Philadelphia Union: Overcrowding on the Wings


Looking at the Philadelphia Union roster, it’s pretty clear that they won’t be able to carry all the wingers that they have on the first team roster.

Running through the Philadelphia Union roster, there is a glutton of wingers especially those capable playing on the right wing. To begin they have Fabian Herbers and Ilsinho who are primarily right-wingers. When you expand the selection to guys who are capable of playing there you also have Jay Simpson and CJ Sapong. Alejandro Bedoya could also be included but unless another midfielder is signed, he will be in the midfield. To round it out you have Eric Ayuk and (if he isn’t signed directly to Bethlehem) Marcus Epps.

That makes seven players who are all capable of featuring on the right wing for extended periods of time. While depth is good, this much depth, especially under a salary cap and with limited roster space can be detrimental.

Out of these seven guys, three are projected to be starters for the Philadelphia Union this year. They are Jay Simpson/ CJ Sapong (whoever wins the striker job), Fabian Herbers (based on his performances last season), and Alejandro Bedoya (too important to sit). That means the other four will either sit or go to Bethlehem.

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It’s safe to assume that Epps will go to Bethlehem and that whoever loses in the battle of the strikers to take up a bench spot so we can leave them out of this discussion. This brings us to one final battle, Ayuk vs Ilsinho.

Ayuk spent last season in Bethlehem after spending the 2015 season with the Philadelphia Union. Ilsinho spent all of last season with the Union but missed time due to injury and failed to make a significant impact because of his lack of match fitness. When Ilsinho joined the team, he was nowhere near soccer shape and spent most of the season attempting to reach the fitness that he had while playing regularly for Shakhtar Donetsk.

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Philadelphia Union /

Because of the lack of fitness, it’s tough to fully judge Ilsinho’s season but he’s hurt by how well Herbers performed on the right wing once he got comfortable there. Herbers produced three goals and seven assists in 32 games (13 starts). With numbers like that, it’s tough to anoint Ilsinho the starting role directly out of the preseason bringing us to an issue.

Ilsinho’s contract… Ilsinho’s base salary for 2016 was 430,000 dollars. To put the number into perspective it’s more than Ayuk, Herbers, and Sapong combined. It’s too much to pay a guy who produced two goals and two assists over the course of a season and way too much to pay a backup winger.

What to do with Illskill?

If Jim Curtin doesn’t plan to start him, the Philadelphia Union need to try to dangle Ilsinho for General Allocation Money. It would be tough to get a player out of a deal due to Ilsinho’s bloated wages but if a team with a need on the wing comes knocking with some cash, the Union should listen.

Herbers is capable of holding down the starting role for the season and Ayuk could be carried on the bench to develop and fill the role that Restrepo was supposed to fill last season. Ayuk can offer blistering pace and a goal threat off the bench for when the team needs to chase goals at the end of games. For a team under a salary cap, the money that Ilsinho is being paid could be put to better uses like a veteran center back or another midfielder.

Obviously, the team shouldn’t give Ilsinho away for free but he’s close to finding himself in the same position as Sebastian Le Toux last season. Not good enough to start but also making too much to sit on the bench.

Next: Mining for Gold at the MLS SuperDraft

If Ilsinho’s game had an end product this entire article would be rendered useless but what’s the point of his elastico’s when he loses the ball at the end. Ilsinho is paid like a guy expected to produce but at the end of the day, he’s a bag of fancy tricks with no end product. Fun to watch on Youtube but not playing meaningful minutes for your club. Ilsinho’s best days are behind him, maybe it’s time for the Union to move on.