You could almost build a full lineup from the long list of Union players who will miss Saturday’s game against D.C. United at Subaru Park (7:30 p.m., PHL17).
Goalkeeper Andre Blake is with Jamaica’s national team, and No. 2 netminder Matt Freese is suspended because of the red card he got in the last game.
On the back line, the starters are all available, but backup Alvas Powell is also with Jamaica.
In the midfield, Jamiro Monteiro is suspended (yellow-card accumulation), Anthony Fontana has a concussion, and Matej Oravec has been bid farewell, sent on loan to a club in his native Slovakia until next summer.
And up top, Cory Burke is with Jamaica, and Jack de Vries has been out all year in concussion protocol.
(Though that hasn’t quieted rumors heard by The Inquirer and other outlets that de Vries could go on loan to Italian club Venezia, which returns to Serie A in August for the first time in 19 years. Venezia, which has many Americans in its front office, just signed FC Dallas midfielder Tanner Tessmann and previously had interest in the Union’s Anthony Fontana.)
OK, so it’s eight absences, not 11, and you couldn’t really build a full lineup with two goalkeepers. But you get the idea: It’s a headache for manager Jim Curtin and his staff.
“You guys could probably piece together our starting lineup pretty easily, as I’m sure D.C. United could,” Curtin said this week, and we already know some of it. Joe Bendik will start in goal, Dániel Gazdag will (finally) start at the top of the midfield diamond, and Kacper Przybylko and Sergio Santos will be the starting strikers.
Bendik will be under some pressure, and not just because D.C. won’t mind matching the Union’s fast-paced style. This will be the 32-year-old veteran’s first start since he played poorly in a loss at Columbus in the next-to-last game of last season. Curtin benched him for the regular-season finale, started Freese, and the Union won to clinch the Supporters’ Shield.
“This is why we have him. This is why we believe in him,” Curtin said. “He’s been incredible for us in the locker room in a lot of ways, and here’s a chance now, in a big 90 minutes against a good D.C. United team, for him to step in and do his job. And I’m fully confident that he will. He’s been around the block. He knows what it takes.”
There’s some good injury news, though, as Ilsinho is ready to play after having groin surgery in mid-May. Curtin indicated that the Brazilian winger will likely make a cameo appearance Saturday night in his traditional role as a super sub.
When the Union went to Washington in late May, they escaped with a 1-0 win. Though a well-taken Przybylko goal and Gazdag’s MLS debut were highlights, D.C. had the better of the play for most of the night and finished with a 17-7 edge in shots. United has gone 3-1-1 since then, including a 7-1 stomping of Toronto FC that led the Reds to fire manager Chris Armas.
The Union are in fine shape at the moment, in third place in the Eastern Conference. But they haven’t won since their last home game on June 23, and have played more games than other teams. On points per game, they’d be in sixth place.
So Curtin is understandably wary.
“[D.C.] outplayed us for long stretches of that game, and they were the team that was kind of the aggressor, and they dictated the tempo of the game,” he said. “I really like their team’s commitment on the defensive side of the ball, how they really get after you. They don’t give you time and space.”