Philadelphia Union forward Jay Simpson hasn’t scored since the second game of last season, and has played just two games this year – both as second-half substitutions.
Union manager Jim Curtin has a major lineup problem on his hands. With C.J. Sapong injured and Cory Burke suspended, someone else will probably have to start at striker in Saturday’s game against Real Salt Lake at Talen Energy Stadium on Saturday (7:30 p.m., PHL17).
Curtin held out hope at his Wednesday press conference that Sapong will be able to play. But the odds sounded slim, as Curtin said Sapong is dealing with a quad contusion in his left leg and a groin injury. Both injuries were sustained in last Wednesday’s loss at Columbus. Sapong was on the field at Wednesday’s practice, but not a full participant.
In theory, the next guy off the bench should be Jay Simpson. But when Curtin listed potential names at his Wednesday press conference, the $623,000 Englishman wasn’t the first out of his mouth. Fafa Picault was.
Granted, Simpson was mentioned a half-second later. It might be reading the tea leaves a bit too much to presume Picault is the more likely starter.
But Picault is naturally a winger, not a striker. So it says something that Curtin put his name in the mix.
“Everyone knows about his one-on-one ability, he has a knack for crashing the back post, he can jump,” Curtin said of Picault. “It’s not necessarily the biggest guy or the strongest guy, it’s the first one off the ground, and he he has an ability to leap before an opponent. He knows where the ball will pop up.”
More notable was Curtin’s omission at first of another candidate: David Accam. He played striker some while with the Chicago Fire, and has the goal-scoring pedigree for the role. He also isn’t afraid to press defenders high, which Curtin likes. Accam’s hustle play to pick the ball off Montreal’s Jukka Raitala and set up the Union’s second goal last Saturday was proof of that.
But Accam isn’t a great jumper, which matters given how many crosses the Union like to play in from the wings.
“You watch Fafa jump in the air, Fafa probably gives you a little more in the aerial game,” Curtin said. “David has played up there. … He can do it. I think Fafa can do it also. … Those are two guys that we’re comfortable with going up there.”
The big question is whether Curtin will be comfortable with Simpson. He hasn’t scored since the second game of last season, and has played just two games this year — both as second-half substitutions. This weekend could bring a chance to step up, and he needs to take it.