2016 Summary: For these four midfielders, there were varying levels of expectations. Vincent Nogueira was expected to be the cornerstone of the Philadelphia Union, Leo Fernandes was to be depth at central attacking mid, Eric Ayuk was to be depth on the left, and Walter Restrepo would be the utilityman. Nogueira left midway through the season, leaving fans to wonder “what if?” Fernandes, Ayuk, and Restrepo spent most of their time with Bethlehem Steel FC, with Fernandes making only 12 appearances, Restrepo making 4, and Ayuk a lone start late in the year.
What did they do right?: Nogueira was the metronome that kept the Union running. His ability to transition from offense to defense and back on a dime made the Union dangerous and was credited by many as the reason for the Union’s hot start. Fernandes, Ayuk, and Restrepo all each showed they had some potential.
What did they do wrong?: Nogueira’s sudden departure left the Union with a gaping hole and started the decline in form that saw the Union sink from first in the East to squeaking into the playoffs on goal differential. Fernandes was buried on the depth chart behind Tranquillo Barnetta and Roland Alberg, Ayuk behind Chris Pontius, and Restrepo behind Brian Carroll, Warren Creavalle, Ilsinho, and later Alejandro Bedoya. Fernandes, Ayuk, and Restrepo also really failed to make the most of any opportunities they were given.
Most memorable moment of 2016: For Nogueira, it was the sudden departure taht will forever be emblazoned into the memories of Union fans. For the rest of the players, it was simply making appearances for the first team.