As the Union begin this year’s quest to win the U.S. Open Cup, they will kick off under some severe constraints. Due to a fistful of national team call-ups and the tournament’s limit of five foreign players in a game-day squad of 18, the team called up four academy products at Bethlehem Steel for Wednesday’s game at D.C. United.
Forward Shanyder Borgelin, midfielder Zach Zandi, outside back Issa Rayyan and centerback Ben Ofeimu headed to Washington with the first team on Tuesday to fill out the bench.
The absent players are goalkeeper Andre Blake (Jamaica’s national team), midfielder Warren Creavalle (Guayana), defender Auston Trusty and midfielder Brenden Aaronson (both U.S. under-23 team training camp). Marco Fabián remains out as he continues to recover from an sprain that he aggravated by returning to action too soon.
Creavalle is gone not just for the Gold Cup. He suffered a fractured metatarsal during Guyana’s training camp, and will miss the tournament and then some. Guyana is in the Gold Cup for the first time ever, and faces the United States in its debut game next Tuesday.
So the Union have just 10 available players who count as domestic, by being U.S. citizens or green-card holders: goalkeeper Matt Freese; defenders Aurélien Collin, Fabinho, Ray Gaddis, Mark McKenzie and Matt Real; midfielders Alejandro Bedoya, Anthony Fontana and Ilsinho; and forward Fafa Picault.
At least McKenzie and Real are available. They returned to Philadelphia from the under-20 World Cup in Poland on Sunday after the Americans’ agonizing 2-1 loss to Ecuador in the quarterfinals. Had the Americans won, which they very well could have, the Union duo would still be abroad.
Freese drew interest from the U.S. under-23 team coaching staff, but was allowed to stay home with the Union shorthanded.
The Union's available international players are goalkeeper Carlos Miguel Coronel; defenders Jack Elliott, Olivier Mbaizo, and Kai Wagner; midfielders Haris Medunjanin and Jamiro Monteiro; and forwards Michee Ngalina, Kacper Przybylko, Sergio Santos.
“I’ve talked through about a thousand scenarios,” manager Jim Curtin said. “I think our guys are confident right now and up for the test.”
Coronel is a certainty to make the game day squad, because a team must carry two goalkeepers. The Union couldn’t call in either of Bethlehem’s backups, Kris Shakes and Tomas Romero, because they’re still amateurs in the club’s youth academy. Bringing them to the Open Cup would have blown their college eligibility.