CHESTER, Pa. – Just when the position finally got stabilized, the Philadelphia Union’s ever-rotating cast of center backs will change again.
With Maurice Edu suspended due to a red card he picked up in Philly’s last game, Jim Curtin has been searching for the best way to replace the Designated Player who he moved from midfield to center back after taking over as interim manager last month.
“We’re looking at a couple of different options there,” Curtin said ahead of the team’s contest against the Colorado Rapids at PPL Park on Saturday (7 pm ET, MLS Live). “A guy like Ethan White, who’s a real option now, has been very sharp in training. He’s a guy that we’ve been trying to get a game now. He’s earned it from the way he’s performed in training.”
White has yet to log any first-team minutes for the Union after coming over in a trade that sent Jeff Parke to D.C. United in the offseason, and is probably still behind Austin Berry in the center back pecking order.
But Berry, who’s been hobbled by injuries for much of the season, is now dealing with another setback: an illness that caused Curtin to lament that “the poor kid can’t catch a break.”
“He hasn’t eaten in the past three days,” Curtin said Thursday. “He said he got down a couple of crackers, but he’s still not where I’d like to him to be as far as health.”
Berry was able to train on Thursday, however, and Curtin is “cautiously optimistic” that both he and midfielder Vincent Nogueira – who’s been sidelined with a groin injury since Curtin took over – will be available vs. the Rapids.
Williams – who had been a right back since 2010 before sliding over to the middle – is coming off one of his best games of the season, logging an assist, nearly scoring a goal and leading the defense to a shutout in Tuesday’s 2-0 US Open Cup win over the New England Revolution.
And with him getting a new center back partner Saturday, the Union veteran knows he needs to have another big game against speedster Deshorn Brown and the Rapids.
“I’ve had a few games [at center back] now,” Williams said. “No more excuses. We’ve got to start getting zeroes. That’s what it’s going to take for us to climb back up the table. So I’ve got to start doing that consistently.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.