Philly’s star defensive midfielder is out (Jose Martinez), their supersub is on the sideline (Ilsinho), all three senior forwards are currently out of action (Kacper Przybylko, Sergio Santos and Cory Burke) while two more starters are on international duty (Jamiro Monteiro and Olivier Mbazio) and their lone senior offseason signing is still stuck in Poland awaiting his visa to finally travel and link up with his new teammates (Stuart Findlay).
The Union have just 15 field players available for Wednesday’s friendly against Orlando City SC and their opening competitive match of the season just two weeks away against Costa Rican side Saprissa in the CCL.
“This is a group that has the tendency to respond when there’s a little bit of adversity,” head coach Jim Curtin told media on a virtual press conference. “We see it as an opportunity for other guys to step up.”
There is some good news amid the injury crisis.
Martinez’s ailment isn’t as bad as initially thought, with the Venezuelan No. 6 expected to be out of training for a week or two. He’ll need further time to regain and build up match fitness, but Curtin feared a fracture or tear when it originally happened. Przybylko is considered day-to-day with back spasms and both Monteiro and Mbazio are expected back and available for Saprissa upon their return from international duty.
“We have a lot of young guys who have gotten minutes in preseason and have done well with those minutes. … Injuries are part of the game, preseason is a chance for everybody,” Curtin said.
Without Martinez anchoring the midfield, and the majority of their forwards out, Curtin plans to tweak the formation a bit from their preferred 4-4-2 tight diamond. Jack Elliott and Alejandro Bedoya will start as a double pivot in defensive midfield in the friendly against Orlando and that’d likely be the plan against Saprissa.
“The only thing that matters, the only thing we want to do, is keep a clean sheet against Saprissa in that first leg,” Curtin said. “Then hopefully some bodies start to come back in attack for leg two and we can move onto the regular season from there.”