It’s been three weeks since the Union signed Matheus Davó, and we’ve heard so little about him that you’re excused if you don’t know what he might actually bring to the team.
Of course, it’s also sensible that a 22-year-old prospect brought in from another country — Brazil, in this case — would need some time to adjust to his new surroundings. But with Cory Burke gone on national team duty, the Union are going to need someone to sub in for Kacper Przybylko or Sergio Santos for Friday’s home game against the first-place New England Revolution (7:30 p.m., PHL17).
Union manager Jim Curtin knows Davó should be that player.
“This will be an important opportunity for him, and if he gets minutes, he’ll make the most of those minutes,” Curtin said. “It’s important not to put too much pressure on a young player who by no means was brought here to be the savior, or to be the one that scores all the goals, or anything like that. He’s been brought in here as a young forward that we saw good qualities in, [and] we can help him progress and go to a higher level.”
Since Przybylko is one of the Union’s iron men and Santos is returning from a hamstring injury, the odds seem good that Davó will sub in for his fellow Brazilian. Or perhaps vice versa, if Santos’ playing time needs to be limited that much.
Either way, it makes sense for the 5-foot-8 Davó to play off the 6-foot-4 Przyblko.
“He likes to play underneath” a front-line partner, Curtin said. “Good around the goal, makes good movements and good runs in the box, and can finish off plays. … A different type of striker than the three that we currently have.”
Forward isn’t the only position where the Union are short for this game, which was rescheduled from Sept. 15 because that’s the night of the Union’s Champions League semifinal. Right back will be an issue, as Olivier Mbaizo and Alvas Powell are with the national teams of Cameroon and Jamaica, respectively.
That could lead to 20-year-old Union academy product Nathan Harriel making his MLS debut, which a number of observers thought would have happened by now. He has been on the bench eight times this year, but has yet to play in a game.
“He’s taken some steps forward this year, he’s had some learning moments as well,” Curtin said. “He brings up some very good one-v-one defending. Still tactically learning how to fit into the group, but if we put the right players around him, I’m confident that he can do the job.
“We won’t be close to fielding 20 players as it stands right now,” Curtin said, referring to the number of players allowed on a game day roster. “But at the same time, everybody’s going to be called upon to be ready to do the work. And at a minimum now, we have to be willing to run and fight for every ball because we’re playing a really strong team in New England.”
Goalkeeper Andre Blake (Jamaica) and midfielders Dániel Gazdag (Hungary), José Andrés Martínez (Venezuela) and Jamiro Monteiro (Cape Verde) are also gone with national teams.
On top of that, Alejandro Bedoya is dealing with a minor left ankle injury and centerback Jack Elliott is suspended due to yellow card accumulation. Stuart Findlay should start in Elliott’s place, making his first start since the Union’s last game against New England; and Curtin said Bedoya is likely to be OK to play.
As for Bedoya, he said “it’s certainly going to be a little bit painful … We’ll see what he can manage. Knowing Ale Bedoya, he’ll be out there and pushing things.”
The Revolution will be without their own share of players on national team duty, though not as many as the Union: starting goalkeeper Matt Turner (United States), winger Tajon Buchanan (Canada), and forward Adam Buksa (Poland). Star playmaker Carles Gil is also questionable as he returns from a muscle injury that had him sidelined for the last six games.