The loss of Maurice Edu until mid-June, at the very least, is a major blow to the Union's hopes for a strong start to the 2016 season. The 29-year-old former international carries a mixture of talent and veteran leadership that makes him one of the most valuable players on the roster. He was also expected to help the young, patchwork backline gel quicker and help to turn the Union into a possible playoff contender.
Curtin has a bevy of replacements that can take Edu's regular spot at defensive midfielder in the starting XI. Let's take a look at each option to see what they can provide and what they lack.
1) Brian Carroll
Pros: Experience, experience, experience. Carroll is Curtin's safe choice at d-mid and de facto captain of the Union in Edu's absence. The Union's longest tenured player started on Sunday against FC Dallas and is one of 11 players in the league's history to have started at least 300 matches.
Cons: There are many doubts as to whether or not Carroll still has the legs to cover the ground necessary in Curtin's system. In a high pressing defensive system (which Curtin desires) a player of Carroll's limited athleticism often results in disaster, and that's exactly what happened Sunday with FC Dallas's high-octane attack. The Union won't see many attacking units as quick and fearsome as the one that features Fabian Castillo and Mauro Diaz, but there should still be cause for concern when it comes to Carroll in the middle of the pitch.
2) Warren Creavalle
Pros: Creavalle is likely the most suitable option available on the roster now. He's an athletic, tenacious defensive midfielder that could play clean up and make it easier for Vincent Nogueira and the rest of the midfield to focus on creating scoring opportunities. The Union re-signed Creavalle this winter and loaned out fellow d-mid Michael Lahoud to the New York Cosmos in the NASL. Clearly the Union believe the 25 year old Brooklyn native can make a positive contribution.
Cons: In four seasons, Creavalle is a highly inconsistent player who's been known to be a little slow in picking up opposing runs. There's also the issue of missing a vocal leader in the middle of the field in the absence of Edu and Carroll. Barnetta may get the captain's armband once he returns from injury, but without him it's hard to justify Creavalle starting over Carroll until someone else emerges as a good candidate to become captain.
3) Vincent Nogueira
Pros: Nogueira is the most talented player on this list.
Cons: There are 2 probable box-to-box midfielders on the roster. One is Nogueira...... and the other is unfortunately Maurice Edu. Moving Noggy to the 6 would require a change in formation.
4) Joshua Yaro
Pros: This may be the most intriguing person on the list. Yaro has the pace, awareness, discipline, and passing ability to be a terrific defensive midfielder in MLS. In fact, considering the physical nature and the importance of set piece attacks in MLS Yaro might be better suited to playing defensive midfielder in the future rather than centerback. The second overall pick in the 2016 MLS Superdraft, Yaro should be guided towards the quickest route to helping the Union as soon as possible. A player of Yaro's talent shouldn't spend the entire year in Bethlehem. He should still spend a month or two playing for the Steel to get some minutes under him, but under the right conditions he could blossom and become the Union's very own
"JUST" Blaise Matuidi Osvaldo Alonso. And if the experiment works we could just shuttle Maurice Edu back to centerback*.
(*This would continue the excellent 3 year running joke of Maurice Edu always being yanked back to centerback; a joke that's much funnier than any Union goalkeeper joke that's seen the light of day during the last couple of years.)
Cons: We're all well-aware of the Union's history of playing guys out of position, and we should be wary of the desperation to switch lanes in Yaro's development simply because of an injury. He's also not ready to assume the starting spot right now or anytime soon.
5) Free agent
Pros: Amobi Okugo is available!
Cons: Why is Amobi Okugo available? Also, there's already four (including Lahoud) defensive midfielders on the roster. The Union should continue to pinch pennies in search for that elusive striker.
I'd suggest adjusting formations to reduce the reliance of using a defensive midfielder, but the presence of only 2 strikers on the roster constricts what the Union can do. Creavalle should start once Barnetta is fully healthy to start. Until then I'd suck it up and sacrifice Carroll Saturday in Columbus.