On June 17th, Vincent Nogueira, one of the Union’s best players, a main stay in the Union midfield mutually terminated his contract with the Union due to personal health reasons. We here at Union Nation, wish Nogueira the best of luck as he returns home to France. He will be remembered as a player who gave it all for the Union.
But with one of the Union’s center defensive midfielders gone, the Union need to figure out how to replace him. The Union are without Maurice Edu who has been injured all season. Edu hopes to return in a few weeks and the Union could also acquire someone during the transfer window in July but in the short term the Union need an answer.
Throughout the season, the Union have utilized both Brian Carroll and Warren Creavalle next to Nogueira. Both are defensive minded players capable of shielding the defense and come up with the big tackle to slow down attacks. The Union could play both, boosting what is already one of the league’s best defensive units. But one thing each of them lack is the passing and ability to contribute to the offense that Nogueira brought. He was a true box to box midfielder and had a great work ethic on both sides of the ball.
If the Union want to add more to the attack, they could resort to Roland Alberg. Alberg is considered the backup to Tranquillo Barnetta as the attacking midfielder. Putting him in the starting lineup would see him pushing up alongside Barnetta allowing for more creativity and attacking ability on offense. Alberg proved Wednesday night in the U.S. Open Cup match against Harrisburg City that he is a strong option on the offense. He record a brace including a stunning free kick in extra time to seal the win for the Union. Alberg though seems disinterested in rushing back to play defense leaving the team vulnerable to counter attacks.
The Union also have two options on the Bethlehem Steel. Derrick Jones and Boluwatife Akinyode both play defensively in the midfield. But both are still developing and may not be ready for the leap to MLS just yet. Jones, 19, just graduated from the Philadelphia Union academy and Akinyode, 22, previously only has played for the New York Red Bulls II. They project as last possible replacements if more injuries plague the Union.
Curtin will likely use the combination of Carroll and Creavalle as he did when Nogueira was injured earlier in the year. Then when Edu comes back, he can rotate each of them. In the long run, the Union need to address the position next to Edu from outside the organization as Carroll is 35 and Creavalle doesn’t seem to have the ability to hold it down long term, not to mention his penchant for receiving cards.
But there is one player that I think could be a dark horse in the long term at the center defensive midfield. Hint: He currently plays on the backline. Check back next week for the answer.
Photo: Betancourt (via: Flickr)