Now that there’s been some time to process the news of the retirement of Ray Gaddis, let’s take an updated look at the Philadelphia Union organizational depth chart at right back and what options head coach Jim Curtin has going forward at the position.
While it’s always a possibility a new player is brought in, Sporting Director Ernst Tanner didn’t allude to that being the case on Friday when he said they wouldn’t necessarily have to acquire a new right back because they have two players at the position.
Those two players of course are Olivier Mbaizo and Nathan Harriel.
The 23-year-old is the most likely to start in the early going because he’s suddenly the only right back on the roster who has played for the first team, but he’s also in the pool for national team duty for Cameroon so even if he locks the position down there’s a chance he will miss some games while with the Indomitable Lions. Mbaizo did show some improvement last year but the fact that he still wasn’t seriously pushing Gaddis out of the lineup means he’s a lock to start.
When Keegan Rosenberry was traded to the Colorado Rapids the thinking at the time was that Mbaizo would be given the chance to make the position his but that never materialized. He passed the 1,000 minute threshold for the first time making 14 appearances and 12 starts but three of those starts were at left back.
This promised to be a big year for the 20-year-old homegrown from Florida even before Gaddis retired because he’s the oldest of the new group of homegrown signings and because as good as Gaddis was last season Harriel better fits the profile of the type of outside back the Union’s system now requires. Where Gaddis was a defend-first type of player, Harriel is good at both ends of the field but there is still some room for improvement in his ball handling and crossing skills. He’s probably not quite there to be a full-time starter but he and Mbaizo could forge a pretty dynamic pairing pushing each other weekly in training.
Other First Team Options
With Kai Wagner still the starting left back, Real’s chances to play will likely be diminished yet again and while he could certainly play right back in a pinch, he’s probably more an emergency option for right back than anything else at this point.
Bedoya has switched over to right back late in games but that seems like the only scenario where the captain is going to play right back for this team.
Philadelphia Union II
Jackson, an academy player, has played all across the back line and started at right back for Philadelphia Union II in their first spring friendly against West Chester United on Saturday.
Jasinski has played multiple positions for Union II, including outside back.
The 2005-born academy outside back just recently joined the academy from Richmond United so he’ll be one to watch for the future.
Pierre was a goal-scoring machine in his younger years as a forward but he’s been mostly playing right back now so he’s another 2005-born player to watch as a possible future option.