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May 24, 2016

Union notes: Savage travel, loan recalls, and Conte's hypocrisy

Soccer Union
052416_blake_PSP Daniel Gajdamowicz/Philly Soccer Page

Andre Blake will play both games in the Union's upcoming road trip, before leaving for international duty with Jamaica.

It just wouldn't be a Union season without one arduous and extended road trip.

This week Jim Curtin's team flies to Florida on Tuesday, plays Orlando on Wednesday, then gets back on a plane for a Saturday night matchup in Colorado.

It will be an incredibly tricky pair of games to manage, especially with the club's current injury situation.

Vincent Nogueira (oblique) and Ilsinho (abductor) both missed out against D.C. last week, but will join their teammates on the trip. It's unlikely that they play on Wednesday, but could be healthy in time to face the first-place Rapids on the weekend.

The Union have only played once this season on short turnaround, and Curtin swapped out just two starting players for that trip to Montreal. This trip does feel different, however. Going from humidity to altitude in 48 hours probably has more of an impact on squad rotation this time around.

One bit of good news involves goalkeeper Andre Blake, who will play both games on this road trip. The Union reached a deal with the Jamaican Football Federation that will result in Blake only missing next week's Columbus game before reporting for Copa America duty.

'A sale would be a sale'

On Monday, a report from Big Apple Soccer revealed that Union midfielder Michael Lahoud would be recalled from his loan to the New York Cosmos and sold to rival NASL side Miami FC.

Jim Curtin confirmed Lahoud's recall but stopped short of commenting on a potential sale. The deal is expected to be done when paperwork and USSF approval is finalized.

Curtin did, however, explain that Lahoud's salary cap hit will disappear immediately if he's sold. The midfielder hits the Union books at $110,000.

Here's what Curtin had to say at his Monday press conference:

"There are some things going on right now. Nothing’s finalized, so I’m not able to comment on any details of it. But there’s something in the works. It’s an accurate report. But, nothing’s been finalized so I can’t really get into too many details right now ... A sale would be a sale. And, again, I can’t comment on rumors and different speculation from other clubs, but a sale is a sale, that’s different than a loan."

Conte takes the easy way out

Italians like to talk about how good they are. They have tactical superiority over every league in the world. Their calcio is more mature than the Premier League, the Bundesliga, and especially Major League Soccer.

They aren't necessarily wrong, but that idea doesn't hold up in 2016 as well as it did in 2006. Back then, a golden generation of Italians won the World Cup in dramatic fashion and AC Milan was a powerhouse in club football. Now, the Milan clubs are stuck in an epic slump and that void has not been filled by the perennially disappointing Roma and Napoli.

It's obviously underwhelming to see Sebastian Giovinco's omission from Italy's Euro 2016 squad, but it's not surprising. Maybe in 2006, if he was up for selection against Alessandro Del Piero, Luca Toni, and Francesco Totti, then I could understand the exclusion.

But I'm not going to sit here and be convinced that Simone Zaza or Eder is any better than the MLS MVP and Golden Boot winner. Zaza is a peripheral player at Juventus with five goals in 19 appearances. Eder has one goal in 11 appearances since joining Internazionale on loan in 2016. He was excellent at Sampdoria, but he's not the same player at Inter. Lorenzo Insigne and Stephane El Shaarawy are absolutely better than Giovinco and should be in the starting XI. Graziano Pelle is a completely different player, so there's no real comparison there.

Italy manager Antonio Conte, who coached Giovinco at Juventus, basically confirmed on Tuesday that Giovinco's move to MLS kept him out of the Azzurri squad.

That's the easy way out. Rather than take a chance on a player in top goal-scoring form, Conte is ruling him out based on his decision to move to North America. Meantime, Brazil and Argentina are calling up guys from China and could probably beat the tar of this Italy squad.

Anyway, we asked Curtin about the Giovinco snub and whether or not it should be seen as a blow to Major League Soccer.

"It's almost like stealing a Bruce Arena line when Landon Donovan wasn’t selected for the World Cup," Curtin began. "If Giovinco’s not in their 23-man roster, they’ll win the Euros quite easily, right? Because he’s an unbelievable player. I don’t care if he plays in MLS, if he plays in Spain, or if he plays in Italy. His talent is unbelievable. I’m not coach of his national team, so I’m not being critical of that. But, man, if they have players that are much better than him, it’s unbelievable, because he’s special, he’s a guy who can make a play from nothing. Incredible talent.

"I hope that playing in our league wasn’t what weighed into a decision but, again, he’s an exceptional player. And it’s a strange one for me because, in your head, you go, you know, you see great athletes, and you see greatness, and you measure your guys against certain guys, and there’s only so good you can be, you know? (laughs). He’s a guy who’s as good as I’ve seen live, and that includes … We’ve played against Real Madrid in friendlies and different things like that, and you see things you can’t teach and you can’t coach. So, (he's an) exceptional player. It's disappointing, I’m sure, for him to be left off, but it just makes Toronto that much harder now for the month. That’s how I kind of look at it (laughs). 

By the way, Conte is a hypocrite: