Commentary

Five possible Union signings from Academy, Steel

Photo: Rob Simmons

As clubs around MLS make their moves in the summer transfer window, Philadelphia Union fans have little hope that their team will make any big-name signings. No Wayne Rooneys for Philly.

Having touted their youth development however, the Union may make a headline or two with a signing from within their own organization, either directly from their Academy or from their USL affiliate Bethlehem Steel. Indeed, over the past two years a minor trend has developed, with midfielder Derrick Jones signed from the Steel in late July of 2016, centerback Auston Trusty signed from the Academy in early August of the same year, and midfielder Anthony Fontana signed from the Academy in mid-July of 2017.

Who will be the next name to rise through the ranks? Whether it’s this summer or in the offseason, these are the young players the Union are most likely to sign next.

Brenden Aaronson – Midfielder

A common member of the U.S.Y.N.T. pool, Aaronson has practiced with the Union first team and currently practices with Bethlehem Steel, appearing for the USL side three times this season, starting in one. Presently a student at YSC Academy, Aaronson has the skill set to be a prototypical no. 10: Skilled on the ball, precise key passes in the final third, and the ability to finish plays himself. If the team ultimately plans to play Anthony Fontana at the no. 8 position as they’ve implied in the past, and with Borek Dockal set to leave after his loan expires, then the Union will need to invest in a solid attacking midfielder for the future. Aaronson is their best bet from within the organization.

Aaronson has committed to NCAA powerhouse Indiana, but he can waive the commitment by signing a professional contract. If Philadelphia Union Sporting Director Earnie Stewart – or whoever replaces him – can guarantee Aaronson sufficient playing time with the Steel and a decent salary, we may see his name on a blue-and-gold uniform next.

Faris – Forward

Signed with Bethlehem Steel on Monday, started against Red Bulls II on Wednesday. 18-year-old Cameroonian forward Faris is the newest addition to the Philadelphia Union organization and perhaps the best inside answer to the Union’s most pressing need.  C.J. Sapong has been unable to replicate his standout 2017 season, and Cory Burke, while performing above initial expectations, doesn’t seem like the answer for a Union side that is scoring well below their expected goals.

Faris has a similar build to Sapong – 6-foot-1 and 178 pounds – and is a member of the Cameroon U20 squad. Keep an eye on his performances with Bethlehem. If he manages to make an impact at Goodman Stadium, we could see him attempt to do the same in Chester.

Selmir Miscic – Winger/Forward

Miscic has been a standout at the Academy level. His ability to beat defenders on the wings and create space for himself is among the best on this list, and he may be even better in front of the net. He was an absolute goal scoring machine for the Academy this season, and the higher-ups have obviously taken notice.

Although he hasn’t seen the professional pitch yet, Miscic has been practicing with the Steel, and was even seen warming up with the first team before their friendly against Eintracht Frankfurt. After that match, head coach Jim Curtin essentially made clear that only outdated NCAA rules prevented Miscic suiting up and playing. He and Michee Ngalina are the two most likely to put pen to paper next.

Michee Ngalina – Winger

Speaking of Ngalina, the 18-year-old Congolese midfielder has really been making his case since signing with Bethlehem Steel in April. Ngalina has played in 11 matches since signing (there have only been 15), starting in nine and logging two goals. Like Miscic, Ngalina is unafraid to pull a quick move to give himself space up the wing or cut in to collapse a defense. He’s skilled on the ball and knows where to be off it. Plus, he comes back to help on defense, which Curtin loves.

Ngalina is perhaps the most obvious choice for the Union to sign next, as he’s already signed two short-term contracts: one to play in the U.S. Open Cup match against Richmond Kickers and one for the Union’s friendly against Eintracht Frankfurt. Ngalina stood out in the latter. If he gets call ups to practice with the first team and keeps up with them, a contract seems imminent.

Benjamin Ofeimu – Centerback

Yes, another academy centerback. With Academy standouts Mark McKenzie and Auston Trusty making national headlines, not to mention sophomore Jack Elliott and former second-overall pick Josh Yaro waiting in the wings, why sign another back? Well, the short answer is, “he’s very good.” The 6-foot-3, 200 pound hulking center back is a defensive presence, and he’s making that presence felt for the Steel, starting two of his five games played. Earnie Stewart and Jim Curtin want to send a message to their Academy students: “If you give it your all and if you play well, a contract is in your future.”

Another answer is that, with Ofeimu potentially ready for the pros, the Union have their first opportunity for a big outgoing transfer. Curtin has mentioned that Trusty has the potential to play in Europe, and McKenzie has been just a good. If the Union want to capitalize, Ofeimu wouldn’t be a bad plan B to fall back on.

 

It’s an exciting class of youngsters all around. Perhaps the Union add someone not on this list, but whether or not the player is listed here, he is sure to add to a Union roster that could use it.

 

4 Comments

  1. This is the most depressing article to ever be posted here.

    • On one hand, It’s exciting if you focus on potential players that we will get to see for the future.
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      It’s only depressing if you agree that this is the only moves the Union will make this summer.
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      Which is entirely possible.
      .
      .
      .
      Sigh.

  2. Post season review last night was not that good i. Wanted to see more on play time.

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