Union have options in draft with two late picks


Union have options in draft with two late picks

In a change from their previous three trips to the youth talent pool, the Union are entering Thursdays 2013 MLS SuperDraft in Indianapolis as virtual spectators.

Trading away the No. 5 overall selection to the Vancouver Whitecaps to move up in the MLS Allocation Order to sign Bakary Soumare in 2012, the Union left themselves with the 26th and 29th selections of the second round -- a fact that will force coach John Hackworth into some creative maneuvering.

A first-round pick has value and from that regard, we don't want to necessarily not have one, Hackworth told Dave Zeitlin of MLSsoccer.com. But I think we have enough flexibility right now to either move up or down. There will be a lot of negotiating.

Should the Union decide to trade up into the first round, one strategy could be to bring in an MLS-ready left back. With Gabe Farfan interested in returning to his natural midfield position, Georgetowns Jimmy Nealis could be a proper replacement. Considered the top left back in the draft, the six-foot Nealis has a strong all-around game as a natural left back and is a playmaker to boot.
Another option at left back is Taylor Kemp out of Maryland. Touted to have a fantastic left foot an ability to eat minutes right away, the 5-foot-11 Kemp could be on the Unions radar as a two-way player. Injuries limited the Maryland senior in 2012, which could cause his stock to drop right into the Unions lap.

Other options at left back that may not require the Union to trade up would be John Gallagher out of Penn State and Dylan Remick from Brown.

Its a ton of options to have two picks in the second round, said Hackworth. Whether we target a player we think will be taken in the first round, it gives us the potential to trade up. Or, if thats not necessary for us and we think there are two players available that we really want, we can select those.

One advantage the Union have over most teams is their proximity to Premier Development League and USL club, Reading United. Headed by Brendan Burke, who is also an assistant coach for the Union, Hackworth has direct insight into the many college talents that pass through Reading on their way to the MLS.

United names that are expected to go in the draft and could also have the Union intrigued are forward Paul Wyatt, defender Eric Schoenle, goalkeeper Scott Goodwin, midfielder Jose Gomez, striker Ryan Finley, defender Greg Cochrane, midfielder Ian Christianson, forward Deshorn Brown and forward Will Bates.

We believe that Reading United is an essential part of our player development and scouting structure, Hackworth said in a team release. Obviously with Brendan (Burke), we work very closely with Reading.

However, while the option to move up in the draft will keep Hackworth on his toes, should the club decide to stand with the 26th and 29th picks, all wouldnt be lost. The Union tend to succeed when it comes time to finding diamonds in the draft rough.

Arguably the Unions most exciting young player is midfielder Michael Farfan, who was drafted in the second round -- 23rd overall -- in 2011. Drafted 35th overall in the second round of the 2012 draft, defender Ray Gaddis came out of nowhere to open eyes last season with his poise and speed at full back. Striker Antoine Hoppenot was a another uncovered success story, as he was picked up in the third round of the MLS Supplemental Draft.

Hopefully we can pull that off again, Hackworth said. I think there are some players out there that may not be on the top of everyones list and may be a player that could help us. But well have to see how that goes with the other teams. Certainly its a little bit unique in that well have to wait around and see how some of these things play themselves out.

Regardless of where the Union will pick, its what position they choose that counts. And as of now, the roster void Hackworth wants to fill is still a mystery. Even to him.

That depends on who is available, Hackworth said. We feel like we have addressed our positional needs already this offseason, but we still have a few spots where we would like to add depth. If a player is still available that we really like and he fits one of those specific spots, great. If there is a player who we really like no matter what, we could go that way as well.

E-mail Ryan Bright at ryanbright13@gmail.com.

Union plan to lean on Brian Carroll, who's back in playoffs for 10th time

Union plan to lean on Brian Carroll, who's back in playoffs for 10th time

CHESTER, Pa. — Five years ago, there were few certainties in MLS ... but one of them was Brian Carroll making the playoffs.

From his first season in the league in 2003 all the way through 2011, Carroll’s teams got into the postseason every single year, leading then-Union manager Peter Nowak to quip, on the cusp of Philly’s first-ever postseason game, “That’s why we got him — because he never misses the playoffs.” 

But then things, um, changed.

Carroll himself remained a consistent player for the most part, but all around him, the Union were shook by turbulence, missing out on the playoffs in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015, sometimes in crushing fashion, other times by a country mile.

Now, five years later, as the Union prepare to return to the postseason with Wednesday’s knockout round matchup in Toronto (7:30 p.m., ESPN2), Carroll is the only Union player left from the team’s last playoff squad in 2011. And you can be sure his playoff streak followed by his playoff drought makes the return trip that much more gratifying for one of the league’s longest-tenured players.

“I had a great run to start my career qualifying for the playoffs, carrying that through up to here,” the 35-year-old midfielder said. “But it hasn’t been easy of late. It’s a great feeling having accomplished that goal of getting back into the playoffs. Now that’s in the past and it’s already about what we can do and how well we can play and try to get a win, try to keep it going.”

With Maurice Edu officially on the shelf until 2017 and Warren Creavalle also nursing an injury, Brian Carroll will likely start in the defensive midfield, just as he did when the Union were swept out of the playoffs by the Houston Dynamo in the 2011 Eastern Conference Semifinals. And he’ll play a critical role, shielding a young backline matching up against a star-studded attack that features two of the league’s top offensive players in Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore.

Perhaps just as importantly, Carroll will bring a veteran, winning presence to the lineup. During his stretch of making the playoffs in nine straight seasons — three shy of the MLS record — he captured championships with D.C. and Columbus, meaning he’s one of the only players on the team who knows what it’s like to win in the MLS postseason.

“Brian has been a guy who’s done it and won championships and lifted trophies,” Union head coach Jim Curtin said. “It was a long absence for him. There are a lot of guys in our locker room that have been in the league for a long time that have never been on a team that’s made the playoffs. It’s a new experience for a lot of guys. Brian will fall in the category of a guy I’ll lean on to talk with those guys and tell them what it’s like, what happens when that first whistle blows — and to really embrace the moment because you never know when you’re gonna be back.”

What will Carroll try to tell the young guys based on his past experiences?

“Everything is more intense,” Carroll said. “Everything is heightened. Just go out there and play without any fear. Play as best we can — connect passes, create chances, make defensive plays, play solid, control your emotions, but use the playoff adrenaline in a positive way. Put everything we have and lay it all out there. It’s one game and you never know what can happen, so hopefully we can go out there and play together and get something done.”

While it’s certainly true anything can happen in an elimination game, it’s also true that few people will think the Union can go up to Canada and beat a Toronto team that, despite stumbling to the finish, remains a top contender to win the MLS Cup. And given the Union’s history and the fact that they’re winless in their last seven games, that will make for an even bigger upset if the Union can return with a victory.

But even if just getting to the playoffs is an accomplishment for the franchise, Carroll knows winning the club’s first-ever playoff game would be a far greater one.

“It’s good to be back in the playoffs,” Carroll said. “We have a chance in the second season to come together and do something that maybe nobody is giving us much of a chance to. We’re going to go up there and do the best we can and enjoy the opportunity. Hopefully we’re able to accomplish something that nobody’s expecting right now.”

Once upon a time, everyone expected Carroll to be in the playoffs. But, as he says, sometimes it’s just as much fun doing things nobody expects.

That can happen Wednesday for a team that’s never won a playoff game and for a player who continues to turn back the clock every day as retirement draws closer and closer.

“It’s never a given,” Carroll said. “It’s a lot more difficult to accomplish this feat with more teams and better competition. But I think it’s a real positive step for our club and a good building block to do what we’ve done in accomplishing [making] the playoffs this year. Now it’s about taking the opportunity as best we can.”

Union emotional after Maurice Edu's season-ending injury

Union emotional after Maurice Edu's season-ending injury

CHESTER, Pa. — On the eve of his comeback after missing nearly 13 months with a left tibia stress fracture and other related injuries, Union midfielder Maurice Edu fractured his left fibula on Saturday, keeping him out for the 2016 playoffs and beyond.

“I was trying to take the shot on goal and my foot got stuck in the turf,” Edu said Sunday, in his blue Union-issued suit and supported by crutches. “My ankle rolled and twisted and it kind of snapped a little bit. I heard it crack, and a lot of pain from there. I got a scan afterward, and there was a break.”

There's no timetable his return.

Edu, 30, has spent over a calendar year fighting various injuries that have kept him out of game action. His trouble began on Sept. 30, 2015, when he played through the U.S. Open Cup final with a partially torn groin and sports hernia. It was during Edu’s recovery from those injuries that he developed a stress fracture.

"A little bit frustration. A lot of frustration, to be honest," he said. "But all I can do now is get back to work, focus on the positives and make sure that my situation isn’t a distraction from the team."

Edu’s teammates were equally devastated by the news. Edu, the Union captain when healthy, is popular and well-respected in the locker room.

"I feel so bad for him," said Alejandro Bedoya, who wore a dedication to Edu under his jersey on Sunday. "He’s one of my good friends, so I was looking forward to playing alongside him. I know how hard he’s worked to get back, and to see him go out like that, it’s heartbreaking. I’m sad for his loss and I hope he stays strong."

Edu, who has been with the Union since 2014, returned to training in July and played three conditioning appearances with the Union’s USL team, Bethlehem Steel FC. He was on the bench for the Union’s last three games and was set to make his first appearance in over a year against the New York Red Bulls on Sunday, a game the Union eventually lost, 2-0 (see game story).

"We’re gutted for Mo," Union manager Jim Curtin said. "He was slated to start today. It’s real upsetting because he’s worked so hard to get back on the field. It’s been a tough 2016 for him, but I know he’ll come back stronger."

While he was visibly shaken by recent injury, Edu is driven to return.

"What happened, happened," Edu said. "I have no control over that. The only thing I do have control over is my next steps from here, how I prepare myself mentally and emotionally and how I continue to support this group."