It’s all about options.
Such was the message Philadelphia Union manager Peter Nowak delivered Wednesday, shortly after the long-rumored signing of Colombian forward Lionard Pajoy was made official.
The 30-year-old Pajoy joins a striking corps in Philly that already includes the young, talented quartet of Danny Mwanga, Jack McInerney, Josué Martínez and Chandler Hoffman.
“The more, the better,” Nowak told reporters in a conference call. “I’ve always expressed we need to have options and we need to have healthy competition.”
Pajoy comes to Philly from Itagüí Ditaires of the Colombian first division, where he scored 13 goals last season. For his career, the 6-foot-1 striker has tallied 47 goals in 215 appearances, all on Colombian teams. Nowak compared his goal-scoring prowess to that of Carlos Ruiz, who scored six times in 14 games for Philly last year before leaving the club in the middle of the season.
“He’s very physical and very fast,” Nowak said. “He can change the game with everything. He’s a different option. He’s all over the place and very mobile and he can always create something for whoever is gonna play up top with him.”
While Nowak admitted the team’s young strikers can learn from the veteran Pajoy, he dismissed the idea that the forwards lack experience. The Union manager believes McInerney and Mwanga are poised for big things entering their third year in MLS and that the 21-year-old Martínez will use his international experience to help the club find the goals that were lost when leading scorer Sébastien Le Toux was traded to Vancouver.
“Experience is at the end of the list,” Nowak said. “Everyone started freaking out how young we are but they forget that most of these guys have already played one or two seasons in Major League Soccer, and they’ve already scored goals in Major League Soccer.”
The exciting part for the Union management is that they don’t know which of the strikers, if any, will emerge as a star and where all of the goals will come from. But they are confident in the players they’ve brought in and feel strongly about the depth they’ve created up top, especially because McInerney and others might get the Olympic call this summer.
“I think this is a great combination right now,” Nowak said. “I’m very happy what we have in this group. And Lionard Pajoy is going to be another piece to help us through this season and help us gain more experience.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Philadelphia Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.