Midweek presser: Monteiro, Marco availability, Aaronson's role, more


In his midweek press conference, Jim Curtin addressed the roster questions facing the Union ahead of their second home match of the season and gave his thoughts on Brenden Aaronson's first start (and first goal) for the club. Last, he discussed the recent slate of international call-ups, including who the Union chose to hold back and why.
Jamiro Monteiro and Marco Fabián
Two of the more high profile moves the Union have made since 2018 are the acquisitions of Mexican International Marco Fabián and FC Metz loanee Jamiro Monteiro. The former was suspended last week following a controversial red card against Sporting Kansas City, and the latter is completing the visa application process so he can begin competing for a spot in the gameday eighteen. With international call-ups thinning the roster this weekend, Curtin is hoping both players will be options when Columbus Crew rolls into town. 
"To be clear on Jamiro, not 100 percent cleared yet but we are confident it will be sorted out come kick off so that is another international spot," the Union coach explained. "We have every scenario covered to do what’s best for us and have our final group at its best for Columbus.
"Marco -- we are operating that he is going to be part of our group, he’s been able to build some fitness this week and looked good and sharp in training."
Fabián's return to the lineup leads to questions about how the Union will fit both the star signing and Aaronson into the same midfield, but Curtin saw that as a good problem to have. "He’s a guy who can play as a second forward, can play as the second striker," the coach said of Fabián. "He has done it for Frankfurt."
Fitting in Aaronson
"Obviously Brenden Aaronson has shown that he belongs on the field as well," he continued. "Could that be at the tip of the diamond or the corner of a diamond, could it be as the 10 against depending with some others' availability." Those others include Monteiro, who both Curtin and Ernst Tanner have previously suggested could slot in at any of the club's four current midfield roles. 
That glut of options in midfield contrasts the striker position. Cory Burke has been called up to the Jamaican national team, and both Kacper Przybylko and Sergio Santos are out with injuries. That leaves only Fafa Picault and David Accam available up front, meaning Philly may look to change shape ahead of Saturday's matchup. "We’ve talked in different discussions of playing with one striker, we’ve talked about different combinations in playing with two and how we can best get after what Columbus does well," Curtin divulged. "It hasn’t been finalized yet, our final lineup or final roster for the game against Columbus hasn’t been determined yet because there are a lot of variables that go into it with internationals and injuries right now."
Steal (or, borrow) from Steel?
With all the missing pieces up front, Curtin was asked if an emergency loan from Bethlehem Steel FC could go down prior to the Union's Saturday showdown. "“It’s a possibility," he admitted. "You have to find the fit that can now with the rules in the league and the restrictions, who can be called upon. There has to be a real hardship and we’re not there yet in terms of the number, we hope it doesn’t get that low but if we pick up an injury or two this week then you could get to the hardship rule."
Changes in Columbus
This weekend's opponents, Columbus Crew, feature a new head coach in Caleb Porter. But while Porter is fresh to the Ohio scene, he has had previous MLS success with Portland Timbers. "You look back to Portland where they used to kill you with seven or eight hundred passes," Curtin remembered. "He also changed in that and became really good on the counter. He can adapt and adjust as good as any coach in our league so he’s made this group very tough to break down in terms of defense."
Columbus will be missing one of their leading scorers in Gyasi Zardes (who was called up to the US Men's National Team), but their other leading scorer is center back Gaston Sauro. Curtin recognized that Sauro and the Crew have been strong on restarts and warned that even without Zardes and Wil Trapp he expects an well-organized opponent. 
Long-term view on Aaronson
Finally, Curtin took a moment to reflect on Brenden Aaronson, a player he has seen develop over the course of ten years. "It’s been fun to watch his growth and development for the past 10 years," the head coach smiled. "As an eight-year-old running in YSC, a lot of work has gone into his development from a lot of different people." 
I think the crowning moment for everyone was scoring a goal in front of 50,000 people. I’m sure when Brenden tells the story when he is older he’ll say it was 100,000," Curtin joked. "It meant a lot to me for him to come over and give a big hug so that's very powerful." The hug between player and coach symbolized the bond between club and family that has been a big part of Aaronson's growth in the Union system.
“I think there is a comfort level there with the family, with myself and with the Academy staff, and there is a trust level," the head coach said. I think that goes a long way, the length of years and a ton of people contribute to your development along the way. It starts with good parents and he has that."
"Again to see him now periodically when I was involved at the Academy to step away when I was coaching as an assistant here, as a head coach to get little snapshots of his growth and development, and the different coaches that have done a great job with him in our Academy. To see him work in the Steel games last year and to now see him against the MLS Champion where there is, both teams included, a $100 million in talent on the field... and him be in the top three on the field, is something that his parents should really be proud of, he should be proud of.
"But again, it’s just the start. We want guys that have good seasons; we want guys to have good careers -- because it’s hard. We talk about our [United States] U-23 roster that just came out and you look at it and you go: How many of these guys are playing every day for their team? Not many, and it’s a talented, talented group. But how many of them can put a season together? It’s just a shout out to say that it is hard work to be a professional everyday.
"A lot of work still to do for Brenden but at the same time his first impression through the whole preseason and his growth is a testament to the family that he has and a lot of people have chipped in here along the way at YSC, at the school, in the Academy the coaches there, the Bethlehem Steel and now here with the players who put him in good position to have success against Atlanta. It’s not as easy as someone flips a switch in a kid and they have success. There is a lot that goes into it and it’s always the parents."

On releasing players for international duty

After bringing up that U-23 group, Curtin noted that Auston Trusty had been called in but that the Union "kept him back, and the US National Team was very understanding of that.

"There are a lot of things that go into it behind the scenes, decisions get made and you have to weigh friendlies versus leagues games in preparation and what makes the most sense for each individual," he said. "It’s unfortunate that we’ve had a lot of injuries since then but at the same time you lose a guy here or there but it leaves opportunity for the next guy to step up."

The head coach also noted that Tab Ramos, the head man of the US U-20s, remained extremely high on Mark McKenzie but the Union felt it was necessary to have their young stud around for MLS action.

McKenzie and the rest of the Union face Columbus Crew at 7:30 p.m. ET on March 23 at Talen Energy Stadium.
Tickets are available here.

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