The summer transfer window is upon us and all Union fans know the inevitable is coming. That is Kai Wagner’s departure. While he is still here, let’s take a look at what Union life will be like once he departs.
The bottom line right now is Kai is still here. However, big MLS names are already being moved. Most recently, Adam Buksa of the New England Revolution is off to the top flight league of France. Kai Wagner is amongst the top of possible MLS players Europe has eyes on. Kai’s move may not be too far away.
In preparation for the day he is sold, let’s look at the possibilities of the move’s details and what the Union lineup could look like after.
Key Details of the Transfer
Losing Kai no matter what will hurt. He is the best left-back in MLS. He brings as much offense to the Union as he does defense. Both are crucial for the teams’ success. So a key detail of his move would be when he officially transfers over.
Kai’s transfer could be signed and announced anytime. However, there is a possibility he doesn’t move until the winter. We have seen this many times with MLS transfers. Most notably with Brenden Aaronson. Aaronson was sold before the MLS season ended. However, he stayed with the team until the season concluded.
It is a long shot. However, that all depends on what team he goes to and what their plan is for him. If Kai heads to a team wanting to fill his position now, expect him to be out immediately. If a team is adding him so they can further his development, he may stay until the MLS season ends.
Basically, wherever Kai ends up, if he is going to get minutes with the team immediately, he’ll leave the Union ASAP. If he goes to a team who wants to see him develop more and not throw him into minutes right away, he may finish the season with the Union.
It all comes down to his decision and what is best for his career. Kai is 25 years old. He is at a point where he is still developing, but if he is going to be a player in Europe, his time is now. He would be a huge loss for the Union but it is his right to leave whenever is best for him.
The only plus to Kai leaving from a Union perspective is the pretty penny they should get for him. A few million at the very least.
Life Without Kai
When Kai leaves, what Jim Curtin decides to do with the lineup will be interesting. It should be expected he just replaces Kai with a like-for-like positional swap. Such as Matt Real or Mbaizo. This keeps the Union in the 4-4-2 diamond they are known for. We all know Jim shies away from lineup changes. Especially whole formation changes.
The issue with that both Real and Mbaizo have had their moments of doubt. Real has struggled to get any time this year. Mbaizo lost his spot to Nathan Harriel in just 1 game this season. With Mbaizo and Harriel, one of them would have to play on their weaker side since they are both Rightbacks. We saw how that played out in the Eastern Conference Final last year.
However, this would be an opportunity to get weird with the lineup. Let’s start from less weird to very weird.
Flach is a wild card to replace Kai’s spot. Flach certainly has the defensive play and energy to replace Kai. However, Flach would bring almost nothing to the offensive game. Flach is a liability on offense now as a midfielder. Also, Flach already has eyes on being Jose Martinez’s replacement when he leaves. The number 6 role in the midfield would fit Flach better.
A Completely New Lineup
This would be the perfect opportunity to try a new lineup. A lineup that could work is a 3 man backline with 2 wingbacks a little further up the field. It would look like a 3 man backline at times. Other times a 5 man backline.
This lineup would see Stuart Findlay replace Kai’s spot, as Elliott, Glesnes, and Findlay would be the 3 headed backline. Then Harriel moves up just a smidge to play a right-wingback role with Flach in a similar position on the other side.
Weird? Absolutely. Could it work? Who knows. This lineup would accomplish multiple things. It would hedge the defensive loss felt by Kai leaving. The new formation would give Stuart Findlay the playing time he deserves.
Of course, there are cons. The Union doesn’t really have the CB depth to field 3 at a time with no one on the bench to spell them. The offense would have to change a little bit. It is a shot in the dark but it is an option. It is fun to speculate. We aren’t playing FIFA. Going for a drastic lineup change like this midseason probably isn’t the smartest move.
I would rather Jim Curtin try something new. Rather than force Matt Real or Olivier Mbaizo into a position that is hurting the team. However, if Real or Mbaizo are up for the challenge and succeed then that’s great. That is the best-case scenario. I’m sure Jim has a plan for Kai’s departure.
He is Still Here… For Now
Kai Wagner is still here. No rumor has much grounding at the moment. However, these things move quickly. Especially with the MLS on international break. Kai could be gone tomorrow, he could be here for the rest of the season.
The bottom line is when Kai is here the Union has the best chance to win. However, everyone needs to be prepared for his departure.
Tom Bogert, who broke the news of Brenden Aaronson’s move to Leeds United, has this to say on the situation…
i'd recommend getting the tissues ready then…
— Tom Bogert (@tombogert) June 7, 2022
All we can do now is enjoy him while he is still here and wait for the details of his transfer.
Featured Image: Wes Shepherd/PHLSportsNation