Photo: Earl Gardner
A few thoughts about Philadelphia Union and MLS this preseason.
Will Roger Torres win a starting job?
Everyone is raving about Roger Torres, and rightly so. He’s been the best player on the field in every game he’s played this preseason. He’s even playing defense.
But will Torres actually win a starting job? Probably not.
Torres is stuck in the unenviable position of basically competing for the center attacking midfield role against the player Union manager John Hackworth wants to build his team around, Michael Farfan.
True, Torres can play left midfield, but he isn’t fast enough to be much more than average there and tends to drift to the center when deployed outside. He belongs in the center of the pitch, where he’s playing terrifically this preseason.
For those who want to see Farfan return to a wing, the preseason play of Torres helps make the case. But two or three games of good play from Torres probably won’t be enough to convince Union management to unsettle Farfan with another position switch to make room for Torres.
Come mid-season, if the Union attack is still missing something and Torres has played well as a substitute and spot starter, maybe then Hackworth will consider returning Farfan to a flank. But not till then.
Will anyone win a starting job in preseason?
If Torres can’t win a starting job with his play, then who can?
It looks like the back five will remain largely the same as last year, with Jeff Parke replacing Carlos Valdes at center back and Amobi Okugo starting next to him instead of at midfield, where he has yet to feature in a preseason game.
Captain Brian Carroll and Michael Farfan look set to man the center, while Jack McInerney, Sebastien Le Toux and Conor Casey are probably competing for two starting forward roles in a 4-4-2 diamond. (Of them, Casey has looked the best, though like most of you, I didn’t see the blacked out Montreal game.)
The wide midfield roles could also remain the same, with Keon Daniel and Danny Cruz each taking a spot on opening day, unless Hackworth finds a way to shoehorn Casey, McInerney and Le Toux into the lineup at once.
Regardless, it doesn’t look like someone will come out of training camp having earned a starting role based solely on his training camp performance. Then again, surprises can be pleasant.
Hackworth’s use of the preseason
This is Hackworth’s first preseason as manager, and he clearly uses the preseason differently than his predecessor, Peter Nowak. (No, that isn’t a wisecrack about secret camps in third world countries, secret trialists or secret handshakes. Really.) Hackworth has brought numerous players in on trial, and his preseason seems to be more about building a broader base of talent than positional battles for starting jobs.
Bringing in so many trialists has pros and cons.
On the plus side, you obviously get to evaluate more roster options. Greek international Pantelis Kafes, trialist Matt Kassel, and draftee Don Anding impressed against Toronto, while fellow draftee Leo Fernandes dropped jaws with his goal against Orlando.
On the down side, some players simply don’t get enough game time to show what they can do. How much have you seen of Alex Mendoza, Stephen Okai, and Jordi Vidal? Very little. How about Damani Richards? Did he really sign with the club, or was that just a rumor? Bulgarian striker Georgi Hristov is on trial with the Union but so far has played less than 45 minutes in actual games.
So when you’re all excited about Kafes solidifying central midfield in two months, don’t get too mad if Vidal or Okai pops up in someone else’s starting lineup.
Agbossoumonde’s gifts to the Union
The Union scored three goals against Toronto on Saturday, and they all came thanks to center back Gale Agbossoumonde. Antoine Hoppenot made “Boss” his female dog on the first goal, Torres put him in the highlights on the second, and then the young center back watched Kassel’s left-footed drive whiz right past him for the third.
So while it’s nice to see the Union scoring pretty goals, they all have the caveat that the same guy got smoked on each.
If Agbossoumonde starts in front of Danny Califf on opening day, Califf ought to be asking which soccer god’s corn flakes he pissed in last year. Even if you think Califf is washed up (which he’s not), there’s no way Agbossoumonde is starting quality yet, based on Saturday’s performance.
Brazilians really do love Orlando
I couldn’t help but laugh after reading about the Orlando soccer club’s new investor, Brazilian businessman Flavio Augusto da Silva.
No, not because someone with deep pockets is investing in the club, with plans to take it to MLS. Orlando, New York City, San Antonio and probably San Diego are the best markets for a new (or relocated) MLS club to set up shop.
It’s just that his observation was hilariously true when he said, “…we chose Orlando because, first of all, Brazilians love Orlando.”
When certain Brazilian family members of mine come to the U.S., do they first think about visiting us?
They go to Disney World. (And New York to shop.) And then tell us after the fact! Over and over and over again.
Brazil’s economy is booming. The newly emerged upper middle class needs somewhere to piss their money away. And loads them (beyond just my in-laws) repeatedly do it at … Disney World. Really. Goofy apparently has it going on with the Brazilians.
So yeah, I laughed. And then I laughed some more when I realized da Silva actually listed that as his first reason for investing in Orlando.
Yes, it looks like a Mickey Mouse operation already.