CHESTER, Pa. — As a 13-year professional, Stefani Miglioranzi is one of the most veteran players on the Philadelphia Union.
He’s been acting like one, too.
Despite falling into a reserve role this season, Miglioranzi has become an important utility player for the Union, filling in as both a defender and a midfielder when the club’s starters are sidelined.
It’s something he says he doesn’t really mind.
“I’m very happy to contribute in whatever shape or form I’m needed,” said Miglioranzi, one of just two Union originals remaining form the club’s 2009 Expansion Draft. “I feel I’ve done a good job coming in and playing in the back. Sometimes, I’m a little out of my element because maybe I’m too laid back to play in the back. But I feel honored ... to start every time I get the chance.”
While most of Miglioranzi’s 10 starts this season have been in his natural position in the midfield, the 33-year-old Brazilian has also emerged as one of the club’s more reliable defensive players off the bench.
With Carlos Valdés suspended for Saturday’s 2-1 loss at Real Salt Lake, Miglioranzi played a full 90 at center back, making a couple of vital clearances to keep the damage to a minimum.
“I’ve played there a few times [in my career],” Miglioranzi said of the center back position. “I’m pretty comfortable, especially when I have such good players around me. Danny Califf has had a great year and a wonderful career, and you feed off that a little bit. [Fullbacks] Sheanon [Williams] and Gabriel [Farfan] have done really well this year as well. When you’re going into a unit that’s pretty solidified, it kind of makes your job easier.”
In the Union’s previous game – at Columbus on Aug. 20 – Miglioranzi started and played all 90 minutes in the central midfield in place of the injured Brian Carroll (foot contusion).
With Carroll still on the mend, Miglioranzi may return to the starting midfield for Wednesday’s crucial game against New England at PPL Park (8 pm ET, Galavisión). Or Union manager Peter Nowak could go with 20-year-old Amobi Okugo, who made his first start in more than three months Saturday vs. RSL.
Either way, Miglioranzi will handle the coach’s decision like the veteran player that he is.
“I’ve been in this situation before,” Miglioranzi said of being a reserve player. “You obviously have to keep your head down and work hard and wait for your opportunity. That has been the case a little bit for me this year. I’m happy to play whatever role the coach needs me to play.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @DaveZeitlin.