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Alvas Powell expected to compete for starting time for the Philadelphia Union

Powell will be key during a busy summer due to versatility, experience

Alvas Powell in training with the Philadelphia Union
Matt Ralph

With a busy summer ahead, Philadelphia Union head coach Jim Curtin expects new signing Alvas Powell to be in contention for a starting spot right off the bat.

The team won’t play until next Sunday, June 20 against Atlanta United, giving Powell over a week to get involved with the squad. Luckily, team chemistry shouldn’t be a problem.

“He spoke to me glowingly with how easy it is to fit in this locker room, the players have really. been open and embraced him,” Curtin said in his weekly press conference on Thursday. “That makes me really happy as a coach,”

Powell, a 26-year old Jamaican international alongside Andre Blake and Cory Burke, has had an illustrious career thus far. He is most well known for his time at the Portland Timbers, where he won the 2015 MLS Cup. Since his departure from the Cascadia club in 2018, his form has dipped, although Philadelphia could be the perfect spot for Powell to rediscover his early career form.

“The versatility piece is also huge for us. With all of our players, we want to push for them to be starters,” Curtin said. “Obviously now, he’s building back fitness; I always joke with him, ‘I want Alvas from the Portland days,’ and he knows exactly what I mean.”

Powell will be in contention to make Jamaica’s final squad for the Gold Cup, which will start next month. That is a long way off, although Curtin will have to deal with other missing pieces before Powell and others potentially leave in July.

New signing Dániel Gazdag is lacing up his boots at Euro 2020 with Hungary, while José Andrés Martínez was officially announced as part of the Venezuela squad at the Copa America.

With the absences coupled with Ilsinho’s ongoing recovery, squad rotation will be as important as ever. Despite only being 26 years old, Powell has a big advantage having a lot of experience in Major League Soccer.

“You know the quality he brings, you know how valuable it is to have almost 200 games under his belt in league,” Curtin said. “I can remember him terrorizing the right side on some really good Portland teams. He’s sneakily still in the prime of his career age-wise, I think that some people think he is in his 30s because he’s been around for so long.”

Curtin also referenced Powell’s versatility as a huge asset moving forward. The Jamaican began his career as a center back, until then-Timbers head coach Caleb Porter converted him to a winger due to his pace. At this point, Powell can fit in many different areas of the field.

“He can play in the attacking part of the field, he plays a great final ball,” Curtin said. “He can also defend 1 v 1, he has the athleticism, and speed that is necessary in this league when you’re playing against some great attacking players.”

Regardless of who starts against Atlanta in just over a week, competition for spots is one thing Curtin wants to see more of. A date at a full capacity Mercedes Benz Stadium after three weeks off isn’t an ideal way to ease back into the thick of the season, something Powell and the rest of the group know full well.

“We know that is a very tough test, to go down to Atlanta off of the break,” Curtin said. “We know we will have to be playing perfect to get a result down there.”