Union Academy prospects with big decisions before NCAA preseason

Feature photo courtesy Marjorie Elzey

As the recent signing of of Cole Turner to Bethlehem and to a Philadelphia Union pre-contract illustrates, in mid-July Keystone Sports and Entertainment finalizes the year’s academy youth development decisions.

Probably Ernst Tanner’s decisions are made, and are now  moving from inside his mind to signatures on paperwork, whether the paper work is the Union’s or the NCAA’s. Besides  Turner, Tomas Romero and Nathan Harriel are the two other likeliest prospects.

As reported earlier by various sources, Romero is officially still headed to Georgetown and Harriel de-committed to Clemson before joining the Union’s Academy at Christmas time.

Turner’s situation had been the most intriguing.

  • He is USLC-effective as a second defensive central midfielder in a double pivot next to Chavany Willis.  He played well next to Willis against Pittsburgh at Highmark Stadium on July 4th when Bethlehem played the trapezoid with two DCMs in the midfield .
  • Whether he is ready for the responsibility of DCM by himself at the bottom of the diamond is less clear. After all, he spent his previous academy career in the double pivot of Earnie Stewart’s 4-2-3-1. He is in only his first year with the diamond – or trapezoid – of Tanner’s 4-4-2. In preseason he played more center back than defensive center mid. And he was suspended five games earlier this season. He is still learning the new shape(s).
  • Ernst Tanner stated when commenting that he was intrigued by Turner last fall, and made clear that while the organization was very respectful of his commitment to Navy, it made sure he knew they thought highly of his development and his potential.
  • Brendan Burke’s comments highlighted his sound technical skills with both feet and his ball winning capability.  Coach also mentioned offensive distribution and lateral quickness as opportunities for further growth. He complimented the young man’s inner drive and leadership potential.
  • Anyone who watched the Army-Navy Cup last October in Chester knows that Navy would not further Turner’s technical development as a soccer player.

Romero is a distinct signing possibility.

  •  The intricacies of NCAA  rules for maintaining the amateur standing of amateurs playing alongside professionals precluded Romero from playing in Tuesday’s exhibition against Reading.
  • 2019 has seen improvement over earlier years. Giving up a goal is not normally a positive evaluation datum. But Romero got a hand on Kenardo Forbes’ rocket free kick in Pittsburgh July 4th, illustrating coach Burke’s earlier references to his greater physical explosiveness this season.
  • Tanner said Wednesday that Carlos Miguel Coronel is in Salzburg, the club from which he had been loaned, and that they are working to release him back to that club.He also said there would soon be news about a replacement.
  • Unless Tanner, Jim Curtin, and goal-keeper coach Oka Nikolov are willing to risk going with only two keepers down the stretch, Romero seems a first-team signing candidate.

Harriel faces a crowded but flawed depth chart.

  • He joined the Union’s academy in late December of 2018. He has nine starts, of which the seven most recent are consecutive, with one earlier substitution appearance. The numbers meet coach Burke’s stated standard for complete and fair evaluation.
  • Ray Gaddis is older and limited offensively.
  • Olivier Mbaizo has had two meniscus surgeries in two years, and, more importantly, has not yet developed the mentality consistently to improvise with creativity on offense.
  • Issa Rayyan made a strong initial showing in USLC as a two-way right wing back, before a hamstring – and then team needs at striker and midfield – disrupted that pattern.
  • Harriel has proved in specific games that he has the courage and grit of a professional player. Whether he has demonstrated enough else consistently to convince the decision-makers to sign him is unclear.

NCAA camps open on or around August 1st.

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