Marco Fabián, Sergio Santos, and Brenden Aaronson were the big topics of discussion in Jim Curtin's midweek press conference on Wednesday. The Union head coach also discussed last week's match against Kansas City and the upcoming showdown with Atlanta United.
Marco Fabián red card
"No, we are not going to appeal Marco's red card," Curtin said bluntly at the start of the presser. "I think Russell actually arrives early, actually fouls Marco, he is off balance and don’t know where he can put his foot. But at the same time that was a point of emphasis from the league officials this year, stepping on a player so that is something that realistically probably don’t have a good chance at winning.
"It is one of those plays where again with all the VAR decisions, it is supposed to be a clear and obvious one, you know," the head coach continued. "I still have a tough time if it turns into now VAR is something that we are searching for fouls and we are going to video and pausing it. I think every slide tackle or tackle can look bad if you pause it at the right moment."
Fabián will miss at least the Atlanta match, and he could be absent for additional games if the MLS Disciplinary Committee adds any onto his red card suspension. The playmaker's absence leaves a hole to be filled in the center of the Union's formation, and that much like in 2018, that could open the door for a homegrown player to see his first professional minutes.
Ilsinho and Alejandro Bedoya have played the No. 10 role before for the Union, and the club has discussed formational flexibility this season that could include a 4-2-2-2 shape used by Bethlehem Steel throughout the preseason.
"I think we have a good idea for the change we’ll make but I’m not going to reveal that to you quite yet," Curtin said slyly. "It’s a player that has been deserving of minutes in the past couple weeks and one that we tried to get into the games also. We still have a decision to make, there are a couple different options we could go with, we could tweak things formation wise.
"I’m not scared to start him if that’s what you are asking for sure," the head coach responded when asked directly if Brenden Aaronson was the player he was referencing.
"It’s no secret that he is one of the options we are talking about at the No. 10, he’s played on the wing for us as well. However it shakes out, Brenden is high in our thoughts for the weekend and that’s not because he’s a nice story or a young player coming through, it’s because he is deserving and available for selection and a guy that is right there in terms of getting his shot at minutes."
Another player who may be in contention for the starting spot is Ilsinho, however the Brazilian picked up a knock in training on Wednesday. "He got stepped on pretty good today from behind, I think’ll be okay," Curtin explained. "He’s getting a MRI or an Xray right now that will be something that is evaluated."
On a positive note, Mark McKenzie is recovering well from a concussion, and Curtin indicated the center back was returning to full health quickly. "He had a good exercise today, 50 minutes fully cleared from the concussion which was a little bit of a setback. I told him these things come in threes with the ankle, this one, and coming back from the National Team so hopefully that is all behind him now and he can get himself going."
The news wasn't as good for Sergio Santos. The dynamic attacker, still chasing his first start of the year, will have to wait until he has recovered from a hip flexor injury. Curtin said that a MRI revealed a grade two muscle injury that will keep Santos out for a month.
Curtin and the Union travel to Atlanta this weekend for a matchup with the defending champs on Sunday, March 17 at 7 p.m. ET on PHL17.