Rarely do the fortunes of a professional sports team rest squarely on the shoulders of a 24-year-old. For better or for worse, there are usually a set of veterans ensconced around such a player.

They can take some of the pressure off him so that a youngster isn't counted on to dictate the direction of a franchise.

But when a team is in its second year of existence ... like the Philadelphia Union of Major League Soccer finds itself ... the luxury of a truly experienced core isn't really there.

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This team was built to be young in an up-and-down first season. For that reason alone, 2011 promises to be a tricky year for the Union in general, and for defender Michael Orozco Fiscal specifically.

The Mexican-American player born in Orange, Calif., did a lot of things right for the Union in its inaugural season in 2010.

Technically, he's still on loan to the Union from Mexican club San Luis, but you have to think that Nowak and CEO Nick Sakiewicz will sort that out in order to bring a player of his obvious influence and ability back to the side.

But, assuming that administrative part gets done, the conundrum remains of where to play the guy. He lined up in midfield, central defender and outside back throughout the 2010 season, and his best position may be that of outside right back.

You know the old saying "a jack of all trades but a master of none"? That could apply here.

Orozco Fiscal would often carry the ball up the flank, but Nowak's style demanded he make a lateral pass into midfield instead of taking the ball to the corner flag.

It's a pet peeve of mine, but if Nowak likes a square ball played there, that's the coach's preference. You just have to think he might be more dangerous if allowed to whip in a right-footed cross from deep in the attacking third.

But, that's neither here nor there. The main question remains where to play Orozco Fiscal, who's primarily a defender. He most certainly has to be in the starting 11.

His awareness for the game and a biting, tough physical presence are just too important to the team for him not to be out there. Too often last year, the Union could be a soft touch, and Orozco Fiscal certainly isn't that.

Three of the Union's four defensive positions seem set: the emerging Shaenon Williams at right back, the solid Jordan Harvey on the left and captain Danny Califf in one of the central positions. Colombian Juan Diego Gonzalez should fill the other central spot if Orozco Fiscal doesn't

I think back to the role Orozco Fiscal filled for the Union during the March 25 opener at Qwest Field in Seattle last season. He actually played on the right side of central midfield, and he looked good in doing so.

One of Philadelphia's few shots on goal in a 2-0 loss to the Sounders was a rocket from the foot of Orozco Fiscal, who kept his wits about him when the nerves of playing in front of a national TV audience (and in a sheeting rain, to boot) could have weighed heavily on all involved.

I'm not at all comparing the two talent-wise, but he reminded me that night a lot of Manchester United's Roy Keane marauding through central midfield in a 1999 Champions League match vs. Juventus.

Maybe Orozco Fiscal's grit allows the sublime passing of an Eduardo Coudet or Roger Torres, provided he returns, to flourish on the left side of central midfield.

It's just a thought, and we won't have to wait too long to see what kind of team Nowak will put out. The Union opens the 2011 campaign on March 19 at Houston, and the home opener at PPL Park in Chester, Pa. is against Vancouver on March 26.

The MLS SuperDraft takes place January 13, at which time anticipation for the season should kick into high gear.

Whether or not Orozco Fiscal is along for the ride in what should be another wild season remains to be seen, but I for one certainly hope that's the case. He's young, talented and hungry ... plus, for a defender by trade he has a great nose for the goal.

And, after a season spent spearheading the Union's virgin year in the league, he could turn out to be a real leader on a team that's crying out for guys to stand up and be counted.

What more could you ask for in a young, budding superstar? Union fans sure don't want to find out what it's like without the guy.


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