Home > Philadelphia Union > Roster needs v. 1.0–warning!–long post

Roster needs v. 1.0–warning!–long post

Chester Stadium

Soon to be ringing with the sound of SoB

A week ago Union fans were treated to a relative cornucopia of Zolo goodness. Not only did we get to see the coaching staff, future players, and team jersey live on national TV, we also got an up-close-and-personal introduction to the Sons of Ben, who serenaded Danny Mwanga (and the whole convention center) with footy songs, and made us dream of one day hearing a whole stadium rock to the tune of SoB acappela.

But aside from all the more visceral excitements of the draft, it also provided us with some more serious team-building and roster issues with which to ponder. First of all, we actually have a roster–19 players to be exact. This means it’s possible to start playing around with lineups and formations and, thus, more seriously and more accurately examine which holes exist and how to fill them.

I plan to do this as follows:

1) I will provide five possible lineups using only current Union players, 2) I will briefly discuss each lineup, 3) I will turn to the C. Horridus brain trust and frequent commenter Ethan, a self-proclaimed Philly soccer non-expert, for his own thoughts on what the lineups show about the roster 4) I will respond to Ethan 5) Hoefully we will reach some kind of consensus.

The following are five possible lineups with the team’s current roster:

1 Defensive 3-5-2. Nowak loves his 3-5-2, but right now the players simply don’t exist to pull it off.  The team’s best defender in Califf has to either play slightly out of position (I don’t think Thomas can play right back), or we have to bench one of our most experience players in Shavar Thomas and allow David Myrie–one of the least experienced players–to start at right back. Not happy with that prospect. This formation also also depends heavily on two entirely untested rookies in Mwanga and Stahl.







2. Offensive 3-5-2
. Same as the above, minus one Stahl and plus one Zimmerman, who has marginally more MLS experience than the rookies, but nevertheless gives me the same amount of anxiety as a starter.


———————Fred —————————————–






3. 4-5-1. A better formation if you don’t trust Mwanga as a starter, but now we’re depending on Myrie at right back which scares me. Again, of all the guys on the roster (yes, even including the draftees) he’s the one in which I have the least confidence.



Salinas ——————————————–Jacobson




4. 4-4-2: Same as the 4-5-1, minus Stahl plus Mwanga. A more balanced side, but still weak at right back.







5. 4-3-2-1: If Fred could play up in more of an advanced attacking role then this lineup could work. We pull Mwanga back from Moreno because  he’s highly touted for his skills not just as a finisher but as a distributor of the ball. Once again, however, any lineup with four in the back will see Myrie on the field–not a good thing.


———–Le Toux/Fred?———-Mwanga———————-





There they are. Five possible lineups, none particularly exciting, and all demonstrating some consistent problems at each position. To analyze these problems, I will turn to the aforementioned Ethan.


Ethan: I don’t think Mwanga will start, he will certainly get his time. But he will not be ready, at least for the begining of the season to take on stalwart defenders like RSL’s Olave or LA’s Gonzalez, or DC’s Namoff or Houston’s Robinson or Cameron. Give Mwanga time. Moreno will start, there is no doubt. But MLS’s reigning diver will need excellent service and there is not Schelloto on this team. Philly needs at least one very good striker to play with Moreno. I can see Le Toux working with Moreno as long as there is a third forward up top. Sorta with 2 up top and one reserved (Le Toux). Who this is, I don’t know. Probably someone with greater speed than Moreno.

C. Horridus:
I do agree about Mwanga and I doubt we will see him starting from day one. I do see him getting some very significant playing time, however, and there’s a possibility he could break into the starting lineup later in the season. So, I say, yes, the team does need another striker, but I don’t think they’re going to break the bank on this player, considering Moreno and Le Toux already command fairly large salaries by MLS standards (their 2008 salaries were $137,300 and $112,000, respectively). That’s a good chunk of change already being spent on the offense. But, yes: another quality striker is needed. And if he can be found we could reasonably expect to see a 4-3-3 or a 4-3-2-1.


Ethan: Salinas and Jacobson are suspect. Yes they started last year, but they did not do so well. Salinas might just have been a average star on a less than stellar SJ. Both will have to fight in preseason to prove them selves. Lets pencil them in, since there is no alternative and I believe both are superior to Zimmerman. Fred will start, well not the first game, but the 2nd. Lets give him the #10 position, although I think he might be better on the right. Miglioranzi will probably start, but has been injury prone his whole career. Stahl, out of all the draftees, has the potential to start right away. He is older and seems to have a lot more grit. Many scouts agree. Midfield needs include either backing up or finding starting L/R-midfielders. I think either Stahl or Miglioranzi are decent but the Union needs depth.

C. Horridus:
No disagreements here. There is a chance recent draftee Kyle Nakazawa could immediately provide depth in an attacking midfielder role–but I wouldn’t count on it. I’m less confident in Jacobson than in Salinas. I think a good target for the pre-season (and for an international signing) would be to sign one or two veteran wingers who could push Salinas or Jacobson (or both) to the bench.


Ethan: Regarding the 3-5-2: Thomas and Califf are too far along in their career to play new positions. And they are both too good in the middle to move them out. Either one plays backup to the other or Nowak is changing to a 4 man back line. Myrie isn’t a starter. Harvey is a starter, he played left back all season at Colorado and did a good job. I see no reason why he wouldn’t get the nod here. And Seitz is a star. He WILL be starting for US in the 2018 or 2022 WC. Mark my words. He is the man.

C. Horridus:
Yep, except I’m going to be stubborn and say I really do think there’s a chance Califf could play RB. Still, though, playing him out of position doesn’t make much sense, unless Nowak is absolutely married to the idea of using a 3-5-2.


Urgent needs: Another starting striker and starting right back. These need to be solved by the beginning of the season or the Union are going to have some big problems.

Less-urgent needs: Starting wingers on the left or right.

Most likely formation:
A 4-4-2 or 4-3-2-1.

Things to contemplate: 1) Stahl is projected as a starter and was one of the highest rated players in the draft, but he’s still, ulimately, an unknown quantity. Add to this the fact that Miglioranzi is injury prone, and it’s clear that another veteran presence in the center of the field would be very helpful. 2) With a veteran player at right back the Union could start the season with a top-notch defense. 3) What position should we look for if we’re bringing in a designated player? Either a winger or a striker, and especially someone with a good deal of speed, something the team lacks along the wings and up front.

Wow, that was long. What do you think? Feel free to weigh-in and let me know. Good insights will be worked into Roster Needs 2.0

  1. January 21, 2010 at 5:46 pm

    Agreed with the needs generally:
    Depth, or spot starting forward
    Starting quality wing player
    Proven fullback (would be great if he could play right and left)

    and of course there are others, but I feel that those are probably the most pressing. A DP thrown into the mix could royally mess with any projections but we shall see.

    I dont rank Myrie as any less of a prospect than anyone else on the field. There was a reason he was brought into Chicago mid season, and a reason he was chosen in the draft. I dont think either in the superdraft, or in the expansion draft that Nowak and Hack took anyone by accident or without purpose.

  2. K.M. Morris
    January 21, 2010 at 9:07 pm

    Hey Tim, thanks for the feedback. You know, after looking over it I think I was a little harsh on Myrie. You’re right: Nowak and Hackworth wouldn’t have chosen someone by accident. They saw something special each of the expansion picks.

    BUT . . . for Myrie we actually have a clue of what that “special” factor is. There’s a very good quote in this article on Goal.com about him:

    Myrie, however, didn’t represent an unknown quantity to the Union. Hackworth had seen Myrie play during his days with the Costa Rica youth national teams – Myrie went to the 2005 U-17 World Championship and the 2007 U-20 World Cup with the Ticos – while he coached the U.S. U-17s and reported favorably on him. Add in Myrie’s lineage – his brother, Roy, is a defensive stalwart in the Costa Rican side who has made two appearances for KAA Gent in Belgium this season – and the Union believed picking Myrie over more proven quantities was worth the risk.

    “That was good because nobody really knows about him,” Nowak said. “John was looking at him and he knows how he plays from his old days with the national team. We have a lot of good reports. His brother’s a high profile guy, so his background is important too. He wants to be better than his brother. His brother is a valuable member of a European team, so now he has all of the motivation to be the same. That’s one positive sign.”

    The lineage argument doesn’t convince me very much–and, of course, we’re talking now about another youth star selected through the Hackworth connection, except this time around he was only Hackworth’s opponent, not player.

    But I think you’re right–he’s a project, just like anyone else on the current roster.

  3. Arkose
    January 22, 2010 at 2:00 am

    Best speculation I have read! Good write up.

    Is it possible to move Mwanga to a wing as a starter? I usually believe that rookies can really get game experience from these positions and still not be too terrible. Try to get 1v1 and use their speed. I agree though, that he probably needs work to be a full time striker, but we need the speed to match Moreno’s ability to hold and pass. I have no idea why Le Toux is getting so much money. Le Toux is not a starter, a hardworking sub, and overall great guy to have around. I would love to have him as a back-up, but how much should a back-up make?

    A player combination that IMO, is the best talent on the field, would be having Harvey,Callif(thomas),Myrie and then for maybe Stahl, I would put Thomas(callif can be here also). I believe it just gives you the better defense in the 3-5-2.

    • K.M. Morris
      January 22, 2010 at 2:56 am

      Hard to say about Mwanga just because I simply have not seen him play enough. Some strikers are adept at shifting from up front to the wing but I have no idea about Mwanga. Maybe instead of a pure winger, he could play as a slightly more withdrawn striker in a 4-3-3.

      What’s the rest of your 3-5-2 other than Harvey, Califf, and Myrie?

  4. Arkose
    January 22, 2010 at 3:22 am

    ———–Moreno————Mwanga/Zimmerman —


    Salinas———————————-Jacobson/Le Toux/Mwanga




    Maybe Le Toux hard work gets him a wing spot. Played some in Seattle, but usually a forward. The wings at Seattle was speed though, and in a 3-5-2 you just need a hard worker to come back and forth. I have a gut feeling that we won’t get another striker and I see Zimmerman and Mwanga fighting it out.

  5. K.M. Morris
    January 22, 2010 at 9:25 pm

    Hmm, Thomas as a DM is an interesting idea and to be honest I’ve no idea if he’d work there. It might be too big of a position change for a guy a little later in his career. Zimmerman, if he’s playing forward, would work best if withdrawn, much like Mwanga. I think this is another formation that just shows where those roster holes are–which is a good thing, because that was the whole point of this exercise.

  1. March 14, 2010 at 6:25 pm

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