With the international transfer window closing on Wednesday, teams in Major League Soccer will need to complete deals with international clubs before the window closes. While teams will still be able to make deals with other teams in the league and sign free agents, the Philadelphia Union nonetheless have a very important decision to make: are they going to look to bring in a number 10 or are they content with using the combination of Ilsinho and Roland Alberg until at least the end of the season.
Let’s be clear - as good as both players have looked in spurts, neither should be thought of as a long-term solution. Alberg’s selfish behavior leading to a public spat with CJ Sapong should write his ticket out of town at the first available opportunity, while Ilsinho will be 32 in October and is not a natural at the 10. Adam Najem has shown some promise, but at 22 doesn’t seem ready to be given the starting job just yet. A new player must be brought in if the Union are going to be a serious contender for the 2018 MLS Cup.
The decision that needs to be made however should come down to a simple question: would bringing a specific player in right now help the Union make a deep run in the playoffs or be used as a building block for the 2018 season?
If the answer is yes, they’ve then identified a player that is available either on a free transfer or from a club that they would be able to bring in, and they need to make sure the player is worth it. No more Jay Simpsons. No more Fernando Aristeguietas. No more Steven Vitorias, Anderson Conceicaos, or Roland Albergs. The Union have to do their homework and ensure whoever the club brings in isn’t another high priced bench option or Bethlehem Steel FC regular. This one has to stick.
If the answer is no or the Union don’t have someone specific in mind, then they should stand pat on who they have and do the necessary legwork to properly vet a player and bring him in this winter. The scouting department has had some good gets (Haris Medunjanin and Giliano Wijnaldum) but if the club is not in an urgent rush they may want to take some additional time to really watch the player(s) they are interested in and ensure they’ll be a good fit for the Philadelphia Union.
The Union are far from a lock to make the playoffs, so there should be no underlying sense of urgency from the club. Unless they have a can’t miss guy who is going to be that game changer, there’s no sense in making a panicked move right now. Ilsinho and Alberg can finish the season out, or the Union can give Adam Najem the bulk of the minutes.