CHESTER, Pa. — As the Philadelphia Union opened preseason camp, a towering presence was immediately spotted occupying his familiar spot along the back line.
And after Tuesday’s training session ended, Union sporting director Earnie Stewart reiterated the team’s need for an experienced center back.
So does the fact that former US national team star Oguchi Onyewu was there at the Power Training Complex mean that he’ll soon become the newest Union player?
“I wouldn’t want to go that far right now,” Stewart told reporters. “Never say never. That’s the way soccer is. Obviously we are looking for an experienced center back and I guess it’s pretty easy to see he fits the mold. But [the move] needs to fit.”
Stewart said that Onyewu’s inclusion at camp stems from the two-time World Cup veteran asking if he could maintain his fitness as he looks for a new club. Philly quickly said yes, thinking that, at the very least, the 34-year-old could counsel young center backs Auston Trusty, Josh Yaro and Ken Tribbett.
But “Gooch” quickly showed Union head coach Jim Curtin that he still might have a little bit left in the tank.
“He was sharp today,” Curtin said. “He looked good on the ball, organized things well. But at this moment, it’s simply a training stint – not a trial.”
One players that definitively is on trial for the Union is Fafa Picault, who also has a US national team pedigree after earning a call-up from former coach Jurgen Klinsmann last May. Currently with Germany’s FC St. Pauli, Picault (pictured below) is competing for a roster spot on the wing and has “tremendous pace,” according to Stewart.
“If there’s one thing that’s very important in modern football, it’s speed,” the Union sporting director said. “That combined with control of the ball is not something everyone possesses, but Fafa does.”
Stewart and Curtin both also confirmed that Adam Najem is with the club on the trial, after they acquired his rights from the New York Red Bulls. The former Red Bulls Homegrown is coming off a college career at Akron that Curtin called “dominating,” adding that he had a “good first day.”
Stewart called Najem a “creative” No. 10 who “sees things other players don’t.” But the Union sporting director is still trying to find a good “controlling midfielder” to link the backline to the attack, with Brian Carroll aging and Maurice Edu recovering from injury.
“It all has to fit the roster we have and the capabilities we have budget-wise,” Stewart said. “But it’s going well, I can say that. I don’t see a real long trajectory for filling those positions for us.”