With only two matches remaining in the 2019 preseason schedule, Union head coach Jim Curtin said that he's allowing positional battles to unfold up until the regular season begins, but that he's quite confident he has a group of players that can make an impact when they step on the pitch against Toronto FC on March 2.
Marco Fabián learning his role
Curtin said that his team's new No. 10, Mexican international Marco Fabián, was continue to progress in his understanding of the players around him and how to interact with them. Additionally, Fabián's teammates were learning how to utilize the former Eintracht Frankfurt creator.
"I think what you saw [against Montreal Impact is] Marco's trying to fit into a new team and wanting to be on the ball," Curtin explained. "During the week, we've worked on having Marco stay higher up the field, in between the lines."
The Union head man added that Fabián's teammtes would learn to trust him in tight spaces as they played together more often: "Even if there is a guy on his back, you can still play an entry ball into his feet because he's comfortable with pressure around him."
Positional growth, and positional battles
When asked to assess Kai Wagner's performance on the outside against Montreal, Curtin chose to discuss how the Union's outside backs were continuing to learn that their aggression could be a useful form of defense. "The thought is to have our outside backs cover even more ground and join into the attack even more than they have in the past preseason games," he said. "That way we're making teams adjust to us and have to deal with us rather than then running at our outside backs.
"We can do better with our help defending in front of Kai in a lot of instances as well," Curtin noted.
Without a left-footed player to man the left channel, the head coach admitted that he had been rotating a number of guys into that role. With Warren Creavalle recovering from a rib contusion, though, Brenden Aaronson made a strong impression against Montreal. "I thought Aaronson was one of the bright spots against Montreal," Curtin said. "I thought he had an excellent game, did a really good job for us. You can see his engine, his ability to run, to pop up all over the field.
"It's an ongoing process to find the best combination in our midfield. It hasn't been decided yet, but tonight will be a little bit of a different look in that regard on that left-hand side. You guys will see that when the lineup comes out in a couple hours."
Finally, Curtin explained that while Mark McKenzie's substitution after the first half-hour against Montreal was not injury-related, the young center back had picked up a minor ankle knock in training that would likely keep him out against DC United.