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MLS Season Preview: Philadelphia Union

Feb 27, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT

Union

Despite two straight years outside of the playoffs, the Philadelphia Union is building something special. No, the squad doesn’t feature world-class DPs but it’s one that fits right in line with the city itself: a young, tenacious, strong side with a bit of a chip on its shoulder.

So go ahead, dare you to take them lightly.

Players In: Vincent Nogueira (transfer from Sochaux), Christian Omar Maidana (free transfer from Argentinos Juniors), Corben Bone (Chicago Fire, Re-Entry Stage 1), Maurice Edu (loan from Stoke City), Ethan White (trade from DC United), Andre Blake (University of Connecticut, SuperDraft), Brian Holt (free transfer from Harrisburg City), Austin Berry (trade from Chicago)

Players Out: Jeff Parke (trade to DC United), Michael Farfan (transfered to Cruz Azul), Chris Albright (retired), Oka Nikolov (waived), Greg Jordan (waived), Kléberson (waived, Bahia), Don Anding (waived)

source: Getty ImagesKey Player: Maurice Edu

Sure, the argument could be made for Connor Casey, Jack McInerney, Sebastien Le Toux, or any number of players to be the key man. But Edu comes into this side as the player with the most to prove.

For the last two years he’s floated from Rangers to Stoke to Bursaspor, battling injuries and struggling to lock down consistent playing time. Those trials and tribulations have hugely frustrated Edu, and rightfully so. He doesn’t just have something to prove to try and make the USMNT World Cup squad, he has something to prove as a player, period.

Returning to MLS was the best move he could make and fortunately he’s still young enough at the age of 27 where he can re-establish himself as a top professional player. Expect him to play as a box-to-box center midfielder with a chip on his shoulder. Assuming he partners well with Brian Carroll in the center of the park, Edu can be the midfield general that brings the Union to the next level.

source:  Manager: Since his confirmation as interim manager in June 2012 and then manager in August 2012, John Hackworth has steadily built a young, cohesive side with impressive chemistry.

Entering the offseason Hackworth needed to strengthen the midfield and backline in the hopes of moving away from last season’s counter-attacking system and into a more possession-oriented game. Mission accomplished.

Hackworth brought in Edu and Christian Omar Maidana as DPs and also added Vincent Nogueira from France, who could prove to be a tricky attacking midfielder. The acquisition of Austin Berry into the defense will further strengthen the spine of the team allowing them to utilize Hackworth’s favored 4-3-3 approach.

Outlook: The Union are a steadily improving squad, one that knows its identity under Hackworth and ultimately could prove to be the team no one wants to face. After falling short the last two seasons the target will be to make the playoffs and assuming the new boys gel with the old guard – and that quintessential Philly chemistry remains in tact – it’s an objective well within reach.

  1. talgrath - Feb 27, 2014 at 6:51 PM

    The Union are always a team I like, where supporters were so undeniable that MLS and investors made the team happen, they rarely have spare seats in their stadium which is something I love to see. Whenever I find myself rooting for the Union (they tend to be my favorite team in the East) and believing they’ll have a chance, it never happens, they’re always just on the outside; maybe the Union can change their fate this year.

    • judgereed - Feb 28, 2014 at 4:50 AM

      I am a die hard fan of this team and this is the first time in the clubs short 5 year history the owners went out and spent some money and made some legit moves. This is hands down the best squad to date (IMO) they have put on the field. We got a few quality players that we so desperately needed and only lost one key player [ (Parke), Some will argue for Farfan but I feel he was nothing more than average and never played to his potential] who we just received a late replacement for (Berry). Some say we still need that pure goal scorer but the MF has drastically improved and will give JackMac and Casey all the chances needed. I also wouldn’t mind seeing Blake in net as well. This is a playoff team and anything less will be viewed as a failure. Come on the U!!!!! DOOP!!!!!!

      • soccerphanatic - Feb 28, 2014 at 1:06 PM

        That “legit moves” part of your comment is the key. We’ve spent money before but it was on players like Lio Pajoy, Josue Martinez, and the rest of Nowak’s blunders. Marfan probably could have grown into a legit CAM but he was never really consistent enough to prove that he was the better option than Keon Daniel (as sad as that is, it’s true) Both players had hot streaks but those were dwarfed by streaks where they played horribly.

      • judgereed - Feb 28, 2014 at 6:05 PM

        I agree soccerphanatic. They finally didn’t go sign some bargain scrub from SA and show us a YouTube highlight clip, they went out and got 3 quality DP’s. And that was exactually my problem with both Farfans they were not consistent at all. And it blew my mind that Daniel played over Kleberson all last season, Daniel may be one of the most inconsistent players on the squad and I don’t understand why he is still a starter on this team.

  2. charliej11 - Feb 28, 2014 at 2:50 PM

    I disagree with the writer making it seem that Edu needs to re-establish himself.

    As an American playing in rediculous Europe, it always can be made out that way….don’t buy into what they and (maybe this writer) are pitching.

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