With one dual announcement, Philadelphia Union addressed their most glaring weakness in 2010.
After weeks of speculation, Colombian internationals Faryd Mondragón and Carlos Valdés were formally introduced to the public in Center City on Thursday. Manager Peter Nowak took the opportunity to speak candidly about the club’s struggles on the defensive side of the ball in their inaugural season.
“We conceded too many goals,” he said. “We acknowledge that. We don’t hide the problems. We tried to stabilize during the season the backline - we tried to make it better. I believe at the end of the season the group finally found a rhythm."
The backline did, in fact, improve significantly over the course of the 2010 season. Mondragón and Valdés are being brought on board to help the club take the next step: transforming Philadelphia's defensive unit into a veritable strength.
Mondragón possesses the commanding presence, veteran leadership and ability to organize that the club lacked in net last season. Chris Seitz didn’t work out as a first choice option and subsequently departed the club. Brad Knighton fared better as a replacement starter, but by signing Mondragón and drafting Zac MacMath in the first round of last week’s SuperDraft, Nowak is indicating that he’s more inclined to revamp the club’s ‘keeper pool than test Knighton over a full season.
“Faryd, right now, is such an experienced guy who can command the backline from his goal, a position that is crucial,” Nowak said.
Valdés – a 25-year-old central defender who captained his last two club sides – is also expected to assume a starting role, but it won’t necessarily be handed to him unconditionally. After all, the foursome of Sheanon Williams on the right, Danny Califf and Michael Orozco Fiscal in the middle, and Jordan Harvey on the left showed plenty of promise towards the end of the ’10 season. The technical staff has hinted that Orozco Fiscal – who also played out wide and briefly as a holding midfielder last season – will be back in 2011, making for some intriguing preseason battles.
WATCH: Mondragón Highlights
Regardless of which foursome starts in the back come March 19, Philadelphia made a statement by signing two players who have the ability to immediately step in as frontline starters. Colombians have had a great deal of success in MLS – Carlos Valderamma, Juan Pablo Ángel, David Ferreira, Fredy Montero, Jamison Olave and Wilman Conde have all starred in America’s top flight, among others – and the Union hope their new pair will be no different.
“I believe these two signings not only will stabilize the backline but it’s going to give us, in the case of Faryd, with a great professional career behind him and great experience with the national team, and with Carlos, who is a current member of the Colombian national team … we’re looking to solve these (defensive) problems right now.”
Time will ultimately tell, but on paper, mission accomplished.