International call-ups, injury and suspensions will make putting together two teams on Saturday for the Philadelphia Union’s friendly against Pumas UNAM and the Bethlehem Steel FC road match against North Carolina FC a challenging task for the technical staff.
On one hand, it’s good news that the Union will be short because it means their players on in demand for international duty. Brenden Aaronson, Mark McKenzie, Auston Trusty and Matt Freese were called up to the United States U23 team, Andre Blake (and UPDATE: Steel FC midfielder Chavany Willis) to the Reggae Boyz, Marco Fabian to El Tri, Olivier Mbaizo to the Cameroon U23 team.
Warren Creavalle was called up to Guyana but an injury is keeping him out of the team for their upcoming Nations League games, which also means he’s likely not available for the weekend either.
Two additional youth international call-ups will limit Steel FC’s roster choices with right back Nathan Harriel away with the U.S. U20s and Jack de Vries off with the United States U17 team. The Steel also has two suspensions with Jamoi Topey sitting out after being sent off on Sunday with a second yellow and Faris out again serving the second of a three-game suspension after running into a referee protesting a non-call in the previous game. Saed Diaz has returned to training after a long layoff from injury but is not expected to be ready to play.
The depth chart below shows 39 players between the first team and Steel FC rosters. Note: Academy players are not available to be called up to a gated friendly for the first team and Steel are only allowed a maximum of five academy players in a game day roster.
* Steel FC contract
^ Academy player
Philadelphia Union vs Pumas UNAM
Joe Bendik will likely get the start in goal for the Union with Blake and Freese both gone and unless they want to carry only one keeper for the game Steel FC goalkeeper Todd Morton will need to be called up and the Steel left to use academy keepers Lukas Burns and Benjamin Martino. I wonder what Charlie Lyon is up to this weekend.
One area that isn’t that depleted from the first team roster is the forwards so it would seem like an obvious choice to put Andrew Wooten up top by himself in a 4-2-3-1 (or pair him with Sergio Santos or Fafa Picault in a 4-4-2) in and then bring in Kacper Przybylko at some point in the second half. Curtin could also use Michee Ngalina and Ilsinho as he sees fit but Ngalina may also be better suited playing another 80-90 minutes down in North Carolina and pairing again with 15-year-old Patrick Bohui, who became the youngest player in team history to earn a start for the team on Sunday.
Moving to the Union midfield, Haris Medunjanin deserves a break so Curtin really should only use him off the bench if at all. Alejandro Bedoya had last weekend off so it wouldn’t be a surprise for him to play alongside Anthony Fontana. Jamiro Monteiro doesn’t necessarily need to play but with Creavalle out and Haris presumably sitting he may be needed.
Looking at the back line, RJ Allen needs to start and should probably just go ahead and play the full 90 minutes and give Ray Gaddis the night off (this would also ensure that he doesn’t somehow score for the first time in a meaningless friendly). Jack Elliott doesn’t really need to play but with both the first team and Steel back lines shorthanded he may have to play. He could pair with Aurelien Collin and Matt Real could slide over if a sub is needed. All three left backs will be available, but Kai Wagner doesn’t need to play so Real should get the start.
Steel FC at North Carolina FC
The Steel defense will be hardest hit by international absences and suspensions with Jamoi Topey suspended and Nathan Harriel away with the U20s. Walter Cortes will be the only under contract outside back available for the Steel though Issa Rayyan has played right back and will likely need to play there on Saturday. U19 right back Cole Sotack is available as a reserve. Ben Ofeimu and Steve Kingue will pair in the back with academy defenders Dante Huckaby and Ian Graham providing depth.
The Steel midfield will have James Chambers, Zach Zandi,
Chavany Willis and Cole Turner along with Axel Picazo and Selmir Miscic with Danny Flores a possibility to travel and be available off the bench if needed.
The front line will be thin with Faris out suspended leaving Yomi Scintu, Patrick Bohui and Shaynder Borgelin as options to start at forward or come off the bench for Steel. Picazo can also play in the forward spot as well. One thing to note is that the Steel are limited to just five academy players in their game day 18.
What lineup/s do you want to see this weekend?