Feb 24, 2013, 8:30 AM EDT
Each day from now until the beginning of Major League Soccer’s 18th season, we will preview one Eastern Conference team and one from the West. MLS first kick is March 2.
No. 6 in the East is the Philadelphia Union:
Significant additions and subtractions: After two injury-slowed years, Conor Casey is healthy and motivated by the sounds of it. If the former Colorado Rapids striker, who moved east in an offseason trade, can find 2010 form (he hit 13 times, tied for sixth best in MLS) the Union will have that veteran finisher so dearly missed last year.
Along with popular forward Sebastian Le Toux, who remains the team’s all-time leading scorer despite a year away, is back thanks to a January trade with New York.
Elite center back Carlos Valdes has been loaned to a Colombian club; Jeff Parke, acquired from Seattle in December, isn’t quite of Valdes’ quality, but he’s a reliable MLS defender.
And then there’s Freddy Adu, who isn’t yet technically gone, but he’s certainly not with the team, either. Keep reading.
Strengths: everything to like and not to like is contained in the brat pack of wonderful young talent around PPL Park: Zak MacMath, Jack McInerney , Roger Torrres, Antoine Hoppenot, Amobi Okugo, Sheanon Willliams are all 22 or younger. The Farfan brothers, Michael and Gabriel, are just 24. Most of them have MLS All-Star potential.
Of course, they are still young. Head coach John Hackworth, blessed with ample patience and equipped with plenty of experience working with younger types, is the right guy to have around them, to nurse them through the inevitable boo-boos and rough patches. That said, there will be mistakes and rough patches.
There’s plenty of playmaking potential in Torres and Michael Farfan. And with Casey and Le Toux around, the 20-year-old McInerney need not feel the crushing pressure of having to arrive as a scoring force now.
Guys like Casey, Parke and Brian Carroll add some wizened stability to a locker room full of youth.
Pressure points: When Hackworth talks about roster “constraints” and “challenges,” we all know what he’s talking about: Adu, whose career wanderings continue. Hackworth wants to move on without the mercurial playmaker, but the club is hog-tied until it can get Adu’s DP salary off the books.
We are all assuming center back Bakary Soumare still looks like the game-changer we knew in Chicago, but it has been four years since he ruled as such a force at Toyota Park.
The talented MacMath, 21, had more than his share meaningful mess-ups last year. It seems naïve to believe he’s completely past all of them.
There still may be some hangover effect of 2012, and what an odd year it was around PPL Park. Then-coach Peter Nowak tore apart a playoff team, one that seemed to be on the rise. Things clearly were strained behind the scenes and Nowak was fired in June, later to get tangled in a nasty lawsuit with the club.
Hackworth must find the best spot for young Okugo, who filled in splendidly at center back in 2012 but seems set to occupy a holding midfield role for ‘13.
Difference maker: LeToux (pictured right) departed Philadelphia a year ago and got completely lost. He scored five goals while moving coast to coast mid-season, from Vancouver to New York. Perhaps being back in his happy place at PPL Park, where Le Toux struck for a whopping 25 goals between the 2010 and 2011 seasons, can make an All-Star of the Frenchman once again.
Potential breakout player: It could be Michael Farfan – but only if he can hold off Torres as Hackworth’s creative influence. Farfan had some remarkable moments last year but the final production (one goal, five assists) must improve. It should, considering the measurably better striker in front of him now.
Bottom line: Last year was all about stabilizing a listing ship; now with a full off-season (short as it was) and with a talented young roster more to his liking, Hackworth can try to move things forward. Whether his team has enough experience to get there … we’ll see.
Aug 29, 2015, 10:33 AM EDT
The Premier League’s lesser lights are making up for the lack of offensive fireworks from Arsenal’s early win over 10-man Newcastle.
Aug 29, 2015, 9:51 AM EDT
USMNT goalkeeper Brad Guzan is between the sticks for the hosts, with Rudy Gestede getting a start up top.
Aug 29, 2015, 9:40 AM EDT
Arsenals critics will be out in full force after its strike force struggled to break down 10-man Newcastle at St. James Park on Saturday.
Aug 29, 2015, 9:37 AM EDT
Callum Wilson will again lead the Cherries onto the pitch, with dangerous Ivorian attacker Max Gradel behind him.
Aug 29, 2015, 9:30 AM EDT
Potters and Baggies both looking for their first win of the season. Watch live online, here.
Aug 29, 2015, 9:25 AM EDT
Can the Blues make it back-to-back wins before the international break? Watch live online, right here.
Aug 29, 2015, 9:20 AM EDT
Can the Reds keep their unbeaten run to start the season going? Watch live online, here.
Aug 29, 2015, 9:16 AM EDT
The Citizens have scored goals a-plenty and have yet to concede through three matches, and are on the verge of landing Kevin De Bruyne from Wolfsburg.
Aug 29, 2015, 9:04 AM EDT
Rivero certainly doesn’t have the best reputation, but is that the right call for Keane to use to make his point?
Aug 29, 2015, 8:43 AM EDT
Aleksandar Mitrovic’s rocky start to life in the Premier League continued with his first red card on Saturday.
Aug 29, 2015, 7:20 AM EDT
Where and how to watch every PL game live online or via the app this weekend.
Aug 29, 2015, 7:12 AM EDT
Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are in the Starting XI for Arsenal, joining an attack with Alexis Sanchez and Santi Cazorla.
Aug 28, 2015, 9:33 PM EDT
With Adnan Januzaj out injured, Ander Herrera could see himself playing in a more advanced role against Swansea City.
Aug 28, 2015, 8:40 PM EDT
Find out what moves have been completed as the transfer deadline approaches.
Aug 28, 2015, 7:48 PM EDT
Spurs are still looking for their first win of the season, but face a tough test when Everton travels to White Hart Lane.
Aug 28, 2015, 6:53 PM EDT
I guess the Donald is a bit too busy to be buying a soccer club right now…
Aug 28, 2015, 5:57 PM EDT
Catch up on all the latest gossip from around the Premier League, right here.
Aug 28, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT
The deal is expected to be official within the next 24 hours as Manchester City’s offer was too good to refuse.
Aug 28, 2015, 4:05 PM EDT
With the close of the transfer window quickly approaching, could Louis van Gaal be on the verge of the summer’s biggest signing?
Aug 28, 2015, 3:05 PM EDT
Chelsea clinched the title last season with a win against Crystal Palace, and the Blues will be looking for a similar result on Saturday at Stamford Bridge.
- Newcastle United 0-1 Arsenal: Gunners play up a man 74 minutes, need own goal to win 0
- Watch Live: Chelsea vs. Crystal Palace (Lineups and Live Stream) 0
- Watch Live: Manchester City vs. Watford (Lineups and Live Stream) 0
- WATCH: Every Premier League game live online via NBC Sports Live Extra – Week 4 0
- Watch Live: Newcastle United vs. Arsenal (Lineups and Live Stream) 0
- Wolfsburg sporting director: “De Bruyne is off to Manchester City” 0