The Philadelphia Union lost two of their brightest young talents this offseason after a pair of remarkable campaigns helped lead the team to their first-ever piece of silverware. Replacing them is no way task, but the simple answer to this question is replace Brendan Aaronson and Mark McKenzie in-house. The issue with simple statements however is that they tend to be much harder in practice, and the same goes for this one.
How the Union can replace Brenden Aaronson
I am by no means saying that it will be easy to replace Brenden, but the Union already have a player who showed out last season and can assume that role as yet another homegrown starter. That man is Anthony Fontana.
The twenty-one-year-old notched six goals in nineteen appearances last season including a match-winning brace coming on as a substitute against the New England Revolution. He will need to work on his creativity and killer passing but despite how sorely missed Brenden will be, the Union faithful should feel confident heading into the year with Fontana pulling the strings in midfield.
What about Mark McKenzie?
What the Union are losing in Mark McKenzie is a central defender who really possesses every quality you could want for that position. He has pace, power, defensive awareness, and the ability to play confidently with the ball at his feet. A center back with this skillset is almost impossible to find, however, there is again an in-house replacement, but one I am less confident in. That would be Jack Elliott.
The Englishman who has notched one-hundred-and-eleven appearances for the boys in blue. As alluded to, his position of choice is center back, but this past season he lost his spot in favor of new-comer Jakob Glesnes. He found himself getting limited time at center back only playing as a sub or a replacement due to cautions and injuries.
He did however push into a new role at times, only playing there under the same pretenses as center back. This role was as a defensive midfielder. If you follow the Union, you know that our first-choice defensive midfielder, José Martinez, has a propensity to get carded, a lot. During his absences, Jack would fill in and, in my opinion, did a fairly decent job there.
This change in scenery will be a blessing for Jack when he moves back to playing besides Jakob Glesnes come April. That is due to the need at defensive midfield to be extremely quick on the ball as passing windows close rapidly and opposing midfielders move swiftly to dispossess.
While Jack is not an ideal replacement for Mark, lacking in the pace and power categories, his ability to play with the ball and his defensive awareness is comparable to Mark’s and hopefully, he can be for the Union this year what number four was last year.
Photo by Andrew Bershaw/Icon Sportswire