Today’s Union Lineup

As a former player for the Chicago Fire, an organization that has always taken the U. S. Open Cup seriously, Jim Curtin is quite likely to put his best IX on the pitch tomorrow.

But should he?

Adam Najem

One possibility depends on how badly Ilsinho is hurt.

Number 10 is the weakest position in the organization right now – both on the Union and the Steel. The Open Cup game would be an opportunity to evaluate Adam Najem.

Doing so would not harm the Union in the MLS table, a message to Curtin’s side and its fans that is still premature to send, without reference to Curtin’s well-known tenacity of purpose.

Najem has not started an actual game with the Union. While Harrisburg is not an MLS side and currently near the bottom in its own table, it is a side that loves to compete as fully as possible against the other two teams owned by Keystone Sports Entertainment, LLC. Its double pivot in front of its defense is strong and the young attacking center midfielder would be playing in front of the head coach’s own eyes.

The diminutive ACM has played against Harrisburg with the Steel, so the evaluation would be how well he meshes with the first team under game conditions.

Najem played an hour on Sunday and he is blessed with young legs. On the other hand, the Steel play his former club Friday so a choice has to be made.

Another possibility regarding the best IX question concerns a striker who has showed a lot of promise recently.

Seku Conneh, Bethlehem’s starting striker, has been on a tear recently. He has scored in four of the last Steel five games. In the first twelve games of the season, he has set and reset the Steel’s single season scoring record. He has one game less than two-thirds of the rest of the season to keep hitting that reset button.

Four goals in five games is a statistical outlier for anyone not named Messi or Ronaldo and he has an important match against Red Bulls 2 on Friday to add to his tally.

Conneh is also an international, and U. S. Open Cup rules about internationals are different – tighter than MLS’.

But if he does not show any regression, he may be invited to show what he can do in the exhibition against Swansea City in Chester in July. As for how good he is, comparisons to SKC’s Dom Dwyer’s successful run with Orlando a few years ago are not yet appropriate.

Mark McKenzie

Were he not overseas with an unspecified youth national team, Mark McKenzie would be the final logical candidate for experimental minutes against Harrisburg. He has played against Aaron Wheeler – the Harrisburg captain – for the Steel, so history would repeat itself.

The real test would be how well he meshed with the first team and would signal whether he should leave for Tobacco Road in August or stay in Chester. And as with the other two, the Swansea City friendly might represent a valuable opportunity


  1. It should be experimental. There is absolutely no reason to go standard. I disagree with Curtins philosophy on this.

  2. Adam Schorr says:

    Of course we shouldn’t start our best XI. The USOC is nice, but the Union can’t afford extra wear and tear when they’re struggling in the league. My proposed XI:
    McCarthy (confirmed)
    Wijnaldum (intl)-Trusty-Marquez-Rosenberry
    D. Jones-Yaro (intl)
    Simpson (intl)
    McGuire, Tribbett, A. Jones (intl), Carroll, Creavalle, Samuel?, Conneh (intl)
    Keep all the regulars out of this.

    • Which is EXACTLY what I suspect Cutin will NOT do. He has never run out a lineup like that. Not even in a pre-season friendly. I’ll bet a box of doughnuts Fabinho starts, even though I think it would be ridiculous not to give the start to Wijnaldum. Alberg is definitely starting at the 10. And if he’s fit, Picault is starting on the wing. Same goes with Herbers. I’d be shocked to see Trusty start. Curtin will likely have vets on the bench to sub in if things go south. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Brian Carroll in the 18 to be honest. Maybe I’ll be surprised.

    • Old Soccer Coach says:

      Given that Yaro has never played DCM in a game, and that Ken Tribbett has looked quite decent there in the last few consecutive games for Bethlehem, I would suspect that might be an adjustment to your lineup, Trusty off, Yaro and Marquez in the back and Tribbett in the double pivot.
      That defense would not keep a clean sheet against Aaron Wheeler, I would strongly suspect

  3. I think we should push hard in the Open Cup, maybe not to the point of playing all the starters against a USL side, but also not to the point of completely playing the younger players.
    Last year the Open Cup was less key because the team still had a lot to play for in the league, but now, even though it might feel early to admit it, they probably don’t. The Union are one of the worst teams in the league this year in PPG. More importantly, they are one of the worst teams in the surprisingly strong East. The playoffs are probably not going to happen, and we find ourselves (again, sadly) with the Open Cup being by far our best chance to win anything. I think Jim should take it very, very seriously.

    • While I agree the Union should prioritize the Open Cup as I think it’s an incredible way to get into the CONCACAF Champions League, I disagree that the playoffs are out of reach. While the Union’s PPG have been very poor, their underlying numbers are actually right in the middle of the league. I expect them to fight for a playoff spot barring serious injury problems and I also expect them to compete in the Open Cup. They have legit depth for the first time ever and should be able to manage. I’m very curious to see what Curtin does tonight.

  4. One of Bedoya or Medunjanin will start next to Jones I suspect. My guess is Medunjanin since Bedoya has a slight knock.

    • Andy Muenz says:

      Medunjanin is the one player Curtin should definitely NOT play. By the end of the season he will have played about 15 months without a break so leaving him out of games like this is definitely called for, especially when he traveled to Europe last weekend (even though he didn’t play).

      • Zizouisgod says:

        Spot on.

      • Agreed. But I still bet it will happen. Especially if Creavalle has a knock because the only other real options at the role are Elliot, Tribbet, or Najem. So I’m thinking Curtin will want a more proven player at the position.

  5. Apropos of nothing above, Bethlehem head coach Brendan Burke in this morning’s conference call stated that Ronaldo Damus is in fact n the middle of a trail with the USL’s Bethlehem Steel, and that the evaluation process is not over.
    He also said that within the usual parameters of the Union’s decisions about whom to send down for minutes, he anticipates there might be some squad rotation, given that the Steel play Friday night and then Tuesday night.

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