After a catastrophic collapse from first place in the Eastern Conference all the way to sixth and barely squeezing into the playoffs, the Union conceded goals at an alarming rate. As a matter of fact, they conceded 55 goals in 2016 with MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Andre Blake behind them. That’s bad. Really bad. For what it’s worth, the Colorado Rapids only allowed 32 goals all season, and less of those came with Zac MacMath between the posts than Tim Howard despite playing the same number of games.
With that said, most people still believe that if Earnie Stewart makes another big splash in the winter transfer window it has to be for a DP-worthy center forward. In large part, that’s due to the fact that C.J. Sapong’s form has dipped significantly at times in back-to-back seasons. At times he was fantastic, and at other times he simply could not buy a goal.
Another reason focusing heavily on the attack is the promise that rookies Keegan Rosenberry and Joshua Yaro showed. Rosenberry was solid all season long, not missing a single minute in route to becoming an MLS All-Star and one of the team’s most consistent players. Yaro, on the other hand, didn’t enjoy the same success that Rosenberry did right out of the gate. Unlike his former collegiate teammate at Georgetown, he had some growing pains and showed his inexperience at times. Still, the future looks bright for both youngsters.
In addition to the two rookies, Richie Marquez has cemented himself as the anchor of the back line at just 24 years old. Despite his unusual journey to MLS, he has quickly established himself as one of the better up-and-coming young center backs. With that said, Curtin will likely look to Yaro to play a bigger role in his sophomore season as the favored partner to Marquez. Ken Tribbett saw significant time in 2016, but given some of his performances later on in the season, a season for a Yaro-Marquez pairing to get some experience together will likely be Plan A.
With that said, Earnie Stewart and company would be wise to look for some experienced help along the back line to either help nurture the young talent that they have or in case the defense is a train wreck for a third year in a row. Let’s be real, the Union gonna Union, and Tribbett cannot be the one to turn to in order to right the ship.
Since the Union are unlikely to spend big money on a center back while they are under the impression that they have their starting duo of the future, free agency could still be an option. The signing window opened on December 13, but only a handful of the 37 eligible players have been signed. More importantly, there is impactful defensive talent on the market in the form of Marvell Wynne.
Disclaimer: There are zero rumors involving the Union and any free agents. I am purely speculating (and partially hoping).
Wynne would add a veteran presence that the group of center backs on the current roster desperately lack. In 11 seasons with four different MLS clubs, Wynne has appeared in 301 games, starting 290 of them. He has flexibility to play centrally or at right back, and has the pace to recover for just about any mistake.
In terms of durability, the Pittsburgh-native has logged over 2,000 minutes in nine different seasons. You can’t get much more durable than that. Given the lack of any concrete news on Wynne’s future, it appears as though his value may be viewed as a bit lower than in the past. He is on the wrong side of 30 now, and the wear-and-tear on his body from logging that many minutes has to catch up eventually, right?
If the Union can get him on the cheap, it is a move that makes a whole lot of sense. In addition to the presence, versatility, and athleticism that he could bring to the Union, Philly is a whole lot closer to home than San Jose. Depending on his priorities for the final years of his career, it could be an enticing option for Wynne if Earnie gives him a call.
Philly needs a winner. Last year was a tease, and we’re all sick of mediocrity. Adding a player that can play anywhere on the back line and easily step in as a starter whenever needed would be a welcomed addition, at least in my eyes.