July 15th marks the opening of the international transfer window into MLS and fans of the league are getting excited. Managers are bringing in reinforcements, notably current or former national team players from France, Montenegro, Venezuela, and Spain, and we hope the Union will be right there introducing our own new players. Supporters of the Union are hopeful for new attacking threats, some additional skill on the wing, or a staunch new defender for our backline. Hopefully, all of these needs can and will be answered within the month.
Nowak has made it quite clear that Seitz is his starter. With untested options behind in the forms of Knighton and Perk, this isn’t a position of relative strength, but it is one unlikely to see an influx of talent in the near future. Knighton or Perk, however, do present an interesting option as part of a trade package.
With the recent trade of Shavar Thomas to Kansas City, the backline will be an area that Nowak and Company must find a way to address. While the depth chart does show able-bodied starters at left back (Harvey), center back (Califf, Orozco), and right back (Arrieta), the defensive depth (the Shea Salinas and Toni Stahl experiments, respectively) doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence. Playing a player out of position to cover an injury or a day off might be OK—playing half a season without depth in the back is asking for trouble.
The flexibility in positioning of Arrieta (RB, CB) and Orozco (LB, CB) suggests that what the Union need most is simply a talented defender. I would be very surprised to see the Union lay out big money to bring in a defender, but even more surprised if the Union do not make a move to address their lack of defensive depth. Ideally, the Union should pick up two defenders during the summer window—one for depth across the backline, and one which improves the starting line up regardless of position.
The aggressive style of the Union makes the composition of the midfield a tricky issue to address. The 4-4-2 Nowak has deployed this season has often looked more like a 4-1-3-2 with a traditional back four, a defensive midfielder (Miglioranzi), an attacking midfielder (Le Toux or Fred), two wing options (Torres, Jacobson, Le Toux, Fred, or Salinas), and two forwards (Moreno, Mwanga).
This style puts heavy demands both on the playmaking midfielder to be conscious of defense, but also on the defensive midfielder to be able to break up the play if the Union overcommit and get caught. Miglioranzi is a skilled veteran but is likely nearing the end of his career and none of the options on the wing are so good that Union can’t afford to improve.
Verdict? Take what’s available. If the Union can improve their quality on either wing or in defensive midfield, it will improve the entire midfield. None of these positions are in glaring need as compared to defense, nor, however, are they positions that can’t be improved.
Union fans of all ages have been calling for a new spark on the attack and I’m not one to disagree. Categories of need? Speed and/or size. Sadly, not many strikers come ready-made at 6’4″ with the speed to stretch defenses, but the Union would do well to pick up one or the other. If the Union spend big in the midfield on a DP, don’t be surprised to only see a depth or bench player added up front. If the Union go with their DP in the midfield and manage to find a winger, addressing this position might get left until the off-season.
The trade of Shavar Thomas creates the need for defensive reinforcements, period. A lackluster summer window would see the Union deal a draft pick or spend some allocation money to add defensive depth from within the league. Fireworks, on the other hand, would be set off if the Union bring in three or more players and potentially break in that first DP slot.
Along with the potential of players coming is the potential of players going out—don’t be surprised to see the Union deal a player to fill a hole at another position. Nowak shed no tears when he cut David Myrie and looks to have set himself up to wheel and deal with the draft picks and allocation acquired for Shavar Thomas. The possiblities are too many to think about, but the month-long window runs from July 15th to August 14th, and I will be certainly be watching with interest.
…If I were in Nowak’s seat, I’d go this way:
Deal one of the just acquired second round draft picks and allocation money (Shavar Thomas trade) to San Jose for utility man Chris Leitch. Leitch is a seasoned defender and has played professionally at both right and left back and loves to get forward. His flexibility in positioning would allow the Union to bypass the need for a second defensive signing until the off-season.
Use a discovery signing to pull in Philly native and FC Delco alum Jeremiah White after his six month stint in the Middle East. White has speed to burn and creates problems up and down the right wing. White also has some tread left on the tires at 28 years old and is a veteran of both the Greek and Danish first divisions.
A DP signing. This one is about finding the right player with the right attitude. It doesn’t really matter whether he’s a forward or a central midfielder, this is the signing that sets off the fireworks and this is the player who should make every other player on the field look better. This has to be the right player, for the right money, but now is the opportune time to scoop up a star.