Whenever transfers are made it’s easy for comparisons to be made but sometimes it’s not always fair to the players involved. This is a situation that the Philadelphia Union are experiencing right now.
Last season things went off the rails once Vincent Nogueira left the Philadelphia Union after the all-star break for french side RC Strasbourg and it’s clear that they’ve been looking for a controlling midfielder to replace him. When he stated offseason targets to fill this year Earnie Stewart listed a veteran center back, a striker and a controlling number six midfielder. The number six was a target to replace the link up play that was lost when Nogueira left the club.
With the signing of Haris Medunjanin, the Philadelphia Union have found their controlling midfielder and immediately comparisons to Nogueira are being made. While Medunjanin is a great footballer, it’s not fair to either him or Nogueira to make those comparisons this soon.
Nogueira was the metronome to the Union midfield doing most of his work in the background. Whether it was the little passes to open up defenses or runs to draw defenders away from attackers, Nogueira’s impact on a game wasn’t clearly felt until he was gone.
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Medunjanin is cut from a different cloth with the ability to take over games and play in every role necessary for the central midfield. He’s a free-kick specialist with a wicked left foot who will allow Alejandro Bedoya to play in a more advanced position. Medunjanin isn’t a guy who will disappear into the background of the game in the way that Nogueira did.
This isn’t meant to slight what Nogs brought to the team but the goal is to show that they are two different guys with two very different play styles. Also, While Medunjanin is good and has experience with Earnie Stewart, he shouldn’t be expected to blow the doors off of MLS immediately. It takes most guys a decent amount of time in order to acclimate to the league.
It’s good to have expectations for Medunjanin in MLS but the bar shouldn’t be set too high too early. He also shouldn’t have the same role that Nogueira had mostly because he doesn’t need to. The roster around him is more talented than any that Nogueira was a part of for the Philadelphia Union allowing Medunjanin to be more expressive in his play. Medunjanin will be good for the Union this year, but he won’t be Nogueira and that’s okay.