CHESTER, Pa. – After playing two games in the past seven days, including a grueling 120-minute affair in Tuesday’s US Open Cup win in Dallas, the Philadelphia Union are flying in reinforcements for Friday night’s game against the Houston Dynamo at BBVA Compass Arena (9 pm ET, NBCSN, stream on NBCsports.com).
And one of those reinforcements is a rookie poised to make his MLS debut: midfielder Pedro Ribeiro.
Union interim manager Jim Curtin said he may even start Ribeiro, a first-round pick in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft who’s been tearing it up while on loan with the Harrisburg City Islanders, Philly’s USL PRO affiliate.
“He’s a guy I’ve always been high on,” Curtin said. “We have a lot of tired legs right now. This would be the third game of a tough three-game stretch – as tough as I’ve ever seen in MLS with the games played in the heat. But we’re not going to make excuses. We’re going to put a team on the field that can play with Houston and get a result. And Pedro’s a guy that we trust.”
Ribeiro could end up filling in for attacking midfielder Cristian Maidana, who continues to deal with a nagging hamstring injury. Maidana played in extra time against Dallas on Tuesday – his first action in nearly a month – but Curtin said the Argentine playmaker is still not at 100 percent.
“You guys saw it took a lot of hard work for him to get fully fit early in the year, and when he finally did, he had a stretch of eight games where he looked like one of the best players in our league,” Curtin said. “He has the setback and it’s been tough. It’s like preseason, to be honest, to get him back out there and fully fit again. We’d like to kind of ease him along in that process.”
Luckily for Curtin, he still has a lot of midfielders at his disposal, especially with Carlos Valdes prepared to return to center back.
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Curtin opted to rest Valdes for Tuesday’s Open Cup game, putting Maurice Edu at the center back role he occupied before Valdes returned from loan a week-and-a-half ago.
But when asked about Valdes, Curtin said that “it’s safe to say he’ll be starting,” which means that Edu will likely return to the central midfield, which also includes Amobi Okugo (who scored against Dallas on Tuesday) and the in-form Vincent Nogueira.
“We’ll be fine for Houston,” Curtin said. “We will juggle some things obviously with tired legs, but we have a lot of depth now. We have a group that can compete, and there’s a lot of healthy competition fighting for spots.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.