After Pedro Ribeiro scored his first MLS goal on Sept. 13, Philadelphia Union head coach Jim Curtin boasted about the rookie’s potential, saying, “He’s going to be a part of this organization for a long time.”
Curtin still believes Ribeiro has a lot of potential – but that alone wasn’t enough to make him one of the 11 players the club protected for Wednesday’s Expansion Draft, in which Orlando City SC swiped him in the fourth round and took away one of Philly’s top prospects.
“When we lost Pedro, it was a tough one for us,” Curtin told MLSsoccer.com. “He’s a guy I like a lot – a big, strong body that has the rare ability to have good, soft feet. But if we’re doing our job this offseason, Pedro’s a bench player for us. You want to bring him along and have the patience to do it, but I know our fan base isn’t going to have patience anymore. I’ve got to build a winner right away.”
Curtin admitted Ribeiro’s 2014 season was “successful” but also one that was “a little unfair” to him. After being used as a center back for the Harrisburg City Islanders, the Union’s USL PRO affiliate, for much of the year, Ribeiro made nine appearances for the Union toward the end of the season as a target forward, netting two goals in 351 minutes.
But Curtin said the Union “wanted to give him a preseason at attacking midfield” – the position the 2014 first-round pick had played for much of his life.
“At the same time, I also know we need to get a star in that position,” Curtin said. “Pedro’s not that yet. He probably still would have been a bench player for us. Long term, I wish I had four, five years to develop Pedro and make him into a top No. 10 in our league. But guess what – I might not be the coach here in four years. That’s how the sport goes. I’ve got to win next year.”
Because Ribeiro’s long-term potential is still unclear and he was not a big part of the Union’s plans for 2015, Curtin acknowledged the Expansion Draft “damage was minimal,” at least compared to some other teams.
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And as for why he decided to protect reserve left back Fabinho over Ribeiro – a move that seemed to surprise many Union fans – the head coach said that “we had some intel that Fabinho would have definitely been picked.”
“It’s not necessarily about protecting your starting 11,” Curtin said. “It’s about protecting the 11 that have the most value in your league at the current time. That’s based on the phone calls you get. We get phone calls about Fabinho all the time. He has value.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.