Union face midfielder conundrum heading into Florida trip

Union face midfielder conundrum heading into Florida trip

The Philadelphia Union have seen several midfielders log minutes this season during both MLS and Concacaf Champions League play, but head coach Jim Curtin will have major decisions to make with his squad ahead of a first trip to Florida.

Jamiro Monteiro’s return from suspension gives Curtin several midfield options to choose from for Thursday’s match at Orlando City, a battle between two of the top three teams in the Eastern Conference. Daniel Gazdag, Leon Flach, Alejandro Bedoya, and Jose Martinez all started last weekend in a 2-1 victory over DC United, but Monteiro will be expected to start at Exploria Stadium at his traditional No. 10 position.

All five players have delivered impressive moments at some stage of the current regular season, but one will surely be watching from the bench at the start of Thursday’s affair.

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“It’s a great luxury for any coach to have,” Curtin said Tuesday in a conference call. “We’re going to need to use all five of them, certainly in these two games. Someone will be the odd man out, but it won’t be based on performance because, if you go through them right now, Jose’s playing excellent, Leon’s been amazing for us, Bedoya’s our captain and leader and has had a great season, and Monteiro and Gazdag bring so much as well.

“It gives us real flexibility within our group,” Curtin said. “Then it comes down to the opponent you’re playing, the strengths and weaknesses of that opponent, and how you want to set up.”

Flach has been one of the top newcomers in MLS this season, being used at both the No. 6 and No. 8 positions of the Union’s 4-4-2 diamond formation. The 20-year-old has been all over the field during his first spell in MLS and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.

Bedoya’s leadership and experience is something that the Union certainly enjoy having on the field, while Martinez’s aggressive play at the No. 6 position is something that Union fans have become accustomed to. Monteiro is the lead playmaker in the Union’s midfield, and despite missing out against DC United, remains one of the best in the league when it comes to free kicks and set piece situations.

Gazdag delivered his best performance yet in a Union jersey, assisting for the first time in MLS and playing a key role on Kacper Przybylko’s game winner at Subaru Park on July 17. The Hungarian international hasn’t logged as many minutes in MLS compared to Bedoya, Monteiro, Flach, or Martinez, but showed his playmaking ability when fully fit and healthy.

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“If we put the ball on his foot, good things will happen, whether that be goals or assists,” Curtin said. “I thought that performance at home for the first time was excellent. He sets up Sergio on the goal on a pass that he meant and made a big play defensively to spring the game-winning goal.”

All five of those players will feature at Orlando City and at Inter Miami on July 25, two more opportunities for the Union to climb even higher in the race for top spot in the East. While one or two of them might not start in both matches this coming week, their importance to the structure and goals of the team remains of high importance.