Philadelphia Union midfielder Jamiro Monteiro did not waste any time impressing the coaching staff once again in his first preseason training session Tuesday.
The 26-year-old completed the P-1 visa process and flew to the United States over the weekend. On Tuesday, he joined the first of two sessions in Clearwater, Florida.
“Certain players have a way of making the game look simple,” Philadelphia Union head coach Jim Curtin said during a conference call with reporters. “Jamiro is a kid who enjoys playing as well. A lot of the times your most talented guys can coast in training, but Jamiro’s the exact opposite. He wants to be on the ball, he wants to be playing. He’s just a fun player to work with.”
Monteiro spent the 2019 Major League Soccer season on loan from FC Metz and was signed as a full member of the Union squad in January.
The Cape Verde international is taking on more responsibility by claiming the No. 10 shirt, which was held by Marco Fabian last season.
“I joked with him when he got off the plane last night that that number is a heavier shirt,” Curtin said. “He wants that. He does that with a smile on his face and I think we both know deep in the back of our minds we do want to take a step forward. We don’t like how last season ended in Atlanta and we talked about that. We want to go further. We want to lift a trophy and Jamiro, I will say it, has the quality to play anywhere in the world and I’m happy he chose to stay in Philadelphia.”
Monteiro is projected to play both the No. 8 and No. 10 as the Union use tactical flexibility between the 4-4-2 and a possible 4-2-2-2 that has been talked about in preseason.
He may have more responsibilities as the No. 10 when Brenden Aaronson is off with the US U-23 national team for Concacaf Olympic qualifying and potentially the 2020 Summer Olympics.
“The 10 is a number and it doesn’t always exactly mean where he is going to be on the field,” Curtin said. “We can play with two 10s in a box. Those two are very high. We’re going to give them both reps at the 10 and one at the 8 while the other is at the 10. You’ll see a lot of that in preseason. It’ll have a way of solving itself.”
“Often times, the old-school No. 10 was a one-way player, but these guys play both ways, which is what gives us flexibility and it’s what we like about both of them,” Curtin said.
Monteiro is available for selection for Wednesday’s preseason game against FC Cincinnati, which takes place at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
Wagner still dealing with calf injury
One projected starter will not be in the squad Wednesday. Left back Kai Wagner is still dealing with a calf injury that has kept him out of training for the last week and a half.
“Kai remains out with a calf issue that we’re trying to get to the bottom of, but overall, pretty healthy throughout preseason and hope that continues,” Curtin said. “It’s been an opportunity for Matt Real to step up and play 90 minutes in a lot of games. He’s had some really good moments. There’s things he can improve on as a young player, but overall I’ve been happy with him.”
Real is once again expected to start at left back Wednesday, and in a few more upcoming friendlies while the German works back to full strength.
“We’ll have to use our full roster,” Curtin said. “Kai is out, which is tough because he is our starting left back, but it’s been an opportunity for Matthew to grow and learn and he’s played a lot of minutes early on in preseason and done well with a lot of them. Perfectly comfortable putting him out there on Day 1 as a starter.”
Przybylko, Santos forming ‘something special’
Forwards Kacper Przybylko and Sergio Santos have been the first-choice pair up top with Andrew Wooten dealing with a quad injury.
Curtin has been impressed with what the German-born Polish forward and Brazilian striker have put forth so far in preseason.
“Something special seems to be developing with Kacper and Sergio,” Curtin said. “They are a real handful in terms of the combination of speed, power, ability to finish in the box. It’s a good unique partnership that is improving every day in training. You saw it pretty good against Montreal.”
Santos was viewed as a long-term project after coming over from Chilean side Audax Italiano last offseason. The Union hope he takes a jump up in production during his second campaign with the squad.
“Sergio, in terms of if you talk about from last year to this year, where he’s at fitness wise, mentality wise, embracing English classes, everything, the whole package has been at another level,” Curtin said.
Wooten returned to practice Tuesday, but is not expected to play Wednesday as a precautionary measure.
Leagues Cup information
The Union are one of eight MLS teams entered into the 2020 Leagues Cup.
Although the full schedule has not been released yet, Curtin received a glimpse into what his team may face in the tournament involving eight Mexican clubs.
“We have the Mexican league competition, which I saw some documents on that and what that looks like. I’ll just say it’s going to be taxing, which is a good thing because that means we had a good season. We’re actually ranked as the highest MLS team in that bracket,” Curtin said.
Toronto FC, D.C. United, New York Red Bulls, Real Salt Lake, Minnesota United, LA Galaxy and Portland Timbers are also entered into the competition. The third through sixth-placed teams in the Eastern and Western Conferences qualified for the tournament, which was established in 2019.