Sticky Situation: The Union’s limited options for Open Cup fixture

The U.pan

Open Cup game against New York Red Bulls is rapidly approaching, but not before a contest against Toronto FC. Two big games against two big opponents with the Union in their best form of the season. But all that could come to a grinding halt if nothing gets sorted up front. But what do we mean?

Well, remember that CJ Sapong red card against D.C United? It doesn’t look like the Union appealed the decision, either that or the appeal was unsuccessful. Which means if Fernando Aristeguieta is not fit by Tuesday, the Union are in real trouble. Connor Casey and Antoine Hoppenot both seem doubtful despite Antoine being active in training recently. But if Nando is still unable to play come Tuesday and the Union have no fit strikers, that means likely passing responsibility to Andrew Wenger or Sebastien Le Toux.

It may not me the end of the world, nor the end of the line in the Union’s Open Cup journey. If Wenger were to be thrust into a lone striker position a few weeks ago, I’m sure many fans would have jumped into the River End as opposed to cheer from it..but Wenger has found a bit of form. More importantly, Eric Ayuk has really come of age and started putting in some really solid performances. Moving him over to the left wing with Le Toux on the right hand side would still provide threatening wing play without too much of a disadvantage.

Even if Aristeguieta is healthy, the Union still have to be careful. Just because he is healthy, his match fitness will be at an all time low due to being inactive for such an extended period of time. It may be a case of cutting their nose to spite their face for the Union, if you start a player who has just returned from injury and isn’t 100% you run the risk of re-injury. If the  Venezuelan falls injured yet again, it would probably draw the curtains on what could have been an exciting debut year for the loanee. So in that case, expect a winger to start up front and if needs get dire then Aristeguieta to be subbed on late into the second half just to increase match fitness.

The good news for the Union is that they are more than capable for creating and finishing chances from the midfield. In a strange way, Aristeguieta isn’t that pivotal right now. The absence of Sapong will hurt really badly, but when you look at plays like the one below,

the midfield is the best it has ever been. If they can continue to pressure New York through the trenches, a low ball across the box to Wenger may not such a big issue to worry about..

The issue isn’t so much the absence of Sapong, but more how Curtin deals with it. The Union midfield certainly have the talent to finish and whilst a winger would be the obvious replacement if Aristegueta isn’t healthy, players like Maidana or Pfeffer could quite easily slot into a false nine. What the Union head coach does with this situation and how the players handle what could be a formation change, may well dictate their success in their game against the New York Red Bulls.