Heading into Thursday’s clash with Orlando City SC, Philadelphia Union head coach Jim Curtin has an unusual embarrassment of riches in the midfield to work with.
For the first time, Jose Andres Martinez, Leon Flach, Alejandro Bedoya, Jamiro Monteiro and Daniel Gazdag will all be available for selection in Florida. There simply isn’t enough space on the field for the five players, whom Curtin noted are all in fantastic form.
“It’s a great luxury for any coach to have. Because a wide variety of injuries, suspensions, green cards, they all haven't been available. Someone will be the odd man out. Gosh, if you go through them all right now, Jose’s playing excellent, Leon has been amazing for us. Bedoya is obviously our captain and leader and has had a great season,” Curtin said. “Monteiro, Gazdag, they bring so much as well.”
Curtin noted that the versatility of the five is an added benefit, and he can use his personnel to his advantage depending on the opponent.
“All five of them can play as 8s, 10s, they can play as 6s. Then it comes down to the opponent, the strengths and weaknesses of that opponent, how you want to set up,” Curtin said.
“Leon maybe brings more on the defensive side, ‘Miro and Gazdag are more attack-minded guys,” Curtin continued. “Ale is a two-way guy, Jose is a more defensive-minded. So, we will have great flexibility and the selection process is one I’m excited for because it gives us a great player off the bench as well.”
Most likely, Curtin will elect to continue with what has been working, a 4-4-2 diamond or 4-3-1-2. This means that four of the five will most likely start, supporting two forwards.
Luckily for the Union, both presumed starters are in good form up top, especially Santos who has scored in each of the last two matches.
“[Santos] has been excellent in the last couple games. He’s getting goals, he’s been getting assists, his work rate defensively has been good,” Curtin said.
Sitting just two places behind the Union in the Eastern Conference table at fourth, Orlando City will pose a threat to Philadelphia’s strong midfield. The Lions have weapons, including Benji Michel, Mauricio Pereyra, and an in-form Nani.
Philadelphia will take on Orlando City at Exploria Stadium in a nationally televised game tonight on ESPN, and a quick turnaround sees the Union play Inter Miami in Fort Lauderdale on Sunday.
Strong performances are needed from Curtin’s stars to take points back to the Keystone State, and they will all need to contribute throughout the heavy week.