There's Pajoy in Unionville

Posted: February 09, 2012

IT TOOK SERIOUS bargaining, some schmoozing and a few cups of Colombian coffee, but the Union finally landed its man.

The People's Paper first reported on Jan. 23 that the Union hoped to land forward Lionard Pajoy from Colombian first-division club Itagui Diataires. But a visa situation, along with what Union chief scout Diego Gutierrez described "having to corral a player in demand," made yesterday's announcement a bit later than anticipated.

"He's a player in demand, he's a guy that scored a ton of goals in the Colombian league," Gutierrez said from the Union's preseason camp in Deltona, Fla. "He stands out from the smaller, quicker [Colombian] forwards. This is a physical player who can play with his back to the goal, and that made him a commodity.

"He had a lot of offers. We actually went to Colombia, and had a few cups of coffee and had negotiations again with both him and with his club, convincing him that this would be the best fit for him."

Union manager Peter Nowak echoed Gutierrez' statement.

"We saw him many times and talked to him many times in Colombia. He's a guy who brings not only character but also a mentality to the game," Nowak said. "He's very physical, and very fast as well. He can change the game, because he's a different option . . . He's all over the place. He's very mobile, and he can always create something for whoever he's going to play with up top."

Pajoy, 30, who scored 10 goals in 18 league matches for Itagui, will join an attack corps that features Danny Mwanga, Josue Martinez, Jack McInerney and rookie Chandler Hoffman.

In 2007, Pajoy served a suspension after he tested positive for a substance that was banned not by the Colombian league, but by officials within CONMEBOL, the governing body of South American soccer. It's been reported that said substance contained trace amounts of cocaine. But Gutierrez feels "uninformed outlets" have put unfair emphasis on the illicit-drug aspect.

"It's character defamation, plain and simple," Gutierrez said. "You have people who read something, don't gather any of their own facts, or speak to anyone regarding the situation and put something out there to have people look at a player in a negative way even before he touches a ball with the team. How that's allowed to happen is beyond me, but that's the world we live in, I suppose.

"Look, this was an over-the-counter, topical drug administered by his training staff [Gutierrez likened it to applying Ben-Gay] that was banned by [CONMEBOL]. He had to serve a suspension, he went through the right channels, in our eyes it's a non-issue."

Odds and endlines

Peter Nowak on the status of a club preparing to start the season in a little more than a month: "I'm very impressed how they have developed during the past few difficult weeks, how they've trained, what their mentality has been - in terms of hitting each other, but also helping each other up from the ground and patting each other on the shoulders" . . . The Union may lose a few more players before its third phase of training in Costa Rica as the U.S. under-23 national team plans to reconvene Feb. 19 in preparation for a Feb. 29 friendly against Mexico. The Union has five players - Zac MacMath, Sheanon Wiliams, Amobi Okugo, Jack McInerney and Freddy Adu - in the national team's player pool.

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