CHESTER, Pa.— Philadelphia Union sporting director Ernst Tanner described midfielder Jamiro Monteiro, who the club signed on loan on Tuesday, as a player who fits exactly what the team wants in a midfielder.
Monteiro, who will start with the club on a four-month loan from Ligue 2 side FC Metz, is a versatile midfielder the club hopes can take its 4-4-2 diamond formation to the next level.
“We are quite happy to have him,” Tanner said on Wednesday. “He really adds a lot of technical quality for our roster, but also in terms of how we’d like to play in transition. He is exactly what we are looking for. It was quite a long time we were going for him, but finally we brought negotiations to an end and we could present him now.”
The 25-year-old, who has previously played in the Netherlands with Cambuur and Heracles Almelo, can be tasked with playing the No. 6 role, or on one of the sides of the diamond, or anywhere else in the midfield when the Union adjust their tactics at home and on the road.
“I think he is a guy who is comfortable playing as an 8, comfortable playing even with two 10s, he can play as a 6, he’s very versatile,” Union head coach Jim Curtin said. “You could see today in training his ability and quickness to win balls and play forward. He’s very smooth and comfortable on the ball., You can see him as a guy who can play either side of the diamond. Almost any midfield spot. His versatility is something that really appealed to us.”
The acquisition of Monteiro is a bit tough to understand on the surface, as he hasn’t played much at Metz since joining from Heracles last summer, and he is coming to the Union on a four-month loan that can be extended for the rest of the season and possibly extended into a full deal after that.
“There are some reasons why Metz paid such a huge amount of money,” Tanner said. “It was a little bit astonishing to us that he didn’t play much in the beginning otherwise we wouldn’t have him here. That’s for sure.”
“He was already known for sure by our scouting network,” Tanner said. “We knew more or less about the player. It’s important now to adapt to MLS and the system we are playing here. I would say we get a loan deal with an extension of the loan and even to buy, I think we have it in our hands for what we are doing in the future. The risk is very low.”
Tanner and Curtin noted Monteiro is likely to debut for the club on March 23 against the Columbus Crew at home due to the finalization of paperwork.
Although he only played three games at Metz, Monteiro is confident in his fitness and his ability to make an impact once he’s available for selection.
“I just trained every day, I worked hard every day,” Monteiro said. “I always work hard and never give up. I don’t play many games there, but the training was good enough to keep me fit.”
That means the next two games on the road at Sporting Kansas City and Atlanta United will feature familiar faces in midfield.
Haris Medunjanin, who struggled defensively in Week 1 against Toronto FC, is likely to be involved again, as is Derrick Jones, who missed out on the 18 on Saturday because Curtin opted to go with a more attack-minded group.
“Haris is a good player. He’s a very important player in our system as well,” Tanner said. “We all know about the performance during the weekend and it is not fair to rate him because of that one game. He can play that, but we need to assist him. He has his items in defense he knows about. If we do not assist him, and literally speaking, leave him alone, it will not help and it will be a problem. He could have a big impact on our game, especially in the game with the ball and we need to assist him without the ball and then I think we’ll do better than against Toronto.”
With the Union looking at more of a defensive-minded group for Sunday’s trip to Children’s Mercy Park, Jones and Warren Creavalle will be in the mix to start.
Once Monteiro gets inserted into the squad, the starting lineup selection will become more difficult for Curtin, who has to find a way to get his stable of midfielders on the field in the right combination to win games.
“I’m a player that works hard,” Monteiro said on Wednesday. “I always want to do things good. So my passes, my shots, everything has to be good. I hope I can be an important player for the Union.”
Marco Fabian and Alejandro Bedoya are locks to start in the four-man midfield, and based off the confidence the club still has in Medunjanin, he should be third member of the team penciled into the starting XI.
That leaves Monteiro to presumably fill the fourth spot, whether it be as the No. 6, or on either side of the diamond, which leaves Ilsinho, Creavalle, Jones and others on the bench.
The move for the Cape Verde Islands international adds to the growing midfield depth at the club, and now it forces Curtin to put the tactical flexibility the club preached in preseason into practice.
If the Union go for a more aggressive lineup at home, like Curtin and Tanner have hinted at, Monteiro could line up as the No. 6 in order to add another attacker, like Ilsinho or Brenden Aaronson, into the starting lineup.
On the road, Monteiro could be tasked with playing on one side of the diamond with Creavalle, Medunjanin or Jones in the No. 6 role.
Regardless of how Curtin aligns his starting XI, he has more options than he had in the past, and with the depth at his disposal, he should be able to find the right combination, and formation, to unlock opposing defenses in order to take the next step up as a team in 2019.
“Our goal is not to do exactly the same as last season, but to improve,” Tanner said. “There is still some room to improve and that’s what we need to work on.”