Philadelphia Union Head Coach Jim Curtin received a multi-year contract extension earlier this week, and now he’ll finally be able to use new signing Andrew Wooten Saturday at Real Salt Lake. Wooten, a German-American was made officially available for selection July 9th when the summer transfer window officially opened.
“I’ve been following [MLS] for the last three years now,” said Andrew Wooten in his introductory press conference over two weeks ago at Union training. “I think it’s improving and now is the right time to join the league.”
Wooten signed a one and a half year deal with an undisclosed option at the tail-end and will be available for selection for the first time Saturday night when Philadelphia travel to Utah to take on Western conference opponent Real Salt Lake. It’s been a tough two weeks of training for Wooten, but he’s managed to turn heads each and every day in camp.
“He brings everything along to be successful,” said Union Sporting Director Ernst Tanner when Wooten’s signing was announced. “He’s really powerful and understands the game. “He was doing quite well as a striker and scoring a lot of goals. I had him in mind since I began here.”
Tanner, easily the most efficient and productive front office member the franchise has ever seen, decided to make the move once he learned Wooten’s contract with his now former club SV Sandhausen was ended prior to July when the MLS summer transfer window opens.
The two have a working relationship that’s lasted roughly a decade now, according to Tanner. Once Tanner, noticed Wooten wouldn’t be receiving an extension in Germany, he jumped on the opportunity to bring the 29-year old forward stateside.
“There were other MLS teams interested, but I heard from Philadelphia first,” said Wooten. “There was no need to look at other teams.”
With the addition of Wooten, Philadelphia now have six key additions from Europe on their roster thanks to Tanner’s reputation and extensive tenure abroad. Kai Wagner, Carlos Coronel, Kacper Przybylko, Jamiro Monteiro, and now Wooten are the lucky six plucked from their European clubs and brought to Chester. It’s also important to note that all five of the players signed prior to Wooten have made major impacts. Coronel might have made subtler impacts considering his time with Steel FC, but the depth at keeper was clutch when both Andre Blake and Matt Freese went out injured. (Coronel is not currently with the team however.)
Now Wooten will have an opportunity to earn the top forward position in a crowded offensive depth chart. The duo of Przybylko and the speedy Fafa Picault has produced tremendous upsides. The pair have provided much of the offense as of late, tallying a total seven goals and an assist between the two in Philadelphia’s last three matches.
If you’re Curtin, this is a decision you love to be handed. Either way you go, there’s going to be offensive production. But currently, who should get the minutes?
Wooten will likely need at least another full week of training to gain full match fitness which means the most likely outcome for him would be to appear as a second half sub Saturday, much like Santos has done. But eventually, as Wooten gains that fitness, one of the forwards will need to be set aside, right?
Well, maybe not. It’s important to remember that both Picault and Wooten are very flexible when it comes to their position and tactics on the pitch. Picault can easily shift to a winger or a midfielder if needed, which could allow for a rare opportunity in which all three see the field at once.
However, in doing so a player like Brenden Aaronson may see significantly less of the field if Picault dropped into midfield. The more likely scenario would be a Przybylko and Wooten pairing, because who doesn’t love power and strength up top? But without Picault on the field forcing opposition players into pressure with his pace, the Union could suffer when teams attempt to build-up out of the back.
Look for the usual striker pairing to start Saturday’s match at Real Salt Lake, but be sure to pay close attention in the second half, when Wooten could make his long-awaited MLS and Union debut.
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Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union