It’s time to hand out final report cards for the Union 2019 roster. Keep in mind, grades are based on meeting or not meeting expectations, improvement or decline from previous seasons, affect on the club, as well as overall performance. Let’s go…
The 19-year-old from Medford, NJ had a solid rookie campaign for the Union. Although he has some of the best dribbling ability on the club, many times, he was bullied off the ball by stronger defenders. Registering only 3 goals and 2 assists this season, with one season of hopefully putting on 5-8 lbs of muscle, he could easily become and 8 goal/8 assist contributor.
The Union captain was integral in leading the club to its best season yet. He was well on his way to playing every minute of the regular season but fell victim to injury with only two games to go. With 4 goals and 4 assists, Bedoya has proven to be a decent offensive threat, even when playing more of a defensive midfield position. Turning 33 early in the 2020 season, Bedoya knows he will only have a few opportunities left at an MLS Cup. I have no doubt he will give it his all to lead the Union back to the playoffs next season.
The lone Union all-star representative had a good, not great, first half of the season. His second half was mediocre. Blake still has a flair for the dramatic and can make some saves that no one else in MLS can make. But, he’s also making more mistakes than ever before. Not holding onto the ball, not punching it out properly, and most egregious, leaving his box too often to challenge the shot.
No one really knows or will say what happened, and why he couldn’t return from Jamaica. Burke will be 28 at the start of next season. If his legal issues get straightened out, he still has a chance at 4-5 quality years as a goal-scorer in MLS. Just might not be here.
I hope you don’t overlook his importance this past season. With the center back situation being the carousel that it was, due to both poor play and injury, the Union was lucky to have Collin available. In the six matches he started, the club went 4-1-1. Not too bad. The problem was when Collin had to play in back-to-back-to-back matches, his age and lack of playing time over the past three seasons really showed.
The game-killer extraordinaire has been head coach, Jim Curtin’s go-to sub when the Union has a late-game lead. But with the depth the Union has accumulated since Ernst Tanner become Sporting Director, Creavalle has seen his role greatly decreased. His minutes were cut almost in half from 2018 and were the lowest he’s accumulated for a season in his eight-year MLS career.
What more can be said about Ilsinho? He was the definition of a super-sub in 2019. Although he started fewer matches than any of his previous three seasons with the Union, Ilsinho tallied statistically, his best season yet. He netted 5 goals and dished out 8 assists in just over 1,000 minutes on the field. He is a unique talent and needs to be here for the Union to contend in 2020.
One of only two players on the roster to play every minute of every match this season. “Gentleman” Jack was slotted as the fill-in guy at center back behind the Trusty/McKenzie pairing. Due to McKenzie’s injury in the preseason, Elliot was named a starter for the first match and never looked back. His length and improved timing have made him a pest for anyone on the offensive side of the ball. Countless times in 2019, he’s had to make his own saves and usually came out on top.
The Mexican International was slated to be the replacement at the 10-position for Borek Dockal. What added to fans’ excitement during the off-season was that Fabián was expected to be much more of goal-scorer than Dockal. Due to injuries, red card suspension(although not warranted an additional game), and sub-par play, he played only 1,249 minutes. The fact that he scored 7 goals in that limited time, keeps the palate wet, as supporters try to imagine his numbers over a full season.
He just made the cutoff for appearing here. Playing only 119 minutes, but making eight appearances, Fontana seems to still be the odd-man-out. When he’s on the field, positive things seem to happen, but something must be missing. It will take a number of injuries or constant poor performances from other midfielders for Curtin to start him again.
The Union Homegrown goalkeeper was thrown into the fire in 2019 due to injuries and the International Break duty of Andre Blake. Freese did just fine. Nothing spectacular, nothing that would curve the club’s hope for his future. The injury bug struck him as well and cost him what would have been a larger sample size for him to be evaluated. There was just enough for me though.
This was a big year for Ray. Not only did he surpass Sebastien Le Toux for all-time appearances in a Union jersey, but he also had the best season of his career. Yes, he will always be limited offensively, but he played the best defense of his career, and benefiting from the deepest squad he’s ever played with, was the most active he’s ever been with the ball at his feet. Defensive lapses did occur but they were kept at a minimum.
An unusual season for the young center back. After showing some promise at the end of 2018, the plan was for McKenzie to start on opening day. Due to a concussion and then an appendectomy, Jack Elliot assumed his role and never let up. McKenzie had to ride out most of the season on the bench and had six starts with the Bethlehem Steel. He eventually was able to play his way into the Union starting lineup, finishing out ’19 with six quality starts.
The oldest regular starter for the Union did not miss a single minute this season. He was a solid field general throughout the majority of ’19 but did have a few lapses during the season, turning the ball over at inopportune times. Perhaps age is catching up with Medunjanin. Although he led the club in assists with 10, he tallied only one over his last eight matches.
He is the most dynamic signing of the Ernst Tanner era, thus far. Despite joining the Union after the start of the season, and missing a chunk of time in July, Monteiro still tallied 4 goals and was second on the club with 9 assists. With a full off-season and a healthy 2020, he has the talent to be one of the best midfielders in all of MLS. A 10 goal/10 assist season is clearly within reason.
Coming off a very good 10 goal/5 assist 2018, expectations were high for Picault. A slow start, in which he went scoreless with one assist in his first six matches, relegated Picault to the bench. That became his story for the rest of 2019. He just simply couldn’t get in any kind of sustained rhythm and bounced back and forth between starter and sub.
He was a revelation in 2019. The look and feel of the Union while he was playing striker was completely different from the C.J. Sapong era. Not only was Przybylko able to gather possession from a high booming pass as quickly as anyone on the club, but he also had a great combination of getting his shots off quickly, as well as a surprising knack of dribbling ability not typically seen by a player his size. With 15 goals and 4 assists in only twenty-six matches, Przybylko was efficient as any striker sans Vela, Ibrahimovic, and Martinez in MLS. A late-season injury kept him out of the playoffs and he was the player the Union could least afford to lose.
It could be said he had the biggest turnaround of any Union player this season. From the injury bug to falling behind several players on the depth chart, Santos found playing time hard to come by. Regardless, he didn’t relent and was a big contributor in a late-season win vs. Atlanta and filling in for Przybylko admirably in the playoff win vs. the Red Bulls.
The definition of a sophomore slump. Trusty finished 2018 as one of the brightest spots on the Union and one of the best young center backs in the league. He didn’t miss a single minute last season. 2019 was a different story. After a summer slump magnified by weeks of poor play, Trusty was replaced in the starting lineup by Collin, and eventually McKenzie. He appeared in twelve fewer matches than his rookie season and will have to really step up to break up the Elliot/McKenzie pairing.
The German International was a stalwart at left-back for the Union and missed only one match due to injury. He brought an attitude the Union had been lacking for a while. Often pestering and getting in the face of the opposition, Wagner showed match after match, that not only would he not be pushed around, he’d do the pushing. Add to that, his ability to deliver a beautiful cross consistently and contributing 8 assists, Wagner showed he can be a great two-way player.
The mid-season signing of Wooten was supposed to solidify the striker position for the remainder of 2019. Unfortunately for him, Przybylko went on a torrid scoring streak soon after Wooten arrived and Curtin could not justify sitting him. He gave Wooten a few spot-starts towards the end of the season but he accounted for only one assist in just over 350 minutes. Wooten never looked comfortable out there, whether he was the sole striker or paired up top with another. It’s possible given more time he could look different, but that is to be determined.
I know Olivier Mbaizo, Matt Real and Michee Ngalina are not on this list, but I’m hoping they get lots of playing time to evaluate them in 2020. Both deserve more inclusion on match days.
There you have it. Let me know in the comments sections below what grades you agree, and disagree with, and why.
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Mandatory Credit: soccerstadiumdigest.com