The sudden departure of Vincent Nogueira has left a huge void in the Philadelphia Union’s midfield. Quite simply, there’s no one who can fully replace the diminutive Frenchman’s vision, touch, and smooth passing. So where do the Union go from here?
In the short term, the Union have some good options to try out. The double pivot option of Warren Creavalle and Brian Carroll has worked well, especially when the Union need to buckle down defensively. The weakness with this pairing is both the lack of a consistent offensive threat and the fact that Brian Carroll will be 35 next month (although every year for the past few years everyone has been predicting Carroll’s aging out and have been wrong). Another short term replacement that’s been bandied about is Roland Alberg. Alberg would be a good option when the Union want to attack more from the midfield, especially down the left. The only hesitation here is that Alberg isn’t a holding midfielder and doesn’t get back on defense like Nogueira, who was a more box-to-box mid to Alberg’s attacking mid.
Another short term option would be to bring up either Bolu Akinyode or Derrick Jones from Bethlehem Steel FC. Jones seems the more likely fit, as his two-way game more closely mirrors that of Nogueira. Akinyode is more of an offensive threat, so if Alberg is unavailable for some reason he could be plugged in the lineup in a pinch. Something to bear in mind - before signing a player from BSFC, the Union can bring them up for four day loans. A quick loan stint and a trial against a team like the Chicago Fire may give the Union enough reason to let Jones - a product of the Philadelphia Union Academy - get a shot.
Thinking longer term, Maurice Edu should be coming back within the next month or so, and he’d be a natural fit next to either Creavalle or Carroll (or Alberg or Jones or...) in the midfield, as he possesses the ability to create and defend equally well, although depending on the situation and who his partner is he may be called on to focus more on one or the other. In my opinion this spot is his for the taking, and it’ll be interesting to see how he adapts to it and who his partner winds up being.
What do you think? Who do you think are the best short and long term options in the midfield? Let us know in the comments section below!