the Red Bulls, and got a goal on Saturday which is far more than Aristeguieta has done lately.
Andrew Stoltzfus) 1. The friendly was the time he should have gotten even 10-15 minutes. With such a long absence it's impossible to tell if he's match fit from practice. It's hard to go from not playing at all to starting in such an important game.
2. Casey can only give you so many minutes at his age. If you think he can give you 60+ I would start him and bring in Nando late, but if Casey can't give you that amount I would start Nando and then bring Casey on around the 65-70 mark
John Rossi) 1. Yes, if he should have gotten some time in the friendly if he was healthy.
2. If Aristeguieta is fit, he's the starter.
Heather Reppert) Fernando has been practicing and scrimmaging with the team. Getting him a few minutes playing time will not make or break whether he will play well on Tuesday, however it will have left him open to an injury. An injury, even if a minor tweak, will potentially affect his performance on Tuesday. With CJ out and him being THE starter, I think Curtin made the right choice.
Matt Albaugh) Fernando is going to look real rusty, which goes without saying. But I'd still start him. And if we're down by a goal in the last 30 mins, I think Conor Casey could get you a goal, Fernando, I'm not as confident.
Douglas Gobrecht) 1) I think the way Curtin lines his team up and his role for Aristeguieta (a banger and hold up player) doesn't mesh.
2) Conor Casey fits the style for Curtin's Union and is also a NYRB Killer. He should get the start.
Basically lack of playing time hurts, but I think his role with the team hurts more.
My take is that while neither man will be totally match fit, Aristeguieta if healthy should be the man to get the nod. His status as a Designated Player and one who is ostensibly trying to earn a move from FC Nantes should give him the incentive to play as often as he can and prove that he's not the brittle forward who has so far missed 10 of 21 MLS matches due to injury. Casey worries me in his ability to go 90 minutes - especially when coming off of an injury. Even if he was fully healthy, he's only gone a full 90 three times in the past two seasons. While Aristeguieta's lack of playing time will hurt him some, he will undoubtedly have the freshest legs on the pitch - a huge asset when the temperature will be 91F with the heat index approaching 105F.
Who would you start? Take the poll and let us know in the comments section below why you picked who you did!