As the Union’s technical staff begin an offseason of preparation for the 2011 season, there are a number of elements to consider and many decisions to be made.
The first is the expansion draft, with Manager Peter Nowak and his staff hard at work whittling the club’s roster down to a list of 11 protected players (excluding Jack McInerney and Amobi Okugo, who will almost certainly retain their Generation adidas status, and possibly Danny Mwanga, whose status is uncertain). As one might expect, the process is fluid. There are, of course, certain players who are locks to be protected. Then there’s the chess match of anticipating who the Vancouver Whitecaps and Portland Timbers would select if unprotected, which will likely impact some of the fringe decisions. According to Coach John Hackworth, Philadelphia’s list is continually being tweaked as Vancouver and Portland announce player transactions.
Another variable the technical staff must weigh relates to the loan statuses of Michael Orozco Fiscal and Roger Torres. Both players have clearly demonstrated their value to the club. Orozco Fiscal, 24, finished second in minutes played while featuring in a variety of positions, primarily on the backline, also chipping in two goals and an assist. Torres, 19, began the year as a starter and finished as a spark plug off the bench, displaying creativity, vision, and immense potential in both roles.
In an ideal world, the club would keep both young assets and help them continue to develop at PPL Park. And that very well may happen. As with any roster decision, however, there are a number of considerations, both financial and other. What is clear at this time is that the Union are working to bring both back in 2011, whether the club negotiates new loans or purchases their contracts outright.
"MLS and our club will work to extend their stay with our team," Nowak told philadelphiaunion.com.
[inline_node:287966]Orozco Fiscal, on loan from San Luis of the Mexican First Division, started Philadelphia’s first-ever match as a holding midfielder before featuring as both a wingback and centerback. While small in stature compared to many other central defenders across MLS – he’s listed at 5-9, 166 pounds – Orozco Fiscal appears most comfortable in the middle of the defense, where he finished the season. The emergence of Sheanon Williams as the club’s starting right back, a position that had plagued Philadelphia in the early parts of the year, enabled Orozco Fiscal to assume his more natural role.
“Yeah, he definitely had a better performance overall at the end of the year when we moved him to centerback,” Hackworth told philadelphiaunion.com. “It solidified our backline, which I thought came together a little better at the end of the year.”
The Union backline is still a work in progress, but the foursome consisting of Orozco Fiscal and captain Danny Califf in the middle, with Williams on the right and Jordan Harvey on the left, proved more than capable of shutting down opposing sides. There were some rough patches, such as 4-1 and 3-1 losses to Colorado and Columbus, respectively, in the club’s final five matches, but the upside was there given more time to learn each other’s tendencies and grow together as a unit.
The case of Torres is a little bit more complicated. The on-loan midfielder from América de Cali of the Colombian First Division dazzled at times, showing rare ability as a creative midfielder. Not once did he go the full 90 minutes, however, and after starting the club’s first seven matches he finished with only 10. Nevertheless, Torres racked up six assists in less than 1,000 minutes played, an impressive total for the youngster.
[inline_node:287967]“Roger is a young player coming into this league, which is very different from the league he played in previously in Colombia,” said Hackworth. “He needs time to make those adjustments, time to grow and take the experiences he had this year and put them into training in the offseason and come back. He has a ton of potential, but at this level and in this league he needs to refine some of the things that he needs to work on and maximize the things he is already really good at.
“It’s easy to put a guy like Roger in, who does have the flair, the creativity, and is exciting, but you have to have the full package to really complement. It is hard in the modern day game to give guys the luxury of not being good in every aspect of the game. That’s not to say anything about one part of his game or not - people will read into that and say, ‘Hey, that means he’s not a good defender,’ but that’s not what I’m saying. It is more about where he came from. He talked to us a lot about what it was like playing in Colombia and how that was a big adjustment for him.”
If the Union are able to work out deals for one or both of their on-loan players, it’d certainly be in the club’s best interest to do so before expansion draft protection lists are due on November 22. There’s no sense in using one of 11 valuable protection spots on a player who may not be back regardless, applying a sense of urgency.
Only time will tell how the situation transpires, but if all goes well expect to see both Torres and Orozco Fiscal in Union kits come mid-March.