Summer transfer season is upon us, and while coach Jim Curtin said the team will be "aggressive" this summer there has been no official activity reported. That gives us time to speculate on what moves the Philadelphia Union might make and, if we're lucky, dream for a second.
Let's start up top
A close second, in terms of truth, to the fact that the world is indeed round is that the Union need a striker. Apologies to CJ Sapong, but we missed him this past month. Fabian Herbers just hasn't been consistent enough, even off the bench, to scare opponents and well, next in line is Sebastian Le Toux. The staff here at Brotherly Game agrees. It's striker all the way this summer:
Sayeth Andrew: Striker has to be a top priority. Doesn't matter if it is as a starter or back up, the Union need someone better than Herbers. If you can get your hands on someone better than Sapong you do it. If what you find can't beat out Sapong, but is still better than Herbers, it's still a useful piece.
Barry "Gamechanger" Evans agrees: Striker has to be that priority, While Herbers isn't terrible he still needs time at Bethlehem to learn. The striker doesn't need to replace Sapong, but be able to come off the bench and give him a rest if needed.
Doug "Doug Dougie Doug Doug" Gobrecht with more: Not really much to say besides what has already been said about a striker. We need SOMEONE. Someone that can hold up play. I think part of the reason Herbers has struggled is because he's being asked by the system to hold up play and that's just now in his skill set right now. We need a like for like upgrade or backup to Sapong.
Alex Klein eyes a return: Obviously another striker is needed, doesn't need to be a superstar but just a solid backup, what's Jack McInerney doing these days?
Money is on a striker being added during the summer window. I agree that there's no need to try to supplant Sapong as starter but they definitely need someone to push him and also be an equal if not diverse threat off the bench.
To the midfield!
Vincent Nogueira opting to leave Philadelphia for the comforts of his homeland raises the question will the Union look for depth in the central midfield? Tranquillo Barnetta has taken on the box-to-box role and performed well and fortunately Roland Alberg emerged as a solid option at the 10. However, I get the sense that Barnetta is being wasted from an offensive perspective in that role. He did nail that pass to spring open Pontius against DC United but he's been somewhat neutered as a deeper player. It's also the case that Barnetta's main backup is Warren Creavalle who is probably best suited as a defensive midfielder. It wouldn't surprise me if the Union grabbed a central midfielder that would provide insurance if Alberg or Barnetta goes down.
Doug brings up a good point about the length of Barnetta's contract: If Barnetta is going to sign an extension, and is comfortable in the 8 role... Its not a priority. If he isn't staying then we need a CM as bad as we need a striker. Brian Carroll and Creavalle have performed well as backups, but they should remain back ups. Nogueira will be tough to replace, but replace him we must. Preferably with someone young in the center of the pitch we can build around.
Maurice Edu should return at some point this summer. It's kind of like a free transfer. Odds are he goes back to his natural position as a defensive midfielder and replaces Brian Carroll, and there should be more than enough coverage at that position. Matthew Dolye of Mlssoccer.com agrees that Edu will be the biggest add this summer. He writes, "Their biggest need is a bit more defensive know-how in central midfield, which is a question that should be answered when the one DP on the team - Maurice Edu - returns from injury in the coming weeks."
The attacking midfield has been the strength of the team this year and looks reasonably deep. Chris Pontius, Alberg, Le Toux and Ilshino all can provide quality starter minutes and Leo Fernandes provides decent depth as another option if needed. Of course Barnetta could slide back up at any time as well.
Do the Union need defensive help?
It's been a roller coaster for the Union defense this season. The young group shot out of the gate with one of the best defenses in the league, allowing eleven goals in their first eleven games. Then inexplicably they fell apart allowing fourteen goals in their next six. Lately they've been solid again allowing just one goal off a free kick in the last two games.
Alex believes the Union could use some depth there: I think a big need is another center back. Joshua Yaro and Richie Marquez have been good this year, but I'd like to see someone else brought into the squad to push them and maybe take a few starts.
Marquez has improved from below average center back in his rookie campaign to above average this season and is clearly the leader of the back line. While Ken Tribbett and Josh Yaro have had their rough moments they have also shown they can handle the level. I personally think there is enough depth at this point.
On the outside is rookie all-star Keegan Rosenberry and a platoon of Fabinho and Ray Gaddis. I think the Union should focus on depth there if the player becomes available. While Rosenberry's defense has improved he made the all-star team because of his confidence with the ball going forward. I'd like to see the Union add a defensive focused stopper for times when they need to sit deeper and protect a lead.
But the secret to the defense is whether or not they can hold their shape. The first eleven games was impressive to watch from that perspective, but the bad stretch revealed that the Union defense could get pulled apart too easily. If they can re-establish their form and become tough to break down, then these players should be good enough for the playoff run.
From a keeper point of view the backups have shown little to engender confidence. Blake is a legitimate all-star but if he goes down the Union would be in big trouble. Remember last year's defense? Yeah, like that.
Summing it up
First priority has to be a striker and it's a pretty serious need. Help in the central midfield as well as perhaps depth on the outside of the defense might also be worth a look if the right player becomes available.
What do you think the top needs are? Any ideal targets? Let us know in the comments.