Being a Union fan has been stressful this offseason. The club has a lot of money in its transfer budget due to the sales of Brenden Aaronson and Mark McKenzie, but has yet to spend much of it besides the shrewd acquisition of Stuart Findlay. Preseason results have started off poorly with only 1 goal scored (a sublime individual effort from Paxten Aaronson against Chicago) in 3 defeats.
But it finally looks like the Union are spending some cash, and doing so on a player who has the capabilities to replace Aaronson maybe if Jim Curtin looks to push him further up the midfield.
That player is German-American Leon Flach, who comes highly rated from German 2. Bundesliga side (and hipster favorite) St. Pauli. It’s another surprisingly cheap purchase, as the Union paid $275,000 to secure the services of the versatile 20-year old.
The Texas-born center midfielder had spent his entire career at the Hamburg-based club, representing both Germany and the United States at youth level. Flach is a natural box to box midfielder thanks to his fantastic pace, but has also played holding midfield and on the left flank as either a winger or fullback. This season was his first season playing pro football, and on a middle of the pack St. Pauli team he made 9 appearances, all from the bench, scoring one goal which was an absolute cannon from long-range against Greuther Furth.
I can possibly see Flach moving up to play attacking mid if he just works on his passing a bit, as he’s only completed 49.5% of his passes. I’d certainly love to see him play a bit more forward, but he can really play anywhere in the midfield and possibly provide cover for Kai Wagner or Olivier Mbaizo (with Raymon Gaddis retiring, the right back spot is his to lose).
Final verdict? I like this signing as a low risk, high reward piece of business. Flach is 20, and while he’s only played 110 minutes of professional football, there’s a lot to like about his versatility and style of play; the kid’s got good potential if both Germany and the US are fighting over his international commitment. I expect him to serve as a backup to players like Ale Bedoya and Jamiro Monteiro, and could maybe see Bedoya taking Flach under his wing due to their similar positions.
And while I was about to publish this, the Union went ahead and made another signing, namely Trinidadian-Canadian goalkeeper Greg Ranjitsingh to act as a third string GK behind Andre Blake and Matt Freese. Ranjitsingh was born in Canada but has been called up by Trinidad and Tobago at international and youth level. He’ll be competing with Joe Bendik (who I was not a fan of when he started after Blake’s hand injury) for that third goalie spot, and has played in the MLS with both Minnesota United and Orlando City, starting 5 times and conceding 8 goals across 2 seasons.
This is just a low-risk, medium-reward signing. Ranjitsingh is already 27 and probably won’t grow much more, but looks to be an athletic and agile keeper just like Blake, and should be a capable, albeit less experienced (at the MLS level), third string goalkeeper.
The transfer window is still open and the Union still have a lot of money to spend so it’ll be interesting to see what they do. Additions do need to be made to the roster, but the 3 additions that the Union have made so far (these two plus Stuart Findlay) are decent if uninspiring ones.