Union depth to be tested as midfield injuries pile up
CHESTER, Pa. — With Brian Carroll, Amobi Okugo and Stefani Miglioranzi all on the roster, it’s fair to say the Philadelphia Union are loaded at the defensive midfielder position.
That depth will serve them well, especially now that two of them will be sidelined for Saturday’s game against Toronto FC at BMO Field (12:30 pm ET; Direct Kick/watch LIVE online).
Union manager Peter Nowak said Wednesday that both Okugo (left ankle) and Miglioranzi (right groin) will miss the contest in Canada, leaving Brian Carroll — who’s also missed time this season with a hamstring problem — as the team’s only holding midfielder vs. Toronto.
The 33-year-old Miglioranzi, one of the club’s most seasoned players, has not played since an April 30 contest vs. San Jose. He pulled himself out of the lineup the following week after straining his groin during warmups in Portland.
“We’re doing our best to bring him back as soon as we can,” Nowak said. “Probably next week he will try to train full time with us.”
Okugo, meanwhile, sprained his ankle in the very first minute of last Saturday’s game vs. Chicago when, with nobody around, he caught his plant foot on the grass while making a pass. The 20-year-old went to the locker room a few minutes later with what the training staff called a high ankle sprain, and said following the game that he was frustrated, especially because the injury happened so early and that it didn’t even come from physical contact.
On Monday, Okugo (pictured above) tweeted that X-rays came back negative, but Nowak said the midfielder would still miss at least two-to-three weeks. Okugo, who’s been a fixture in the lineup ever since returning from international duty at the CONCACAF U-20 Championship, was seen around PPL Park wearing a heavy boot on his left foot this week.
“He’s been playing so well since the preseason,” Nowak said. “He was great with the U-20s and he’s really progressing very fast. Of course this is a little setback for him right now.”
The good news for Philly is that another second-year player — Danny Mwanga — will return to the lineup this weekend.
Mwanga sat out the Chicago game after tweaking his left hamstring the previous week in Dallas, but the measure was more precautionary than anything else. The striker has been training all week and Nowak said he’s “all in” for the Toronto game.
In other injury news, third-string goalie Thorne Holder (concussion) and teenage midfielder Zach Pfeffer (appendectomy) are also still out, although those absences will hurt more for the club’s Reserve League game Saturday vs. Toronto.
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DaveZeitlin.