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2016 Depth Chart: Attacking Midfield

Next up in our depth chart series is attacking midfield, a position that the Union greatly improved this past off season

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Earnie Stewart wasted no time in revamping the attacking midfield position for the Philadelphia Union. Cristian Maidana was sent to Houston leaving Tranquillo Barnetta as the presumed starter in the number ten spot. But with the acquisition of Roland Alberg and Jim Curtin's statement that Alberg could play the number ten position, the a murkiness fell over the position and who may be the starter come the beginning of the season.

  1. Roland Alberg - I'm slotting Alberg as the starting attacking midfielder because of his history as a number ten. It's a spot he has played a vast majority of his career in and has show the ability to not only create for others, but score goals as well, something the Union were missing from the position in the past. Alberg was able to tally 13 assists from this position during his time in the Dutch Eredivisie which is a higher total than Barnetta has had in the same spot. When you couple this with his goalscoring ability, Alberg adds a new dimension to the middle of the pitch that the Union have been sorely missing for a number of years.
  2. Tranquillo Barnetta - Before the signing of Alberg, Barnetta would have easily been number one on this list. I would have even had Barnetta starting after the acquisition of Alberg, but Jim Curtin's recent comments have me leaning the other way. Another big reason that I see Alberg starting over Barnetta is Barnetta's history on the wing. Even when he was acquired, I never quite understood Curtin's insistence that Barnetta play attacking midfield given that he had nearly 300 appearances on the wing compared to just 50 in central midfield. Barnetta will very likely see some games in attacking midfield when Alberg needs rest or for a multitude of other reasons. But I think when the team line up for their first match of the season, we see Barnetta on the flanks.
  3. Leo Fernandes - Fernandes has returned from his loan spell with the New York Cosmos an improved player and looks ready to compete for real minutes with the Union this season. Fernandes will likely spend the majority of the season coming off the bench and playing either attacking midfield or holding midfield. He has shown the ability to play both positions well and has the flexibility that Curtin values so highly.
  4. Fabian Herbers - Herbers showed the ability to play attacking midfield and striker during his time in college and I think it's the latter where he will find the most minutes. With striker depth thin outside of CJ Sapong, Herbers stands to be the primary back-up at striker as things stand now. However, should injuries befall the Union, Herbers has shown the ability in college to set up teammates and rack up the assists.
  5. Derrick Jones - Bethlehem Steel FC's first signing and Union Academy standout Derrick Jones is next on the list as a candidate for some first team minutes this season. Jones is no stranger to Jim Curtin and his staff as he trained with the first squad frequently last season and showed some real promise. While he has been shuttled between attacking and defensive midfield, he appeared more comfortable in an attacking role, scoring 11 goals with the U18 team. Depending on how he performs with Bethlehem, Jones could be a candidate to get some minutes in one of the early rounds of the U.S. Open Cup.
  6. Mawolo Gissie - Last on our depth chart is 19-year-old Liberian attacker Mawolo "Gabe" Gissie. Gissie came up in New England's academy before joining USL side Sacramento Republic FC in 2014. While Gissie has had the most success at forward, he also played some minutes in attacking midfield with Sacramento. Given his age and the developmental nature of Bethlehem, Brendan Burke could look to move Gissie around the park to see what position suits him best. If he impresses in the position this year, he could eventually earn some training time with the first team.