Union reserves fall to DC, but new face may hold promise
WALLINGFORD, Pa. — The Philadelphia Union’s first-team scoring deficiencies extended to their subs Monday afternoon. Try as they might, Philly couldn’t dent the nets and ended up dropping a 1-0 decision to D.C. United in Reserve League action at Chester Park.
But could help be on the way?
Getting a starting nod for Monday’s reserve game alongside 10 Union regulars was Veljko Paunović, a 33-year-old Serbian international.
Paunović, a veteran striker who has played for a dozen different European clubs during a 15-year-career, is currently on trial with the Union. He has been retired since 2008 but also went on trial with the Red Bulls in 2009.
Against the DC reserves, Paunović was composed on the ball and made some heady passes but didn’t create much in the way of scoring chances. He was substituted for Union midfielder Roger Torres in the 72nd minute.
The only other non-contracted players to see action during Monday’s game were academy players Jimmy McLaughin and Mike Gonzalez.
Per club policy, Union coaches could not reveal how long Paunović has been with the club or even discuss his performance in Monday’s game.
What they could talk about was the team’s performance as a whole.
“We were a little lackluster in the first half in terms of speed of play,” said the Union’s reserve-team coach, Brendan Burke. “We picked it up significantly in the second half and created a lot more chances in terms of our pattern of play. From that standpoint, I was pleased. But I thought overall today we weren’t as sharp as we needed to be.”
The Union looked far better in their first Reserve League game when they used goals from up-and-coming strikers Jack McInerney and Chris Agorsor to beat the Red Bull reserves, 2-1.
Between McInerney, Agorsor, Torres, rookie Levi Houapeu and others, the Union do have a stable of young offensive players they are very high on. They also have proven, talented strikers like Sebastien Le Toux, Carlos Ruiz and Danny Mwanga at their disposal.
Yet no one is scoring regularly.
If anything, the club’s offensive drought — they’ve tallied a league-low six goals — could be attributed to having too many offensive players and not enough chemistry between them yet.
While adding a new piece probably won’t help in that regard, Paunović does have a proven track record, having scored more than 70 career goals while earning a couple of caps with the Serbia and Montenegro national team. His best club season came in 2002-03 when he scored 18 goals in 38 appearances with the Spanish second-division side CD Tenerife.
Only time will tell if Major League Soccer is next on the horizon for him.
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DaveZeitlin.