Making room for Wooten

Photo courtesy of the Philadelphia Union

New Union striker Andrew Wooten is expected to clear his international transfer hurdles this week and be available for selection for the team’s next match in the mountains of Utah. An idyllic setting that has been a veritable House of Horrors for the team, it’s likely Wooten will get minutes to see if he can play a role in changing the team’s fortunes there.

Considering he’s joining a side that currently sits in first place in the Eastern Conference, it’s worth speculating where he fits in an already crowded striker room.

Not going anywhere

Kacper Pryzylko – 9 goals, 1 assist, .69 goals/90 minutes

There was something charming about seeing Pryzbylko curl in winners during the presason, his sweaty, heather gray training top assumed by many to be the most important Union shirt he’d wear in Philadelphia (by way of Clearwater). There were certainly few Union fans who expected anything beyond a Brian Brown-esque cameo from the giant and friendly one, that’s for certain.

Now, more than halfway through his inaugural season in Blue, Pryzbylko has done little more than lead the team in goals by more than double his closest competition, including the crucial game-tying tally on Sunday against Orlando.

More than that, he is currently sitting 6th in the entire league in goals scored. His company? Carlos Vela, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Josef Martinez, Diego Rossi, and Wayne Rooney. If the reader thought he or she might get altitude sickness in Sandy, Utah, this group of elite stars is a more likely locale.

Pryzbylko is a diamond in the rough, unearthed by enterprising excavator Ernst Tanner. He’s not going anywhere when Wooten arrives.

30-minute men (or less)

Fafa Picault – 3 goals, 3 assists, .22 goals/90 minutes

Picault is both a winger and a striker, and neither a winger nor a striker. In a narrow 4-4-2 like the Union play, a player like Picault is most valuable when paired with a complimentary hold-up player like Pryzbylko: one can run off the other and create little combinations of play around mismatched defenders.

The Union have done this well and gotten Picault into great spots to score goals. His recent play (two goals and an assist in his last three games) suggests he might be coming into hot summer form. However, in spite of this Picault will likely find himself on the bench next week because of his inability to finish these chances over the long term: Fafa is second worst in the league in expected goals (at -2.63), saved from the blushes of last place by Union Designated Player, Marco Fabian (-3.0).

Cory Burke – 2 goals, 0 assists, .37 goals/90 minutes

Sometimes Burke looks like an assassin with the opposing keeper in his cross hairs and a poor and flailing defender on his hip. Other times, he’s a bit (as the saying used to go about Peter Crouch and his constantly flailing and seemingly disembodied limbs) Bambi on Ice. Either way, he produces goals.

Whether that happens again in 2019 is an unlikely outcome. Should Burke get his paperwork sorted, he’ll have a newly started timeline to get match fit and find a place. The best he can likely hope for is a few minutes spelling the starters once that happens.

His fate is not quite the same as getting Wally Pipp-ed, but it’s not far off.

On outside looking in

Sergio Santos – 3 goals, 0 assists, .53 goals/90 minutes

Observe the penalty Santos earned or his nearly-full field run and near-miss against Minnesota United in just a half’s worth of work as evidence of the young Brazilian’s real potential. That said, this sentence will be the 1,000th place where a Union fan or pundit has pointed out that he seems to be pressing right now, not finding a regular spot in the XI and trying too hard to create goals out of nothing to do so. The several contested shots from 30 yards he attempted over the weekend speak to this problem, to say nothing of him taking on three defenders without another Union player with which to combine.

Though all Ilsinhos are Brazilian, not all Brazilians are Ilsinhos. Alas…

Santos will get it right, he’s too talented not to. Perhaps a stint with Steel will right the proverbial ship as his potential is not yet enough to include him in a regular rotation.

Michee Ngalina 0 goals, 0 assists, .00 goals/90 minutes

Ngalina has a total of 9 minutes in Union blue to his name. Quite a bit too small a sample size, to be honest.


The Union have already found more success in the transfer market in 2019 than in any year prior. Pryzbylko, Jamiro Monteiro, and Kai Wagner represent the backbone of this winning side. Santos and Fabian should be a part of that group too but simply haven’t lived up to billing yet.

Whether Wooten slots himself in the first or second camp remains to be seen. However, like Fabian and Santos before him, he’ll start with high expectations and a solid place on the depth chart.



  1. i really want to see wooten and pryzbylko together on saturday. it seems like they both have the best finishing of all of the forwards and i don’t know how many more missed shots i can see

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      Me too. I think we will see a combo of Kascper/Fafa with Wooten coming on for Fafa. Then maybe get a Wooten/Kascper start the following week at home.

      • Agreed. Expecting Wooten to go 90 in SLC for his first MLS start would be a lot to ask considering the travel, the altitude, and the fact that he hasn’t gone 90 minutes in 2 months.

  2. In Tanner We Trust says:

    If we somehow have the game well in hand at any point, I’d like to see Kacper get a well deserved rest and maybe we can be experimental with Ngalina, whom I’d love to learn more about. A crowded striker room is a good problem to have, but let’s try to give the kid a chance when possible.

    • Old Soccer Coach says:

      You will recall Ilsinho going on at halftime against New York Red Bulls and torching their backup left back, Conor Lade.
      Last year in June, for Bethlehem against Red Bulls 2 captained by the selfsame Lade, Ngalina torched Lade so badly in the first half that he was removed at halftime.
      Ngalina does not have Ilsinho’s technical control of the ball, although his is good enough to have earned a first team contract.
      ilsinho, while considerably pacier than when he arrived, has nothing like Ngalina’s pace.
      to go with that pace, Ngalina has the ability to execute sharp turns while dribbling at maximum speed while maintaining control of the ball.
      they are different players. Ngalina plays most often up top next to Faris as a striker this season fir Bethlehem. He can play on of the shuttling midfielders.

      • In Tanner We Trust says:

        I actually remember you commenting about this before. Any time a Red Bull gets torched, it sticks in my memory. Sounds like he’s fun to watch. I wish I had more time to scout Bethlehem so I really appreciate your insight. Thanks

  3. I think a more interesting question is what happens in mid-field when Montiero and Ilsinho are healthy? If Ale and Harris are locked in you have 4 players (ok maybe 3.5) for 2 slots. Or does the manager finally start to rotate the mid field to keep them fresh?

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