Union transfer targets; left back: Argentina

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Welcome to the start of a new series of articles I’ll be creating where I try and almost predict/create a live transfer target list for Philadelphia Union and their current needs. I’m starting off with the left-back position, giving the ongoing and seemingly, never-ending Kai Wagner should I stay or should I go saga.

Union II open their 2022 MLS Next Pro Campaign against FC Cincinnati 2. Mandatory Credit: Justin Friedberg

Union Transfer Targets – Argentinian Left Backs

I will admit right here that I’ve only been extensively covering the MLS for about a year or so, so I might be way out of the range of realism when it comes to transfers and money. I’d also like to say that if you have any other names, you think I should take a look at, or anything you want to see in the series, then tweet me (@steveoo242) and let me know. 

One final point before we get into things, my list of names is pervasive and I’ve been tracking a lot of these names for longer than I’ve been covering the MLS and Union, so I’m going to split each position into the country that the players currently play in, starting today with Argentina.  

Francisco Ortega – 23 – CA Velez 

This would be a real coup for the Union so I don’t see it happening. It would also mean they spend a record amount of money to get Ortega, which for a LB seems stupid, but you have to remember that they’re trying to replace Kai as well as they can. 

Only 23 years old, Ortega would be the best replacement for Kai if Union go raiding in their usual places like South America. Fast and never stops working, Ortega is a very experienced LB already for someone his age, going forward he doesn’t contribute as much as Kai has but his crossing is very impressive and he does have a good standard when going forward. Loves having the ball at his feet and running at defenders down the wing, overlaps his teammates a lot too 

As I said, I don’t see this one happening because of the fee involved and there are talks of a lot of bigger clubs elsewhere having eyes on him for the future, but if they managed to pull it off, it would set a precedent that we have never seen from Union’s FO. 

Valentin Barco – 18 – Boca Juniors 

Now, I know what you’re thinking, surely you can’t expect an 18-year-old to come in and replace Kai and I totally agree with you, but the Kai situation in Philly is fairly interesting and can go a few ways. Philly could sell him now or in the summer for a fee, somehow convince him to sign a new deal, or he walks on a free at the end of the year. That last scenario is where Barco comes into play. 

This is also a tough ask for Union as Barco is a highly-rated youngster at Boca Juniors and one who will command a decently sized fee for someone so young, but if you don’t need a Kai replacement straight away, a highly-rated young prospect might be the way to go. You can sit Barco in the UII’s for the year, let Matt Real be the quick fix at LB for a year, and then move Barco into Kai’s old spot when he’s ready.  

I honestly think Barco has the talent to be a starter almost straight away, he definitely has his areas of the game where he needs improvement, but he’s a very fast, attacking-minded LB who only needs senior experience to iron out the kinks in his game. Union has the best defense and goalkeeper in the league, so they can help cover Barco in his early starts if anything goes wrong, but you know how much Tanner loves his young prospects and Barco fits the bill perfectly. 

Matias Melluso – 24 – Gimnasia 

Matias is definitely different from the other left backs I have and will list in this article but Philly should explore all options in getting their Kai replacement. Matias is a little more defensive as a left-back, a more traditional left-back compared to the modern-day, attacking-minded left-backs. However, Matias isn’t a liability going forward, he can cross a ball decently and supports his winger whenever the team moves forward. 

Defensively, Matias is very, very good. Great tackling, great IQ, and an understanding of the game and how to defend. He reads what the wingers are trying to do or setting up for. Melluso has good enough pace to keep up with most wingers and definitely doesn’t shy away from getting physical. 

Melluso feels like a more reasonable target for Union, price-wise anyway, but he doesn’t fit 100% with what they have right now in Kai. Curtin and Tanner both talked about philosophy and tactical changes for this upcoming season, maybe this includes having a more defensive left back. 

Angelo Martino – 24 – Talleres 

Angelo Martino is a very interesting prospect and one I think the Union should definitely be interested in. Martino is currently a backup for Talleres in Argentina and would be the easiest on this list so far, to get a deal done.  

Martino is a hybrid player who has experience playing both left back and left wing and it shows from the games I’ve seen him play. Martino is definitely an attacking-minded left-back who would be more suited to playing as a left wing-back in a back three/five system (something Union coaching staff have been open to playing with this season). 

Martino would be in the price range that Union usually pays for incoming transfers and Martino being a backup right now makes the deal much easier too. He also helps them move into different systems more comfortably and can be used in a rotation with Matt Real if needed. 

Lucas Esquivel – 21 – Club Atletico Union 

Just like Angelo Martino, Lucas Esquivel has experience playing both left back and left winger but it doesn’t show up in his style of play as much as it does with Martino. Esquivel is a very solid, all-around left-back who’s a jack-of-all-trades type of player.  

Lucas impressed me when I watched him on tape and I was impressed by his athleticism and size, alongside his ability to play both sides of the ball really well. He’s the type of player who will always give you at least a 7/10 performance every game of the season, a very reliable player who has a lot of potential to grow further in the game too. 

Coming from Club Atletico Union, Lucas knows how to perform well in a Union shirt to fit right in with the guys in Philly. I would imagine he would be near the upper end of Philly’s budget when it comes to signing a new LB, but he’s definitely someone who fits the profile of what Philly’s FO looks for in young players. 

Andrew Teuten – 24 – Colon 

I’ve saved my favorite for last but I’m not sure how likely a move for Andrew Teuten would be for Union and I’ll get into why.  

Andrew Teuten is a left-wing back, who would definitely fit playing left back in a back four well too. He made his name playing in his native Uruguay until he earned a move to the Argentinian side Colon last February. After almost a year at the club, Teuten hasn’t managed to secure the starting role, with Colon preferring veteran Rafael Delgado over him, but I still believe Teuten has a lot of potential and would be a great grab for Philly. 

Teuten is a little playmaker of a left-back who loves to fly forward with the ball and create something for his teammates. His crossing is solid, his overall technical ability is at a pretty good standard for a left back, and has enough pace to defend well. His tackling is fantastic and it’s the main reason I think he’d be fine in a back four, he also understands the game very well and won’t be risky or leave his team in danger when moving forward. 

As you can tell, I really like Teuten but I’m not sure how likely a move for him would be for Philly. As I said, he only move to Colon last year and is currently a backup, but Colon’s current LB (Rafael Delgado) is 32 and so it makes sense for Colon to keep Teuten as their heir to the throne. Colon paid around 500k for Teuten, so I’d imagine the price would be slightly higher than that for Philly to recruit him. 

Next up in the series is Brazil and their ridiculous abundance of left-back talent, both young and established so check in soon to see who I think the Union may be tracking as their replacement for Kai Wagner

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Mandatory Credit: Justin Friedberg