CHESTER, Pa. – In just his second MLS game, Fernando Aristeguieta scored two goals to show off his considerable talent and give Philadelphia Union fans hope that many more would come.
Sadly for Aristeguieta, though, that would be the high point of his season as injuries limited the Venezuelan striker to just three more goals over the next seven months.
But with only two games left before his one-year loan expires, Aristeguieta remains hopeful he’ll get another chance to show what he can do for the Union in 2016 and beyond.
“I want to stay here,” Aristeguieta told MLSsoccer.com. “I said that since the first moment, and I haven’t changed my mind. Obviously it’s not something that depends on me, but I want to stay.”
The Union hold a purchase option on Aristeguieta’s loan deal with FC Nantes, but it will be a costly one.
There’s a similar situation in place with center back Steven Vitoria, the team’s other marquee addition of this past offseason. And like Aristeguieta, Vitoria dealt with injuries throughout the season and may see his time in Philly come to an end after Sunday’s contest vs. the New York Red Bulls (3 pm ET; MLS LIVE) and the team’s season finale vs. Orlando City the following week.
“They’ve had some really high highs and some difficult times too with injuries and different things,” Curtin said. “They’re two guys that I still like a lot. These games are important for everybody. It’s not just the certain two guys that we’re looking at, but yeah there will be decisions that need to be made on any player that’s here on loan, and those discussions will happen after the year.”
If Aristeguieta is not brought back, it won’t be because he didn’t fit well in the locker room as the 22-year-old has been well liked by everyone from the start. But the striker didn’t always mesh well on the field with the team’s other strikers and fell down the depth chart behind C.J. Sapong and, at times, Conor Casey.
Of course, much of that can be attributed to the fact that Aristeguieta never found momentum as he dealt with a calf injury and broken finger early in the season and a high ankle sprain over the summer, which were sandwiched around a stint with Venezuela’s national team.
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“It could have been better,” he said. “But I’m happy. I’m happy because it was a really tough year for me. I started off very good, but then there were injuries, then I went to the national team, and obviously that was a very disappointing thing for me not to make the list for Copa America. And then I came back and had the second longest injury of my career. So it was tough. It was like a roller coaster.
“But I’m enjoying it here a lot. I’m coming here in the morning every day with a lot of motivation. We have an amazing group, and those are the things you appreciate.”
Now healthy, Aristeguieta has played a full 90 minutes in each of the team’s last two league contests, scoring a pretty goal in Philly’s 1-1 draw with New England on Sept. 26. And although he figures to play a big role in the team’s last two games as well, the striker downplayed the idea that he’ll be auditioning for a roster spot next season.
“Of course every game counts and every practice counts,” he said. “But I don’t think that, after nine months of training every day together and watching me play, they’re going to decide based on two games.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at email@example.com.