This season has been a good one for the Union and Union fans. The Union have accumulated 6 wins, 5 ties and 3 losses, good for 23 points and a comfortable lead in the Eastern Conference. There aren’t many things that can be wrong with a team that is playing so well. But there is a question in the air about the Union defensive line.

Back in January, the Union drafted Georgetown centerback Josh Yaro. Yaro, a Ghanaian player on a Generation Adidas was considered the best player in the draft and has the potential to be a superstar. But many did admit he was a bit raw and could take some time to develop.

In January, Ken Tribbett was signed to a contract with the Bethlehem Steel after his college career at Drexel. He participated in Union preseason training and was able to earn a spot on the first team. A bit of an unknown headed into the season, Ken has performed well in his rookie season.

Both Yaro and Tribbett have been fighting for playing time next to incumbent starter Richie Marquez. Tribbett started out the year as the starter and since played in eight games, seven as the starter. Yaro has played in seven games and started all seven but was forced to come out before half time against Orlando on May 25th due to a shoulder injury.

So which player should the Union be starting? Let’s take a look at the stats. In his eight games, Tribbett has committed four fouls to Yaro’s one. Tribbett also has one yellow card in the books while Yaro has none. But more importantly which player has allowed less goals.

Goals Allowed   GA Average        Shutouts              Wins                      Draws                   Losses

Tribbett:                              10               1.25                    1                              4                              2                              2

Yaro                                       6                 0.86                  3                              2                              4                              1

This is where it gets tricky. Yaro has the better Goals Allowed Average, allowing less than a goal per game and he has helped the team to more shut outs. Tribbett has a 1.25 GAA and only helped the team to one shutout. But Tribbett also has helped the team to wins in 40% of his matches compared to just 33% for Yaro. Yaro has contributed to more draws. So if the team wants to allow less goals statistically Yaro should be the starter, but if the team wants to win more statistically Tribbett should step in.

But before we decide let’s take a look at the type of player each is and how they contribute to the team. Tribbett is very similar in build to his partner Richie Marquez as both stand at 6’2” and each weighing 170 and 185 respectively. Tribbett and Marquez act his two towers in the back shutting down most attacks with their size and strength on the ball. They are the big ball winners of the team before passing it out wide to Fabinho at left back or Rosenberry at right back. They also both add an aerial presence to win headers on the defensive end or to put set pieces on goal when on the offensive. Tribbett’s downside is he is he might be too similar to Marquez and does not necessary have the speed to move forward.

Yaro is very different. Yaro is 5’11” and weighs 163 pounds. His positives are that he has lightening quick speed to move forward and contribute on the offense, something unusual for a center back. During the draft, his passing and his ability to play out of the back and create opportunities was considered elite. Yaro’s downside is his height and strength, he gets muscled off the ball many times by opposing strikers and he doesn’t have the aerial ability to win headers in the air.

Both Yaro and Tribbett have slowed and shutdown elite strikers in MLS which makes the decision of who to start. The Union are hoping Yaro is healthy to return by June 15th for their US Open Cup match against the Harrisburg City Islanders or by June 18th for the league rematch against NYCFC. When he is finally healthy Jim Curtin will have to make his decision. Start the tall and strong center back that helps in the team win games or the quick and elite passer that allows less goals per game. Tribbett or Yaro?

Personally, I think the Union need more wins to separate themselves at the top of the Eastern Conference and contend for the Supporter’s Shield. Tribbett has a track record of winning more games with the team and he is the more stereotypical center back so he would be my choice.

That doesn’t mean Yaro will never play. Against certain teams his skill set may match up better. Or I think he has the ability to play defensive midfield in the future as his speed and passing will help more on offense while also having a defensive mindset, but with Nogueira, Edu, Carroll, and Creavalle there it would be a few years until we would see Yaro in that position.

What do you think, should Tribbett or Yaro start? Let us know who and why below:




Photo: Trey Madara 

Connor Cummings

General Manager of Philadelphia Sports Nation. Die hard supporters of Philadelphia sports. Previously Union Nation Manager. Sons of Ben member since 2013. Founder of the A More Perfect Philadelphia Union blog. Admin of the Philadelphia Union Discussion Group. Been at Philadelphia Sports Nation and Union Nation since Summer of 2015.

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