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Philadelphia Union, Steel FC rosters thin from international call-ups, injuries

Monteiro’s status unclear and several other questions abound for both the first team and Steel

Matt Ralph

Remember when Sporting Director Ernst Tanner said 25 players on the first team roster was enough?

That idea will be tested this weekend with five players away on international duty and injuries that will give both first team head coach Jim Curtin and Steel FC head coach Brendan Burke fewer decisions to make.

Since arriving on loan from FC Metz, midfielder Jamiro Monteiro was expected to be available for Saturday’s game “at the latest” but the 25-year-old Cape Verde international’s international paperwork had cleared as of Wednesday.

Once he is cleared to play, Monteiro gives the first team 10 international players with only eight spots available. Kacper Przbylko, who is out with a toe injury, was previously loaned to Steel so he won’t count toward the eight but that leaves one additional player who needs to be loaned to Steel if Monteiro is cleared to play.

“To be clear on Jamiro, not 100 percent cleared yet but we are confident it will be sorted out come kickoff so that is another international spot,” Curtin said in his press conference on Wednesday. “We have every scenario covered to do what’s best for us and have our final group at its best for Columbus.”

The Union is only able to loan available players to clear international spots so Cory Burke — away with Jamaica — and the injured Sergio Santos can’t be loaned. That leaves Jack Elliott or Olivier Mbaizo as likely candidates.

Marco Fabián, who was out last week on a red card suspension, could still possibly be hit with an additional game suspension from the league’s discipline committee.

“We are operating that he is going to be part of our group,” Curtin said about the Mexico international, who did not receive a call-up to El Tri this time around. “He’s been able to build some fitness this week and looked good and sharp in training.”

Fabinho has also been out with a left ankle injury and Mark McKenzie returned to the 18 last week after missing the game in Kansas City with a concussion. If Fabinho isn’t fit to be in the 18, the Union will be left with 16 players.

Injuries and call-ups have also impacted the Steel, which will be missing two players from the back line that started the first two games in Jamoi Topey — called up to Jamaica — and Matt Real, who was called into a camp with the United States U20 team in Spain.

Forwards Saed Díaz, Faris and Selmir Miscic have dealt with injuries, Michee Ngalina has spent some time away from the squad for personal reasons and academy forward Shanyder Borgelin was out last week with an illness. Recent signing Yomi Scintu was also not available and may not be available this weekend still while awaiting international paperwork to clear.

With so many forwards on the mend, Burke paired 16-year-old Jack de Vries with Issa Rayyan up top and gave 15-year-old academy forward an opportunity to make his Steel debut off the bench in a 1-0 loss to North Carolina FC last Saturday.

“We have a lot going on, we are nowhere near full strength,” Burke said during his weekly press call on Thursday morning without naming specific players.

Given the size of the Steel roster — there are 13 signed to USL deals — and the organization-wide “next man up” approach, Burke has the advantage of leaning on academy players to fill spots.

“Those kids should now be on their toes all the way down to the U17 level and know we aren’t very hesitant in terms of calling on them and throwing them into the fire,” Burke said.