The Philadelphia Union are dealing with a roster rules issue ahead of Saturday’s clash with the Columbus Crew at Talen Energy Stadium.
With 18 players currently available for selection due to injuries and international call-ups, the Union need to have contingency plans in place in case Jamiro Monteiro’s visa is approved and he’s cleared to play, making him the 19th player eligible for Saturday.
The approval of Monteiro’s visa throws a wrench in the Union’s planning for Saturday’s squad because the club would be one spot over the allotted limit for international spots.
“To be clear on Jamiro, not 100 percent cleared yet, but we’re confident it will sorted out,” Union manager Jim Curtin said Wednesday.
Currently, the Union have eight players locked into international spots, and although the club has mentioned two players are going through the process to receive a green card, nothing has come to fruition yet.
One way to get around the issue for the moment is to loan one of six eligible international players down to United Soccer League side Bethlehem Steel FC. Kacper Przybylko was already loaned to the Steel at the start of the season to make the Union roster compliant.
“You have a situation where you can loan players down to the Steel,” Curtin said. “We could get caught in a scenario, depending on who is available and who is healthy, where we might have to have one less player in the 18. Right now, it’s all back and forth and talking because we don’t officially know who is all available from the international standpoint.”
Sergio Santos is not eligible to be sent down to USL because he’s injured, and the club is prevented from loaning Cory Burke because he’s on international duty, according to a club spokesperson.
Marco Fabian, Kai Wagner and Haris Medunjanin are all expected to start, while Carlos Miguel Coronel has to be in the matchday squad with goalkeeper Andre Blake away on international duty with Jamaica.
That leaves Jack Elliott and Olivier Mbaizo — both of whom may be needed for defensive depth — as the only possible players to be loaned down to Steel in this situation.
“We have an interesting week in terms of who’s in and who’s out,” Curtin said. “We some injuries, some international call-ups, which are good things, but at the same time, we’re piecing together our lineup now. ”
All of these problems go away if the Union have to wait another week for Monteiro to play because of visa issues, but his targeted debut has been Saturday since he was officially announced as a loan signing.
Monteiro is expected to be a vital piece of the Union’s midfield, and he’d present a perfect boost to the lineup if eligible because the Union are looking to build on Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Atlanta United.
The ideal position for Monteiro would be on the left side of the 4-4-2 diamond formation, with Medunjanin as the base, Alejandro Bedoya on the right and Marco Fabian as the No. 10.
But with the Union only holding two healthy and available strikers in David Accam and Fafa Picault, they might have to alter their tactical approach.
Curtin threw out a few possibilities Wednesday, mentioning Fabian as a potential second striker behind Picault, Accam a possibility on the left and homegrown player Brenden Aaronson also getting a look after impressing in his debut Sunday.
If Fabian were to play as a second striker, Aaronson would be the favorite to start at the No. 10, with Accam on the left if Monteiro is unable to go. If Monteiro is eligible, he could fill the left side of the diamond.
“(Marco)’s a guy who can play as the second striker,” Curtin said. “He previously has done it for Eintracht Frankfurt. Brenden Aaronson has shown he belongs on the field as well. It could be at the tip of the diamond, the side of the diamond, it could be at the 10 again.”
There’s also potential for a 4-5-1 with Picault as the lone striker. In this formation, the Union would likely use Medunjanin, Fabian and Aaronson as the central midfielders, with Bedoya out to the right and Accam on the left.
“We’ve talked in different discussions about playing with one striker, about different combinations of playing with two and how we can best get after what Columbus does well,” Curtin said.
But of course, that changes a bit if Monteiro is eligible, as he would likely play one of the three central midfield positions in a proposed 4-5-1.
Regardless of which players line up in which formation Saturday, the goal is still the same for a Union team looking to put a slow start in the rearview mirror.