Analysis

True and false dichotomies, and evaluating the Union’s roster

Photo: Daniel Studio

Beware of false dichotomies.

They are everywhere right now, dominating American political discourse, distorting conversations on sporting, cultural and public affairs topics, and dramatizing issues that should be treated rationally rather than with caustic rhetoric and shallow cliches.

Whenever you see an either/or situation where it doesn’t belong, reframe the issue.

  • The fact that you’re for accepting Syrian war refugees means you’re against homeless veterans? Throw the BS flag. One has nothing to do with the other.
  • Ronda Rousey is the best female fighter in the world one day, and then she is garbage the next? Nonsense. She lost one fight. Even Muhammad Ali and Dan Gable lost.
  • Maurice Edu is The Franchise, or he needs to be sold? None of the above.

When someone frames a discussion or argument with a false dichotomy, reframe the question.

In an age of polarized politics, unreliable television media, and disingenuous and sensationalist argument largely for the sake of drawing attention in an oversaturated information marketplace, watch out for these false dichotomies. They have come to dominate the online and television media, whether it’s politics, the culture wars, science, protest movements and yes, sports.

If you’re like me, you’re sick of that, so let’s leave that where it is and focus on soccer. Yes, I’ve been thinking about a lot of other things this past week, probably like many of you, and Philadelphia Union’s off-season plans have been really low on that list.

Fortunately, I wrote most of this column weeks ago, so hopefully this offers a little escape. That’s what sports can do, after all, at least when terrorists aren’t trying to detonate a bomb inside a stadium during a France-Germany match in Paris. (Don’t think we’ll be complaining for a while about those security checks at PPL Park and the Linc anymore, eh?)

Let’s talk about the Union and who they should be keeping this off-season. And with everything I write below, keep in mind: There are always other options than just the ones thought of and laid out below. Not everything is a dichotomy. There are all sorts of options, and these are only some of them, based on what information is available.

Evaluating the Union’s roster

The Union have a handful of quality creative players and a few young cornerstones around whom to build a roster, but they have a lot of gaps and lack overall depth. A list of team needs is as follows, based on retention of the team’s current 4-2-3-1/4-3-3 formation as the default system:

  1. Starting left back
  2. Backup attacking midfielder
  3. Backup right back
  4. Backup forward
  5. Starting center back, depending upon which current players are retained (see below)
  6. Backup center back, depending on which current players are retained (see below)

MLS rules allow for a 28-man roster for the first team, with a $3.49 million salary budget for the top 20 players on the senior roster, although this figure will rise in 2016. However, a variety of other roster rules exist that allow for increased spending, ranging from designated players, homegrown players and the generation Adidas program to allocation money (targeted or otherwise) and the Re-Entry Draft. These rules play a large part in determining who a team can sign. Currently, the team has one designated player, Maurice Edu, but Tranquillo Barnetta will likely also have that status next season.

Here follows a player-by-player evaluation of the current roster that lays out which players should be retained, sold, traded, released or loaned to Philadelphia’s new reserve team starting play in the USL next year.

Players to Retain
Andre Blake Former No. 1 overall draft pick should be the starter entering 2016. Jamaican international, holds U.S. green card. Demonstrated potential to be a star. Likely good enough to succeed in Europe and thereby draw future significant transfer fee on sale. 2015 salary: $85,000 (Generation adidas, off budget).
Brian Sylvestre On loan with Union in 2015. Played well as starter. Only 22 years old. At 6-5, 200, has great size for goalkeeper. Should develop well. Projects as potential future long-term starter if Blake moves to Europe. Could get some minutes on loan in Bethlehem if another veteran backup is signed. Salary: $60,000.
Richie Marquez Second year player broke through to first team after excellent rookie year on loan in USL (led league in minutes played in 2014). Very fast defender, excellent athlete, good in air, solid positionally. Future all-star with national team potential. Lock down long-term. Salary: $60,000.
Ray Gaddis Excellent one-on-one defender, fantastic recovery speed, hard worker, good attitude. Weak in the air on set pieces, doesn’t offer enough going forward in attack but should improve there with more time on his natural right side. Projects as starter. Salary: $130,000.
Mike Lahoud Smart, athletic player. Great locker room presence. A leader off the field. Sierra Leone international. Struggled with injuries in recent years. When healthy, he’s at worst a solid role player and at his best a good No. 6 CDM. The problem is he has seldom been fit enough to be at his best in recent years. Give him a chance to win the position in training camp next to Nogueira, but evaluate potential replacements in case he shows incapable of staying fit enough to hold the starting role. If he can’t stay healthy, look to spend money on top-line CDM. Salary: $108,900.
Brian Carroll Smart, quiet veteran. A limited No. 6, serves as an old-style shield to the back line and little more. However, he is a good player to have on the squad, capable of spot-starting without significant drop-off and being a good late-game substitute. Rarely injured, good team player. Projects as backup to Lahoud if Lahoud is healthy, and if not, he can fill the role until an upgrade can be acquired. Possible player/coach. Salary: $150,000.
Vincent Nogueira Starting No. 8 CM. Fantastic ball control, perhaps the league’s best player at switching fields. Effectively a deep-lying playmaker who requires a more advanced playmaker to compliment him. Injury prone, so good depth is required behind him. Salary: $330,000.
Eric Ayuk Young, fast, athletic and talented. At 18 years old, he has already broken through to earn minutes. Can play on the left side but natural and more effective on the right. Currently on loan from Cameroonian club with an option to buy for $200k. Union should exercise the option. He’s a good investment. Salary: $60,000.
Leo Fernandes Spent season on loan with New York Cosmos, had an excellent season with 7 goals and 3 assists, named NASL Young Player of the Year. Left-footed attacking midfielder, fits best centrally but can play wide. Bring back as depth option and spot starter with opportunity to compete for starting role. Currently on league minimum salary, very affordable. Has U.S. green card. Salary: $60,000.
Tranquillo Barnetta Recent signing as a designated player. Intelligent player, excellent technique, good on-field leader, unselfish player. He makes the team better when on the field. As a wide player who can move centrally, he compliments Cristian Maidana, an attacking playmaker who starts centrally but tends to drift wide (particularly right) to create. Projects as a key starter and potential captain in 2016. Salary: $624,000.
Cristian Maidana Left-footed playmaker, ranked second in MLS in assists in 2015. Lethal on counterattack, excellent technical ability and vision. Lacks speed, doesn’t always maintain patience in possession game. Starting attacking midfielder. Salary: $203,500.
Sebastien Le Toux A natural right-sided forward who tends to come centrally to score. Remarkable stamina, can run for days. Weak ball-handler. Adeptly finds scoring positions. Very streaky player. When on, he scores goals by the boatload. When off, he goes months without scoring. Projects as starter, but formation can be tricky for him. Ideal role is a right forward. Not a good enough ball-handler to play as a true midfielder, but he’s a good crosser, particularly in counterattack. Salary: $275,000.
C.J. Sapong Starting No. 9 center forward. Strong, fast, very agile. Excellent first touch, can trap and control hard passes very well. Able to post up players basketball-style and either play hold-up or turn and shoot. Likely due a pay raise in 2016. Should be locked down long-term. Salary: $125,000.
Andrew Wenger Former No. 1 overall draft pick is a complicated player. Very smart, unselfish, athletic, technically talented and versatile. However, he’s such a good soccer player that nobody has found one position to stick him in. Played CB, CM and CF in high school and college. In pros, not a good enough finisher to play striker. Succeeded as target winger in 2014 but had a miserable year in 2015. Very confidence-oriented player, and right now he has lost it. Must determine where he belongs on the pitch. Consider for a move to center back. Salary: $180,000.
Fabinho Drastically improved in late 2015, but remains a gambler prone to major game-changing mistakes. On starter’s salary, ideally should be replaced and upgraded. Evaluate potential replacements closely and patiently. Better to keep Fabinho for now and acquire young alternative to compete with him. Salary: $114,000.

 

Current players to loan to reserve team in Bethlehem
John McCarthy Young player with potential and local ties. Should be starting GK to start season, possibly alternating games with Brian Sylvestre, to give him minutes and see how he develops. Salary: $60,000.
Jimmy McLaughlin Talented youngster who has played fairly well on loan with USL’s Harrisburg but has yet to break through in MLS. Needs consistent minutes at a single position. Generally a wide midfielder but has played some right back. Salary: $60,000.
Eric Bird Rookie center midfielder with injury problems in 2015. Send him to Bethlehem to fight for a starting job. Salary: $60,000.
Zach Pfeffer The ideal scenario would be to send Pfeffer to Bethlehem to be a regular starter at CM because he needs a full year of consistent 90-minute games, but that is dependent upon adding center midfield depth to the senior roster. Otherwise, Pfeffer stays with the senior squad as a midfield depth option. Most likely scenario is occasional loans to Bethlehem that would leave him available for recall to the senior team as needed. Salary: $60,000.
Antoine Hoppenot One-time super sub for Union isn’t rated well by Union manager Jim Curtin. Send him to Bethlehem to let him prove himself again and earn his way back to the first team in Philadelphia. Talented player who may have been overrated by the prior regime but is underrated by the current one. He’s a tweener position-wise and needs to settle into a position that fits him best, likely a second striker role that doesn’t exist in the Union’s current system. If he’s out of contract, he may be moving on, but he’s worth keeping. Salary: $60,000.
Dzenan Catic Another rookie who found minutes hard to come by in 2015. Send him to Bethlehem to see if he can break through there as a striker. Big-time scorer at college level, has an interesting background in Europe that makes him worth giving time to come good. Salary: $60,000.

 

Players to consider moving via trade, sale, loan or release
Maurice Edu Edu is one of the team’s most talented players, but he has not truly accepted his role as a center back. He seems to want to play center midfield. If he could accept the CB role, he would be an all-star, but he continues to over-dribble and push forward too much for a CB, leaving the team open to counters. This is not what you want from a highly paid team captain. He is a very good CM, but he is more a box-to-box player, rather than the true, disciplined No. 6 CDM this team needs to complement No. 8 CM Vincent Nogueira. Requires a long discussion during the off-season to evaluate if he is truly willing to accept CB role. If he is, keep him. If not, trade him. Your stars must be happy and buy in to the program, and Edu is a star. Salary: $700,000.
Austin Berry

 

The former MLS Rookie of the Year struggled with injuries in 2014, clashed with Curtin, and went on loan to a Korean second division team this year. He has proved capable of starting in MLS, but he needs a fresh start. He won’t get that with Curtin. The best option is to loan him out again in 2016 while evaluating Curtin for retention. Salary: $93,519.
Ethan White Hard-nosed, quick, hard worker, and still young at 24. Projects as a third center back. Has played well in spurts. Prone to game-changing errors, however, and opposing teams have targeted him for pressure now that it’s known he is weak and nervy in possession. The Union prematurely raised his salary after the 2014 season from $80k to $125k. On the former, he’s worth keeping as a backup CB. On the latter, he is a bit overpaid. Consider moving him if he can bring decent value in return and can be replaced, but don’t rush. There are definitely things to like about White. Salary: $125,000.
Danny Cruz Good presence in the locker room, strong motor, but his technical weaknesses make him a liability. At best a substitute and spot starter, which doesn’t warrant his current salary. Should be moved, as he plays the same position as Le Toux and Ayuk. (Although maybe some smart coach will realize his tough temperament is well-suited for defense and convert him to right back, where his technical weaknesses will no longer be weaknesses.) On loan in Norway in 2015. Salary: $125,000.
Warren Creavalle

 

Creavalle was a solid contributor for Houston, but he hasn’t impressed in Toronto and Philadelphia and has struggled for playing time. Give him a run in training camp to evaluate further, but his salary means he shouldn’t be kept on as a bench warmer. He has been deployed as a backup fullback but is not capable in that role. Salary: $108,500.
Fred The veteran player/assistant coach rarely played in 2015. It may be time for him to hang up the cleats. Consider him for an assistant’s position if it’s deemed that he showed well in this part-time role in 2015. He has been a good presence in the locker room and may have something to add on the coaching field. It’s also justifiable to bring him back for the 28th roster spot at his current salary. Salary: $60,000.
Zac MacMath The former starter went on loan with Colorado in 2015. Would he would want to return to Philadelphia after the way he was benched in 2014 despite solid play? Nick Sakiewicz is gone, so it’s possible. Discuss his future with him, as he was progressing very well in 2014 and could be worth keeping under the right circumstances. However, spreading four young goalkeepers between Philadelphia and Bethlehem is not ideal, as the Union should prefer to have an older veteran around to mentor the younger players and they may only keep four keepers total for both squads. Salary: $130,000.

 

Players to retain if contract is successfully renegotiated
Steven Vitoria Vitoria spent the year on loan from Benfica. Injuries hurt his season, but he generally played well once healthy and slotted in next to Richie Marquez. Vitoria stormed out of the locker room after his last game, and if that was as bad as it looked, he isn’t coming back. However, if it was a one-time incident, consider bringing him back on a lower salary if a cheap or, ideally, free transfer can be arranged. Prioritize this move higher if Edu is not retained, as Vitoria would slot in as a starter. If Edu is retained to start at CB, Vitoria may be unnecessary. Salary: $400,000.
Fernando Aristeguieta Young, strong, hard-working target forward. Good in the air, adeptly finds scoring positions, not a great finisher. Worth retaining as a backup center forward to Sapong. Popular with fans, good attitude, fits in well with the club. Salary must be renegotiated to $150k-200k. Salary: $350,000.
Conor Casey Strong, smart, experienced target forward. Fantastic header on goal, good touch, excellent passing vision. Very injury prone, however, and seldom is healthy more than half the season anymore. Seek to renegotiate salary to $120,000. If not possible, consider retaining anyway if salary budget allows. He is an excellent presence on the team and can win games all by himself when healthy. Possible player/coach. Salary: $180,000.

 

82 Comments

  1. if you looking for info on the Union, scroll past the useless dribble until you reach “Evaluating the Union’s roster”

  2. I know you cautioned that this was only one of many possibilities Dan, but I can’t get on board with retention of Wenger. People point out how talented Wenger is- and maybe that’s true- but he has shown very poor at the pro level. I’m not excited about him taking up a roster spot and however much money to learn a new defensive position either. That’s something the ‘old Union’ would do. If he somehow magically discovers himself at his next stop, well, good for him. I can live with that, let him walk.

    Love that we can start talking roster moves finally. Wish Alkmaar would release Earnie to the U Dec. 1 rather than wait for Jan. 1. That month of December is so critical.

    • I know. I can’t help it. I like him. I think he can make it. Just a matter of where on the field. CB isn’t new for him. He was an all-American CB in college. When he came out in the draft, the question was whether he would play striker or CB in the pros. Bethlehem is probably the place to try this out, but … yes, I’m curious. There’s not much to lose, as he’s already under contract.

      • Wenger is a smart guy, and a gifted athlete, but… he’s a head case. Not as in “crazy off the field” NBA/NFL kinda head case, but as in “crazy within his own skull” kinda head case. He needs an awesome sports psychologist. But what’s the prognosis for that?? And how long do we wait to figure it out?? I have a hard time mustering any enthusiasm for seeing him back in a Union kit, I must confess. He’s like a non-arrogant version of Freddy Adu: unlocking his potential is always… just… around… the.. corner…

      • I’m not an MLS rules expert, but am pretty sure the Union could expose Wenger to Phase One of the Re-Entry Draft. It would be a referendum of sorts on what the other 19 MLS decision makers think of Wenger’s potential/talent. I don’t think any other team would claim him at $180k- too many $s with too much risk. But maybe I’m wrong. If they don’t, then I believe the Union (and other teams) can negotiate a lower salary for him. Like I said, I’d let him go but this would be a way to bring him back at a salary that reflects that he’s probably making a position switch and there is a lot of uncertainty involved. It should be a very short deal- for the team AND for Wenger.

        Edit: I might be wrong on that. You might have to select a guy in Phase Two of the draft to negotiate with him. Hell, just let him go, lol!

      • Actually, I should nix part of my prior comment, as I’m not up on the specifics of his contract, so I don’t know where he is in terms of that.

      • That’s right, if you pick up a guy in the 1st round, you have to pick him up at his 2016 option salary, or, if he’s out of contract, at least their 2015 salary. In the 2nd round you get to renegotiate.

  3. Disagree on a few of your calls:
    .
    -Lahoud is a good dude, but we desparately need someone with better possession skills as a DM. I’d say let Carroll join the staff and keep Lahoud as backup to a more surefooted defensive mid.
    -Wenger has got to go dude. I wish him the best, but we can’t justify keeping him based on this past year.
    -No way Vitoria sticks around even if he’s willing to take less dough. Peace out!
    -I think White is a solid #3 CB, still young.
    -Hoppenot should absolutely not be loaned to BSFC. He’s a USL player pure and simple — been hanging around Harrisburg for the past few years, which is where he belongs — and on BSFC he’s just taking up a roster spot for younger players who have the potential to make the first team.
    -I think Gaddis’ time may be up. The way the Union play, they definitely need to have someone capable of having SOME kind of offensive presence… or at least the ability to hit a cross on target. Again, good dude but don’t see him fitting in.
    -As you said, Edu is the biggest question mark here. If not willing to be THE main CB, where does he fit in? You’re right, probably not in Philly. Chaco, Nogs, ‘Quillo are all (correctly) more valued than him and I don’t really see where he fits in in that midfield.
    .
    So I guess to amend your list of needs, I’d add another striker — one who is quick, agile and makes smart runs to give a change of pace to CJ — and a DM who can distribute the ball to our bevy of talented midfielders.
    .
    Good stuff!

    • I agree with everything here except Gaddis. Still have a soft spot for that guy. Good but limited on the field, but I have a feeling he’s a “glue guy” off it and in the locker room. You need guys like that.

      I agree CDM is the biggest mish-mash on the roster too. It may be time to sink some real money into one good player who will play it like you want rather than having a bunch of guys in Lahoud, Carroll, Edu, and Creavalle who are just OK there. I’d be fine letting them all go and making a clean sweep there. Unless Edu wants to devote himself to CB, then I’d keep him. Vittoria can go either way.

    • Questions on Edu will be — is he good enough to be our #1 CDM? and Has he been a CB mmore because of the team’s lack of a better option at that position or not?

      What if you add a quality CB (not Vitoria) and move Mo to the midfield with Noguiera and Barnetta? That seems like a pretty nice midfield trio if Edu behaves himself. Say what you will about Lahoud, but think he played same really solid games in that CDM spot.

      I’m also a little intrigued by the idea of Barnetta in that role and I don’t know why….

      • No. Edu should not play in the Mid. I repeat , Edu should not play in the Mid. Haha. Lahoud is our defensive mid and should be rightfully so.

    • Fair points! Good to get the discussion going. I’m thinking that I’m going to make my column next week include a list of potential transfer targets. You’ll see me hit the CDM point there. There’s one in mind I really like. The question is whether the Union could get him.

      Re: Hoppenot, if you’re right, it’s still a good thing to loan him to Bethlehem. That IS USL. He plays out the life of his contract there and either moves on or stays.

      Good point on striker.

    • I agree with you on all counts, even though I’ve had a soft spot when it comes to Wenger for a while, but I REALLY agree about Lahoud. More than anything, I think this team needs an excellent ball winner shielding the back line. Lahoud–obviously a good guy–just isn’t good enough to start at that position. There’s a reason Curtin was looking to sign a guy (Kvist I think) there last year. Lahoud isn’t young, he’s doesn’t have much upside, and he’d be great to have as a decent backup, but no more. He’s an ok ball winner, but he’s so slow to move the pass after he does win it that I find myself screaming at him more than anyone on the roster. He can’t pick out a simple pass and consistently loses the ball under pressure. That’s exactly what you don’t want from your no. 6.

    • “…I’d add another striker — one who is quick, agile and makes smart runs to give a change of pace to CJ…”
      .
      I think we have that answer on the roster already – Le Toux.
      .
      He has always been a striker, even when played on the wing.

      • He’s not speedy enough. And his hold up play is lacking. I said it before, LeToux is a good player on a bad team, and an average player on a good team. That being said, I love him, and hope he stays the rest of his career.

      • He doesn’t have the quickness aspect to speed but he has the straight line speed and is clever with runs over the top. I’m not suggesting he play as a lone striker but rather along with a more physical guy like CJ, Nando, or Casey.
        .
        Le Toux has always been a striker playing wing – he stays upfield often and looks to get into the box. His instincts are that of a forward and he has an endless motor to close down defenders. I keep calling him the MLS-version of Jamie Vardy.

      • I agree with this except the Vardy comment. I think Vardy offers more, but I guess I’m splitting hairs at this point. And in no way do I want to get rid of him. I even think in some ways he deserves the C. Especially after that Open Cup final, how he showed his heart and passion for this club. But it’s probably unrealistic since I feel his role will start to lesson as this team moves foward.

    • hoppenet will not take up space for young players he will show good examples and make sure our reserve won’t do bad

  4. “However, he’s such a good soccer player that nobody has found one position to stick him in.”

    Seriously?

    I’m sick of this Wenger attitude. He sucks, and he doesn’t have a position. That’s like double suck.

    It’s not a confidence issue. He just sucks.

    • Andrew Wenger doesn’t suck. I agree with the author. He has been quite maddening though.

      • Wenger may not suck, but he has done nothing this year to warrant a roster spot going forward.
        .
        He may be a great guy. He may have loads of potential. He was snakebitten this year, and his performance hurt the team.
        .
        It is time to move on from him.

  5. See I know almost immediately the type or consciousness color of a person when you hit hot button topics with them…. As a natural instigator and person who thinks quarrel and dialogue is important — as it informs our reason — I love messing with people trapped in their ideologies, narratives and world views. They are the warm rumor of an infected thumb and fun as hell to bump into. I will argue from one position then turn in the middle of the argument and argue the other side just to piss them off… and give them their dichotomous worldview on a spoon with castor oil… none of it will matter anyway as this type of thinking is seldom changed in one lifetime.
    .
    So to that end – I find the opening of this weeks article right on point for the esprit de la journee, as the French like to say… unlike Steven above who may or may not know a thing about your past as a journalist. I am unsurprised you had a little say this week.
    .
    I too cringe and wince from the ‘over saturated information marketplace’ and it just may be that some of those who comment here can only think back long enough ago to barely remember life without a Sega Genesis. Well after the time when print journalism was king and reliable… and mattered…. and didn’t force the shooting death of an innocent bystander down your throat because some guy “GOT IT” on their iPhone… then gave it away to the wolves.
    .
    Writers matter. Period. Plan and simple. Writers matter.
    .
    So on to futbol…. and far far far less important.
    .
    To my way of thinking ::::: There is no question Leo Fernandes should come home and attempt to earn a spot with the 18. There is no question Andrew Wenger should be turned back into a defender preferably OB. I can move on from The Striker. Conor Casey stays. Edu goes. Thanks Mo….. for missing that penalty kick. Good luck wherever you land.

    • DAMN! You had me until Casey.
      .
      No, no, NO on Casey. Thank you for your service CC, but the team definitely can’t afford to continue wasting a spot on a warm body with just ONE skill. I can’t watch anymore lead footed turnovers.
      .
      I agree, for that money, the team can do better than Edu. That said I wouldn’t mind seeing him stay if a value added deal doesn’t come along and he’s willing to stay at CB.
      .
      I have been starting to lean toward the removal of (my personal favorite) Maidana. I love everything about what he can be, but he never seems fit enough to play a solid 70-80. For a player of his obvious potential to just “disappear” like he does for entire games here and there…I’d like to see a guy who at least looks like he WANTS to make something happen with a little extra hustle on his “off” days.
      .
      Fernandez and Ayuk creating havoc together is very appealing to me.

      • I like Conor Casey cause he doesn’t cost much. I like Conor Casey cause he is still good for 5 goals. Send him out for the Cup games. Spot sub with lethal finishing ability.
        .
        I won’t parse over him though. “If he goes, he goes,” as Ivan Drago kinda said.

      • I think the best way to describe Maidana is what JM said about Juan Mata, he’s a luxury player. If you have a speedy hard-working team around him, he’s less of a luxury, and his disappearing on the field, and inability to play 90, becomes less of a factor. On the Union I feel he’s more of a liability. This team can’t afford a player that doesn’t track back, is out of shape and disappears for sizable portions of games and the season overall. I won’t deny his skill or play making ability. But I also can’t sweep under the rug his defensive liability and lack of fitness.

  6. James Lockerbie says:

    This off-season I am keeping an open mind. I want to make a bag of popcorn, sit back and watch what transpires as the draft/trade window opens up. I will do my best to give this front office a chance to show us, what they’re going to do with this team moving forward. Anyway that’s my two cents

  7. Hey Dan if we ever get to watch a match together over some beers my prediction is that it will be really boring because we are going to agree on pretty much everything. I see the Union pretty much as you do. I am getting a presentation together for work right now, and I am looking for some thought provoking quotations so I turn to the usual suspects. For me Johan Cruyff is one of the usual suspects. I’ll give you two of his.
    “Every professional golfer has a separate coach for his drives, for approaches, for putting. In football we have one coach for 15 players. This is absurd.” I would love to never see a Union so-called player/coach on the squad, to me this is the team cheaping out by having MLS pay some geezer’s salary instead of actually hiring a proper coach. Please, Union. Pretend you are an actual professional organization. Fill your squad with players. Hire coaches to coach them.
    “Choose the best player for every position, and you’ll end up not with a strong XI, but with 11 strong 1’s.”

  8. I don’t think Pfeffer or Wenger should be allowed near the first team next year. Both need to spend all season in Bethlehem, or find a new team. Pfeffer needs the minutes to prove he’s worth the hype and can find consistency, and Wenger needs the minutes to learn ONE position that fits him. I agree that CB is his best chance. I also think he is about 2 seasons away from looking for a desk job if this new position doesn’t work out.
    .
    I’m a big Sylvestre fan. Blake is definitely the #1, don’t misunderstand, but Brian was the most confident and calm keeper we had back there all year long. Move MacMath for whatever we can get, and let Johnny learn in BSFC. But this is a Blake/Sylvestre team going forward. Let’s not over-complicate that situation again.
    .
    I love Chaco, but I’m still not sold on starting him over Barnetta in the middle. Chaco is capable of the amazing moment, but Barnetta is consistently surgical. I think I prefer the consistency.
    Neither will or should be a backup. Pick one and move on.

    • The Chaco/Barnetta thing is the big wild card to me too. While Barnetta offers the flexibility to play on the wing or centrally, they certainly seem enamored by the idea of Barnetta playing centrally. Maidana isn’t a winger. Do they cut bait there, despite him being their top playmaker, and attempt to add a goal scoring wing to the roster to play opposite LeToux? I honestly don’t have any idea what’s right in this case, but Maidana doesn’t seem to be a lock to return yet.

  9. If Wenger were cheaper I would say put him in Bethlehem and let him work his way up to the big club. He isn’t cheap, so I think he has to go.
    .
    Lahoud is good depth but not out CDM, nor is Carroll we need an upgrade there.
    .
    Macmath and Berry should be gone on burned his bridge with the team and the Team burned their bridge with the other. Best to let them both move on.
    .
    Vitoria should be gone at any price.
    .
    Casey should hang em up.
    .
    Edu has to go his salary is taking up maybe 3 roster spots, Replace him with someone of equal salary or stock our team with solid MLS’rs
    .
    Ethan White is good depth but that is about it.
    .
    Danny Cruz might be redudndant with Ayuk in the line up. Ayuk is a rawer, cheaper version of an off the sub/spot starter energy player with some upside. I suspect Cruz will get moved on.
    .
    I want Maidana to stay but I’m not sure Curtin wants Maidana to stay.
    .
    I have no problem with Aristeguieta hanging around for one more season to see if he can find his groove here.

    • I just have one bone to pick. In no way is Cruz anywhere near Ayuk’s skill level. Just no. I have no idea what some fans fascination is with Cruz. Sure, speed and hard work are nice. But so is keeping the ball on the field. So is the ability to go at defenders and hold on to the ball. Neither of which is Cruz capable of. At 18/19 Ayuk has more skill and ability than Cruz in his mid-twenties will ever have.

      • Cruz has come a long way. He does what he does and I think in his role he can contribute to a MLS team. I think you get more or less the same thing with Ayuk. But if we kept him I would have no major complaints.

      • Sieve man, I usually agree with most of what you write. But this I just can’t. I appreciate your view, I just don’t see it all. Ayuk is just too talented to be lumped in with Cruz. Players like Cruz are a dime a dozen. He’s more akin to MLS beta, whereas Ayuk is MLS 2.0-2.5.
        .
        Besides all this, thanks for the debate, and giving me something to complain about!

  10. Darth Harvey says:

    Blake – will put butts in seats for years to come…He’s like Cliff Lee circa 2008-2010…when he’s on, he’s fucking magic.

    Gaddis – (this is a reverse blessing) I feel about Gaddis the same as everyone felt about Fabinho last year…sun rocket time…His positioning and slides this year have been abysmal. 1 on 1 defense < team defense and position…that said, I will have my foot in my mouth around July 2016 because that is when Fabinho started to win my heart this year…

    Wenger – I agree with about 80% – 90% of the stuff you say on this site, Dan, but let another team somewhere outside of the Philadelphia market worry about whether or not Wenger can be salvaged as a defender or outside mid or a fucking shoe shiner… too expensive for a broken player…let someone else get all the king's horses and all the king's men put humpty Wenger back together again…

    Mo – if he commits…keep him….if he still thinks that he can John Rambo it up the field from 18 to 18 every time the ball is at his feet… BEAT IT… Mo, your only chance to douse yourself in NT glory again is to pull a Demarcus Beasley and reinvent yourself as the dominant defender you can be. Screw your head on straight

    Stevey V & Nando – thanks guys… hope you enjoyed your cup of coffee here in Philly, but MLS is just too fast for both of you

    Earnie – Damn man, don't you have some vacation days saved up to cash in so you can get to your new job a little earlier man? The anticipation is killing me.

    • Couldn’t agree more about “Stevey V and Nando.” Such little ROI for 700K.
      .
      That is a huge portion of $3.6 ish-million.
      .
      The Defender: Isn’t even close to a difference maker.
      .
      The Striker: Scored less than a loaf of bread in goals (12 was my number for him in first year –12 much needed goals he was unable to deliver, when I can think of at least 4 opportunities off the top of the head with the ball at his feet just inside the box ((which leads me to the next point))) and I can’t stand to watch him strike a ball from the 18 into the river again. He runs and works hard. So does my old Stanley Steamer… doesn’t mean I would pay out the ass to get it fixed if it broke down.
      .
      These are two players who make a lot of money and are sure to irritate the hell out of our new Sporting Director… who is coming from a league steeped in quickness and speed… and efficiency.
      .
      The Dutch are nothing if not fastidious in their comportment for efficiency.
      .

    • James Lockerbie says:

      Love your comment on Mo. +1

  11. There’s no way the Union should keep Wenger for $180,000, especially since you came to the conclusion that Creavalle wasn’t worth his $108,000 and Cruz isn’t worth his $125,000. The Union would have to negotiate down Wenger’s salary significantly. I don’t think it’d be appropriate for Wenger to be making any more than Gaddis is at $130,000. But if the Union do keep Wenger, he’ll have to move to yet again another position, so at the very least he belongs on the ‘loan to the reserve team in Bethlehem’ list.
    .
    I think Hoppenot definitely has to be released, and there’s no way either Vitoria or Aristegueita are worth their salaries. I’d say at most Vitoria is worth $200,000 and Nando is worth $250,000, maybe $300,000 for Nando if its a long term contract.
    .
    On to Edu. I think even if he fully accepts the CB role, he’s still not worth $700,000. His skill level merits maybe half of that, and I don’t think additional merchandise sales attributed to him totals $350,000.
    .
    So all in all, we have 14 – 16 players that belong on this roster next year (the 15 you mentioned minus Wenger plus Cruz and Creavalle). So we’ll have to acquire at least 7 (!) new players (most of them starting quality) this offseason *without offloading any of the 15 ‘players to keep list.* <– That's the most important piece. Its something the Union ownership hasn't been able to accomplish often in the past. I sure hope the new Sporting Director can live up to the hype; he has a tough road ahead of him.

    • You make a good point, and in retrospect, I probably should have mentioned in the column above that they should seek to renegotiate Wenger’s contract down. I might have skipped over that because — and I wrote much of this 6 weeks ago, so I don’t recall — there’s always been the question of how much of his salary they actually have to pay, as opposed to how much Montreal picked up as part of the trade.

  12. Lots of good points! Many of which I agree with. So I’ll talk about a player that doesn’t factor too much into the success of 2016 but still drives me nuts! I’m talking about Ayuk. I’m probably the only one who feels this way but he has tendencies to disappear during games, loses the ball too much and generally makes weak passes. I think he would be great at BSFC.

    The reason I feel this way, was the Columbus game last year when he scored to make 3-1 or 4-1 and he was back flipping all over the place. Drove me nuts! And unfortunately that has stuck in my mind. Feel free to disagree.

    Great article, love the forum and the discussion!

    • I think every top level club needs a one or two or even three teenage players to vet.
      .
      If not Ayuk…. then who fills his spot if you tend to think this club needs to specialize in getting important game experience for young players.
      .
      I remember watching a Liverpool game before Rodgers was hatcheted / axed however you describe and I think he started 3 guys younger than 20.
      .
      This is important happening… and needs to happen here IMO. So while I agree with your specificity regarding some of Ayuk’s tendencies… I also know he was at times the only player with a heartbeat in this hum-drum sleep walk of a season and I rather enjoyed watching him bring some needed electrical energy to Talen Field nee PPL Park… even if he turned the ball over when he should have passed. Least he has moxie. I can relate to moxie.

    • Agree, that moment in Columbus was not Auyk’s high point for the year, John. But he’s only 18 and he’s aggressive offensively, something this team lacks badly. On the other hand, thanks to the S. Williams trade we are down one international spot for this year. Have to believe every international player will really be under the microscope- especially if Stewart has some young, under the radar European players he’d like to bring in.

    • I completely disagree. An 18 yr. old made some mistakes. Yes, and? If he was 24 and made the same mistakes and disappeared in games, then I might be worried. There were too many times last year when Ayuk was the only, THE ONLY, player on the team willing to take the ball and go at players. I’m sorry, I’m just dumbfounded by your position on Ayuk.

      • I agree with All4u – even if I agree with John’s point about the back flips against Columbus being asinine. I can live with the mistakes Ayuk made specifically because he’s 18. Presumably he’ll get stronger; presumably he won’t celebrate like that in a blowout again; presumably his defense continues to improve (he made big strides during 2015).

  13. Why is ANYONE still even considering Danny Cruz?
    He is not skilled.
    He is NOT fast.
    .
    Running like a manic makes him LOOK fast. Other players running him down from behind (every single time) and taking the ball away (if he doesn’t fumble it away himself) proves he is not.
    .
    He wastes too much time writhing around when he’s on the ground, and too much time complaining when he’s standing up.
    .
    He’s got a great smile and is a genuinely nice person, but I cannot agree that he belongs on even this weak roster.

    • I think I’m the only one on this thread so far that’s said anything positive about Cruz. But all I was trying to say is that I’d consider keeping Cruz at his $125,000 salary before considering Wenger at his $180,000. I was mostly just trying to point out that keeping Wenger is a bad idea. I think the fact that Cruz was loaned to Norway is pretty much the last nail in his coffin anyways…

    • Thank you Dave R. From your fingers to fans eyes! It can’t be soon enough to not here Cruz’s name again.

  14. Lucky Striker says:

    Bringing back so many of those who failed so much……smh.

    Gut it.

    There isn’t more than a handful of players on last year’s roster that truly deserve a return.

    Get your money back, and reapportion it appropriately.
    All for Leo back, as long as he CAM caddies. Too slow in a wider role.

    This team needs 2 left backs, a LCDM, a LCB, 2 pacy wingers and a backup target striker at a minimum.

    Give Mo what he wants or move him.

    Could live with some of the occasionally competent in back-up roles, but there’s no need to overdo it. Give the new GM the time and space to bring the ingredients…….and then let Earnie Stew-it…….

    • I see what you did there…. nice — btw… did you pull a hammy or something…. quiet from the Lucky Striker lately.
      .
      Best handle on the PSP page… I envision a white pack of smokes red bull eyes eye showing through, rolled up in a shirt sleeve of an over head bicycle kick.

      • Lucky Striker says:

        You are correct sir. Tribute to 2 people: My dad, who taught me about the game (That was his brand) and Gerd Mueller, who as a kid I got to see play over here in person. They used to say that about him in the stands as well.

        I hear his health has failed of late. *All the more reason to keep it.

  15. I would move everyone DW considers moving – and only retain Casey at a lower salary. turnover is a way of life in the Eredivisie, and its not like we were “almost there” or “one or two pieces away”. ignore the “big nameiness” or “from a good league” thing. find good younger replacements and see if they work out (i.e., Richie Marquez). If they haven’t worked out yet, unlikely they will (contra: Fabinho Rocket Meme Paradox, but I think he is a backup at best). Steel the young guys.

  16. Mike Macheski says:

    Any more details on what exactly happened here:

    “Vitoria stormed out of the locker room after his last game, and if that was as bad as it looked, he isn’t coming back.”

    Did he get reamed out by the Curtin? Did anybody have more to report on this? I hadn’t heard of this.

  17. Great stuff Dan. A fair enough evaluation of what is on the roster. Before we look at the individuals, we have to see where Earnie Stewart wants this club to go tactically. Noguiiera and Maidana are certainly top of the roster guys, but by keeping them it seems as if the team must commit to a five man midfield. Neither has shown much so far, when the Union have attempted to play 4-4-2 and Barnetta is firmly locked into one midfield spot.

    If Stewart wants this club to take a different shape, there may be a lot of very talented square pegs who don’t fit the round holes

  18. 2 cents
    .
    I feel like we are trying to make Edu fit into a team that has no real spot for him with the current roster.
    .
    I would rather seem him moved and find a guy who actually fits, instead of trying to fit someone, heck, for that salary, find two players that fit for one player we’re trying to fit.
    .
    /2 cents

    • My 2 cents is that your 2 cents is spot on. I like Edu a lot as a CB when he feels like playing the position. However, he’s too undisciplined too often in the back, and you just can’t have that. It doesn’t seem like he’ll ever shake his midfielder’s mentality, and the irony is that his skills as a midfielder give him an advantage as a CB if he would just accept that role on the team. I THINK it’s ironic, anyway. Sometimes I Alanis Morrisette things too often.

  19. That takes us up to the next level. Great potisng.

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