Union without key players so far in camp; depth players can shine

Philadelphia Union Head Coach Jim Curtin revealed some worrisome news during yesterday’s weekly conference call with the media. Several players have picked up injuries while others have not yet joined camp due to immigration paperwork issues. But maybe some depth players can take hold of the unfortunate circumstances.

Union Homegrown Jack de Vries on the ball in a preseason scrimmage against Chicago Fire FC. Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

First and foremost, Jamiro Monteiro has yet to join the club this pre-season. The 26-year old who inked a new long-term deal after Philadelphia paid a club-record transfer fee this off-season to buy him from FC Metz, is still not with the team after several weeks. The issue seems to revolve around immigration paperwork.

Stop me if you’ve heard that before.

Another key player, Jack Elliott, has been unable to join the Union so far as well. He’s been overseas back home trying to secure the proper paperwork needed to extend his stay in the United States. But there is light at the end of the tunnel for Elliott.

Curtin mentioned that Elliott was scheduled to fly back stateside last night and that he hoped to have a green card in hand, which would provide a huge sigh of relief if that’s the case. Elliott will finally be able to enter his name into the highly competitive center back grouping along with the newly acquired Norwegian international Jakob Glesnes, Aurelien Collin, and Mark McKenzie – returning to camp this week after making his USMNT debut this past weekend along with a new long-term contract extension.

But perhaps more worrisome than immigration paperwork issues is the nagging presence of early-season injuries throughout Union camp.

Most notably is the quad injury to forward Andrew Wooten. Last week, Curtin revealed Wooten sustained the injury and would be tested to see just how severe the damage is. He mentioned at the time Wooten would be expected to sit out “a few weeks.”

Yesterday we learned Wooten is still out nursing that injury, an injury that could be a nagging nuisance all pre-season long. Which is the main concern.

Wooten has been touted as a player looking to make major impacts this season. Last year, he entered the fold without full fitness due to a limited off-season to prep and he acknowledged that earlier this off-season. Now, with a full pre-season to ramp up his fitness, the quad injury could torpedo that effort.

We also learned of a “knock” that left-back Kai Wagner sustained last week. Curtin downplayed that knock and mentioned it should sideline Wagner for a few days. However, yesterday Curtin revealed Wagner has missed eight days due to a contusion in his calf. But the injury doesn’t seem to carry the negatives that Wooten’s does at this point.

The absence of Monteiro and Elliott coupled with the injuries to Wagner and Wooten may sound alarm bells. And maybe that’s rightfully so.

But on the other side of the coin, certain players within the club’s depth chart now have special opportunities to impress Curtin and the rest of the technical staff.

One player, in particular, Warren Creavalle – who joined the club back in 2015 and held a primarily back up role his entire tenure – could push for minutes. However, Curtin mentioned he picked up an injury as well recently.

So that leaves players like Anthony Fontana, Cole Turner, Jack De Vries, and Matthew Real to take major steps forward.

With Monteiro still a question mark, there’s reason to suspect he may be a step or two behind whenever he does finally rejoin the club. In that absence, Fontana could shine. Curtin already mentioned Fontana is a guy that’s seriously pushing to earn a starting spot. Fontana also aims to just that. And now is a great time to provide Curtin and the staff with a glimpse of what that could look like.

De Vries and Turner are on the young side but that shouldn’t prevent them from making a name for themselves in the early stages of their first MLS seasons. De Vries is more of an attacking-minded player while Turner possesses those defensive-minded qualities that would be beneficial as a number 6 or emergency fill-in at center back.

Real has been knocking on the door for two years now as the backup left-back. He has proven he can compete at the MLS level at times, but Wagner’s continued dominance at that position has forced Real onto the bench. But now, as unfortunate as injuries are, Real can showcase once more he has the skills required to lock-down his side of the field defensively while aiding in the attack with his speed and left foot abilities.

While it may seem easy to only highlight the negatives of players’ absences and injuries, there are still positives that could come of the worrisome news from yesterday’s conference call.

Only time will tell just how long Wooten will be sidelined – one suspects a quad injury could be one that rears its ugly head for at least a few more weeks. But that leaves Sergio Santos with a perfect opportunity to take hold of a starting forward spot. Santos can be electric and full of energy. He could pair nicely with the technical abilities of Kacper Pzrybylko. Keep an eye out for Santos moving forward.

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Peace out Union fans!

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

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