CHESTER, Pa. – How desperate of a situation are the Philadelphia Union in for Saturday’s game against D.C. United at RFK Stadium (7 pm ET; MLS LIVE)?
With fullbacks Sheanon Williams (yellow card accumulation) and Fabinho (red card) both suspended, Union manager John Hackworth has entertained the possibility of putting striker/winger Sebastien Le Toux on the backline.
“Sebastien and I were joking about it on Saturday night that he grew up as a right back, he came to MLS as a right back, and that would be an option,” Hackworth said. “So that’s the first thing.”
While Le Toux playing fullback will probably remain nothing more than something to laugh about, the truth is that the Union’s backline will be seriously shorthanded for a game critical to their playoff hopes. Ray Gaddis will be the only true fullback on the active roster, meaning that if Hackworth keeps a four-man backline, as expected, a natural midfielder or deep reserve will get the call.
Who that player will be, however, is not yet clear.
“No matter how you look at it, we’re going to have to change some things,” Hackworth said. “We’re going to have to move some people around. If you leave Ray at left back, then you’ve got to replace a right back. And there’s some obvious choices there and some I don’t really want to disclose but that have been playing there throughout the course of the year so far.”
Hackworth specifically mentioned Chris Albright and Matt Kassel as possible fill-ins, although those two have combined for only 37 league minutes this season. Another likely option is midfielder Michael Lahoud, who has played fullback for Philadelphia in the past. But Lahoud is coming off of an ankle injury that kept him out of Saturday’s 1-0 win over Toronto FC.
“Michael is still struggling with an ankle sprain,” Hackworth said. “He’s running today, so we hope that he’s available for Saturday. He has played in the league at both right and left fullback, so that’s an easy choice. Unfortunately, he has to be 100-percent healthy to do that.”
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Initially, Hackworth said he might appeal the red card that was shown to Fabinho on Saturday. But, despite maintaining his belief that the play did not warrant a red card, Hackworth decided not to appeal, and his team faces a lineup predicament for one of the biggest games of the year.
“We’re going to have to juggle it a little bit,” Hackworth said. “And some guys are going to have to play where they haven’t previously played for us.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.