So, your MLS team missed the playoffs? Time to make this player its centerpiece
Philadelphia Union: CJ Sapong
There are bigger names on this roster around which to build -- Haris Medunjanin and Alejandro Bedoya in midfield -- but as Sapong comes off a career season and continues in his prime, he has to be the big piece around which the Union build.
Medunjanin, 33, and Bedoya, 30, give Philadelphia two central midfielders who can keep the ball. Adding a playmaker behind Sapong is probably the most important addition of the offseason, because Sapong is proving now that if he is provided consistent service, he is capable of being a high-end goal-scorer.
Sapong’s hold-up play was essential to the Union in 2017, and it was more than just receiving the ball and waiting for players to move up the field. Sapong’s distribution was good, and his movement after winning long balls and linking up with teammates helped spur him to a 16-goal, five-assist campaign. He did that despite being the only true threat to score on this team, especially as Chris Pontius’ production dipped.
The task now will be putting more threats around Sapong, both in the form of a playmaker, but also in some goal-scoring wingers. Sapong can be the centerpiece of this build in the final third because he gives Philadelphia some direction in how it plays with a target striker up top. If the Union adds the right pieces, perhaps the Curtin-Stewart leadership tandem will finally see the postseason.
- Paul Tenorio
New England Revolution: Kelyn Rowe
No matter who takes over as coach of the Revolution, there are some serious questions to be asked across multiple lines of a team which just continues to be average. Some of the biggest questions need to be asked of a front line that looks like a who’s-who of big names who haven’t met potential.
In midfield, Lee Nguyen might seem the natural answer to be a building block for the Revs, and while he’s hardly over the hill at age 31, it’s time to truly get the best out of Kelyn Rowe in the middle of the park. We’ve seen flashes of what could be in years past, and 2017 featured a tease of Rowe in a U.S. shirt at the Gold Cup, but it was hardly his most productive.
How much of that is on coaching? How much on organizational dysfunction? Or do we need to be looking harder at the player’s role in this? The Revs need answers, and they need to double down on their investment in Rowe, who is still only 25.
- Jeff Kassouf