Philadelphia Union

Will Union have vital players back for conference semis?

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There was a big shock when the Union’s starting XI was announced for their round one playoff match. Two mainstay starters, Jamiro Monterio, and Oliver Mbaizo were out due to MLS’ health and safety protocols. They had both just been on international duty before this playoff game. Monteiro was with Cape Verde as they fell just short in their round of World Cup Qualifying; Mbaizo was with Cameroon and they will be progressing to the next round of AFCON qualifying. The question now is, will either of these players be available to the Union in the conference semifinals as the Union prepares to play Nashville SC?

 Mandatory Credit: PHILADELPHIA UNION, ANDREW ZWARYCH

Will Union have vital players, Monteiro and Mbaizo, back?

When the news broke that these two starters were out it caused some shock. Both Monteiro and Mbaizo were players you could usually pencil into the starting XI. Their exclusion and the circumstance as to why they were not included is definitely worrisome. There are a few reasons as to why this could be; those reasons are:

  • Quarantine due to participating in high risk behavior.
  • Quarantine related to being a high risk close contact.
  • Pending COVID-19 test results.
  • An inconclusive COVID-19 test result.
  • A positive COVID-19 test or a confirmed case of COVID-19.
  • Other illness not related to COVID-19.

It’s unfortunate that both of these players weren’t able to be with the Union for their round one match. Both contribute so much to how the Union likes to play.

Monteiro helps the midfield click and sets up attacks

Jamiro Monteiro has been one of, if not the most important player on this Philadelphia team since 2019. While he has had some problems this season that kept him away from the team, he has still been instrumental. His play is vital to how the Union likes to use the counterattack.

Jamiro is the one who helps the midfield click, especially in the transition moments. He always seems to be moving. Whether it’s to press the other team, or on the ball to spark an attack. This has really been evident when the Union shifted to the 4-3-2-1 Christmas tree formation.

When Philly shifted formations Monterio and Gazdag were allowed to be the main creators for the attack. At times it didn’t look the best, but after the formation was used consistently, it showed the importance of having a skilled number 10 on the ball to create attacks. This was definitely missing in round one, and if Monteiro is cleared to play in the conference semis, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him in the starting XI once again.

Mbaizo’s provides speed and creativity out wide

Mbaizo was another player who was a mainstay in Jim Curtin’s back four. No matter the formation, it was clear that Oliver is the number one right back on this team. In a year where Philly had moved on from an all-time great in Ray Gaddis, there were a lot of questions to be asked of Mbaizo.

Oliver had not played consistently before this season, but it seems as though he’ll be the starter at right back for years to come. He offers a whole lot more offensively than Gaddis did. Mbaizo has speed and creativity on the wing, which allows the Union to play balls wide so he can provide some dangerous service. This has helped out a lot for the attack, especially when there are attackers in good positions to score.

He also showcases speed that helps him tack back to put out fires. Mbaizo has shown the ability to make a great recovery to stop opposition-streaking attacks many times over this season. While he may be a little suspect on one-v-one defending and can lose his mark at times, Mbaizo is still the best option at right back. He, like Monteiro, are normally starters for Union coach Jim Curtin. Hopefully he will shed some light on their status soon.

Curtin should address their status at presser

Curtin is set to speak to the media Friday. I’m sure there will be an update on these two players from the gaffer himself. He might say he’s not 100% sure on the status of them yet to play some mind games with Nashville, but I’d have to think that if Monteiro and Mbaizo are available that they’ll be back in the starting XI on Sunday.

Paxten Aaronson and Alavas Powell came in and did a great job vs Red Bull, but Curtin loves to roll with his guys. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Miro and Mbaizo back if they’re good to go. Maybe they’ll be able to help the Union do something they’ve never done before, make the eastern conference finals!

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Mandatory Credit: PHILADELPHIA UNION, ANDREW ZWARYCH

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Philadelphia Union Editor of Soccer Content

A passion for the beautiful game drives me.

Twitter: @Tim_Lovenguth

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