Another face, meanwhile, remains in the mix to join the new-look unit – and it’s one that some people probably know well.
In a conference call with reporters Wednesday, Union head coach Jim Curtin said that Brazilian midfielder Ilsinho has “turned some heads” as a trialist over the past few days.
“His pedigree speaks for itself,” Curtin said. “He’s a guy that’s been transferred for 11 million Euros at certain points in his career. You see his ability around the goal, his ability to make the final pass and beat a guy 1-v-1.
“As far as how he’s fit in with the group, he got along with the guys first and foremost. And he’s also acclimated to MLS, which to be honest is a unique league in terms of the physical and fitness demands.”
Ilsinho certainly has an impressive pedigree, having spent much of his career with Shakhtar Donetsk (from 2007 to 2010 and 2012 to 2015), helping the Ukranian club win the 2009 UEFA Cup and scoring a Champions League goal against FC Barcelona the year before that. The right midfielder has also had two stints with Sao Paulo and played for Brazil in the 2008 Summer Olympics.
As a trialist for the Union, Ilsinho looked sharp in Philly’s preseason opener vs. Jacksonville on Saturday and bagged an assist in Tuesday’s scrimmage with the US U-17 national team. But before the Union move ahead with any decisions, Curtin is eager to see how the 30-year-old Brazilian performs against MLS competition when the Union face the Chicago Fire in an exhibition Thursday.
“He’s a very creative player that can play in any of the front slots,” Curtin said. “He’s a guy that’s come in an done a good job but we’d like to see him live vs. Chicago tomorrow.”
If Ilsinho is signed, he’ll help improve a deeper midfielder that recently added Alberg, a Dutchman who Curtin said will mostly be used centrally -- perhaps to spell Vincent Nogueira or Tranquillo Barnetta – but can also play wide.
But the Union seem less eager to add another striker to join C.J. Sapong and highly touted rookie Fabian Herbers up top, recently cutting ties with preseason trialist Moussa Maazou, a 27-year-old Nigerian striker.
On Wednesday, Sapong was signed to a new three-year deal and, barring an injury, can be counted on to score 12 to 15 goals this season, according to Curtin.
“We’ll always look to upgrade and strengthen our roster,” the Union coach said. “We’re always looking at every position. But C.J.’s a guy I believe in. I think that by resigning him, it shows that. Fabian Herbers also needs to be mentioned -- he has been excellent in training. I’m confident he can step into MLS games right now and can get goals. We have a good pairing with the two of them.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.