Future of the Union

Future of the Union

  • Posted by Drew Epperley
  • On February 10, 2010
  • 2 Comments
  • Amobi Okugo, Chris Seitz, Danny Califf, Danny Mwanga, Jack McInerney, John Parker, Michael Orozco, Peter Nowak, Piotr Nowak, Sons of Ben, Toni Stahl

Jack McInerney is the future face of the Union. (Kevin Kinkead for WVHooligan)

By John Parker

In this (hopefully) sixteen part series, I will look at each of MLS team and discern their “future face of the franchise.” This isn’t necessarily a query into the player with the most potential on a squad, but rather a question of how a player or personality is situated to become the most visible and/or marketable person within an organization.

In other words, it’d be much more fun if Alexi Lalas was still around…but alas, we’re stuck with personnel with talent.

To start off, we’ll look at the Philadelphia Union.

The Union is somewhat uniquely situated among recent expansion teams when it comes to their team’s image. The Sounders had Ljunberg, Toronto had Mr. Clean post seven scotches, and San Jose had absolutely nothing (not that they do now).

Philadelphia, however, has a stable of young talent and a coach who is a name himself.

From this years draft come a couple of prospects with a bright future, but for one or another reason won’t be gracing the lips of the Philadelphia SOB’s quite as much in a couple of years. The defensive midfield pairing of Toni Stahl and Amobi Okugo are the first that come to mind. With Stahl, we are looking at a monstrosity in the midfield, a talented player who can probably start immediately, and a home nation that will surely lead to some amusing songs. Another advantage with Toni is he’s likely to be around for a while. But at age 24, Toni is unlikely to improve.

Verdict: Don’t count out the “Dichio effect” with Toni. Oh, and he might actually be good.

Amobi Okugo, the current U-20 US captain, was a scout favorite coming into the draft. He can cover the pitch and quickly move the ball. With his ball winning prowess and his quick ball movement, he could soon become the lynchpin of the Union midfield. As a key talent in the US youth set-up and possibly one in the USMNT in the future, Okugo will have added visibility outside the squad. However, Amobi suffers from a position that lacks flair (Amobi had 1 goal and 2 assists as the Freshman of the Year). On top of it, many don’t expect him to last at Philly too long before Europe calls.

Verdict: If the Union retains him, the well-versed fans in Philly will come to love him. However, outside the supporter groups Amobi won’t be fully appreciated. And if he is so good to demand that attention, he’ll be trying to do his best Edu impression in a couple of summers.

The Union also have a couple of defenders with MNT experience behind the midfielders. I’ll let you figure out who they are. Oh, you didn’t know? That would be Danny Califf and Michael Orozco!

(Note: Work on the syllables SOB. There’s a song somewhere in there…)

They’re center backs without exceptional athletic talent. They also have Chris Seitz in goal. They’ll all look nice when they grace the cover of their program once a year.

Verdict: I’ve never heard a ticket rep sell a good offside trap.

(Note two: I do have at least one defender featuring as a future face. Don’t tread on me!)

Pulling the strings for the expansion club is Peter Nowak, who I’d consider a dark horse to become the true face of the franchise. Nowak could be in for the “Sigi” effect: a former cup winner well known in US circles, Nowak can become especially renown if the team succeeds in its first year. Considering he is getting in at the ground floor, the success is all his. This is and will be his team. As such, if the team becomes a success, he becomes a hero in Philadelphia. However, Peter isn’t quite the character Sigi is…and he’s not awesomely obese.

Verdict: Nowak will “be” the Union if no one steps up to be a star. However…

The Union had probably had the most incredible intake of talent the MLS draft has seen in its history. Two of those players reside in the midfield, but possibly the two most talented play up top. Danny Mwanga may be the most talented striker to enter the MLS since Jozy Altidore (who, remember, was a second round pick). There is a reason he got the largest GA deal in history; his athleticism alone makes him a danger, but Danny synthesizes his physical ability with a very well rounded game. Mwanga should be toe to toe with Tony Tchani for the Rookie of the Year, and double digit goals would not be a surprise. Danny is such a talent that one of the top teams in France, Lille, attempted to bring him in. This all points towards a player capable of becoming a top striker in MLS sooner than later. The unfortunate thing is that Danny is still looking towards a European future, and is likely to cross the pond as soon as he becomes an MLS stalwart. The multiple year wait for citizenship also doesn’t help, as his status as a super sub for the USMNT would escalate his visibility.

Verdict: Mwanga is the greatest talent on the team, but a probable short stint prevents him from being a Union legend. By the time he becomes a “fat head” level player, he’ll probably be drinking absinthe and smoking Parisian cigarettes.

This leaves us with Mwanga’s back up, Jack McInerney, Philadelphia’s future face of the franchise.

Let’s start with why Jack the player has such a great future in Philly. McInerney is a unique striker in the history of American development; one could almost call him “Bojan-esque.” McInerney is a fantastic striker off the ball, often finishing from distance or curling it into the corner. In tight spaces, Jack utilizes good close control to possess long enough to create the opportunity to employ his finishing skills. He won’t get by defenses, and he won’t overpower defenders, but his natural striker ability bucks the American trend.

This is especially interesting considering his possible partnership with Mwanga. Danny is capable of stretching defenses, latching onto through balls, and creating for his partner. McInerney should be able to run off Mwanga and find many opportunities he wouldn’t if the defense was able to body up against him. What should follow are highlight goals and a fine strike record.

Finally, Jack is in a position to take advantage of a severe lack of depth at the striker position for the US. If he is able to produce a good run of form, he is sure to get games…and we all know that any youngster getting called into the MNT is sure to garner much attention.

Besides his skills and situation, Jack is sure to be a marketable player. With his youth and his lack of size, he is sure to be in Philly for a good while. Within three or four years, he’s most likely to be the best of the original Union squad…he will grow as the team grows, a true fixture at PPL park.

Finally, Jack fits with the Philadelphia market. He has a bit of “Rocky” in him. He’s undersized but tough…capable of embarrassing his larger foes. He fits within the SOB ethos and is will have quite a few tunes turned out to his name. “Jack Mac” will surely be on the lips of the Philadelphia supporters for quite a while.

Editor’s Note: John Parker appears weekly on WVHooligan.com. Feel free to leave John a comment below.

  • weemsildinho

    I get the feeling their will be more alexi lalas jokes coming from you in the future.

  • weemsildinho

    I get the feeling their will be more alexi lalas jokes coming from you in the future.