United trialist Jermaine Taylor (via daylife.com/AP)
If you read this blog, I think it's safe to assume you have already seen Steve Goff's latest update on United's growing list of players on trial. Specifically, it emerged today that the rumored trial for former Honduras Olympic team center back Quiarol Arzu will begin as the club kicks off the Florida leg of camp. The more surprising news, however, is that Reggae Boy Jermaine Taylor will also join the team on trial. The final tidbit from Goff is that Andrew Quinn, a DeMatha product who went to Notre Dame and was recently on trial at Rangers.
With 28 caps as a center back for Jamaica, Taylor will likely enter into a fierce competition with Arzu for a spot on the roster. Los Capitalinos (trying out the nickname Telefutura likes to toss around when we're on...I kind of like it) have just two specialist center backs in Dejan Jakovic and Julius James, and only Jakovic has truly proven himself to be a good MLS defender over a long period of time. While there are no guarantees for Taylor or Arzu, these are the kinds of players we should be pursuing: guys with experience with above-average CONCACAF teams who could be ready to step up above their domestic league.
Formerly a member of Harbour View, United fans with long memories may recall seeing Taylor before, in the 2008 CONCACAF Champions Cup (he's #29, first from the left in the back row). Taylor's club was/is St. George's SC of the Jamaican league (no word as to whether he's a free agent or if his deal with St. George's allows him to sign abroad for free). At just 25, Taylor already has 28 caps for Jamaica, which includes 5 World Cup qualifiers from this past round of qualifying. That's undeniable promise. However, the Jamaican national team has been pretty poor in recent years, and those that remember the Harbour View team he was a part of will also probably recall the way they capitulated at RFK. Still, I've been saying for years that all MLS teams should aggressively pursue CONCACAF players. We might not be able to sign the cream of the crop due to the buying power of Mexican clubs, but if a guy is good enough to play on a Gold Cup qualifier, he's at least worth a trial.
In a similar vein, the other new trialist is Arzu, who is currently with Honduran club CD Platense. Arzu started all three group games for Honduras in the 2008 Olympics, so he's obviously thought of well back home. I didn't see Honduras play in the tournament, but I do remember reading that Arzu was starting as a right back (with veterans Erick Norales and Samuel Caballero in the middle) partially due to the fact that they planned on being a mostly conservative outfit. The word on Arzu is that he's more of a center back, though, which is more in line with our current needs.
Quinn is a former United youth teamer whose father Tony is a soccer photographer (you've probably seen his work frequently if you're reading this). At 6'3", 225 lbs, Quinn is imposing to say the least. The word is that, through his father, Quinn is eligible for a UK work permit. I'm not going to pretend to know much more than that, though anyone who gets a real trial at Rangers (including a couple reserve matches, per this Yanks Abroad article) must be doing something right.
Onalfo already had a tricky call to make in picking the second-choice keeper, with big issues for both Wicks (injury keeping him out, temper, erratic play) and Kocic (international status, erratic play). Goff says that Quinn is being brought along to "provide depth," but it seems at least within the realm of possibility that he could squeeze onto the team. Wicks has 2 significant injuries to deal with, and Kocic is an international on a team that is at maximum capacity for such players; signing either Taylor or Arzu would require dropping one of our internationals. Even if Quinn is erratic, he'd have the least number of serious issues amongst the three. I'm not saying it will happen, but it's certainly something worth pondering. Who wouldn't want to see more guys with time in the DC youth setup actually end up with the senior team?
These three will join 2009 2nd round draft pick Lyle Adams, former Colorado Rapid Daniel Wasson, fan favorite (if it's possible to be a fan favorite without being on the team) Two-Boys Gumede, and probably others (still wondering what happened with Kentucky's Barry Rice) in the battle royale for roster spots. I would not be shocked to see Onalfo bring in a few more guys, especially if Taylor and Arzu both prove to be below the required standard.