It that time again! Time for the Union’s preseason to kick off. There are a lot of questions that are being asked about this club, and how they’ll be in 2017. In this article we will take a look at some interesting aspects of this Union team.
Who will win the striker spot?
The Union have a battle at the striker spot. Cj Sapong had a tough 2016, so he should be raring to go in 2017. Charlie Davies never really got going for the Union in 2016. With half season in Philadelphia, and more time to rebuild himself after beating cancer, he should be able to compete this preseason. New comber, Jay Simpson, looks to become the next Bradley Wright-Phillips. The English striker, who is a product of the Arsenal academy, is looking to kickstart his career in Philadelphia.
The Union will need one of these guys to step up and take the spot in preseason. All are ready to prove they deserve to be the starter. Going into camp, I see the Union’s striker depth chart looking like this: Sapong, Simpson, Davies. Sapong wants to redeem himself; redemption is a great motivator. Simpson should bite at his heals all preseason; Davies should be thought of as a super sub for the upcoming season. In a pinch Herbers, Alberg and Pontius can play striker, but each of those players could be starters at different spots.
Who will win the right wing spot?
The Right wing should be Ilsinho’s spot, but Herbers thrived in that position late last season. Herbers is a converted striker who has the ability to find his teammates while playing on the right-wing. He led the team in assists last season while Ilshino was injured. When Ilshino was healthy he was a force to be reckoned with. His mastery on the ball is a game changer; he can make space for himself and others when it seems like there is none. The talented Brazilian lacks the speed Herbers presents but is now healthy and ready to go for preseason.
A battle is going to be fought in preseason between these two. Either of these guys would be a great starter for the Union, but obviously only one can get the spot. My thought on the depth chart for this position is: Ilshino, Herbers. Ilshino is a savvy veteran who is now used to MLS. He should be able to win this job with his skill on the ball and passing ability. That being said, Herbers isn’t far behind the Brazilian! A good preseason from SuperDraft pick Marcus Epps could also get his name on the depth chart, but as a third option.
Who will win the left back spot?
The Union were looking to the future with the Giliano Wijnaldum signing. Wijnaldum is 24 years old, and Fabinho is over 30. Fabi was a crucial part to the Union’s success last season, but he has one year left on his contract. The Brazilian is so good at going forward, and getting crosses in. Wijnaldum is sort of like a younger version of Fabinho. A pacey, tenacious defender. He loves to move up the wing, and get involved in possession on the attack. Both of these guys have the work rate to be the Union’s starter.
I see Fabinho ahead of Wijnaldum going into camp. It’s Fabi’s job to lose, but if he doesn’t have a strong showing all preseason, then Wijnaldum will be there and take his place! If Fabinho does lose his starting spot he will become the backup for left back, and also left-wing. His attacking-mindedness is so good, that he automatically becomes second behind Chris Pontius on that depth chart.
Who will win the right-center back spot?
If Philly ends up not signing a veteran centerback, then they have who they have last year. The Union have a pair of young right center backs battling for the starting job. Josh Yaro is finally healthy enough to play again, and Ken Tribbett will be looking to improve from last season.Both have their strengths. Yaro is speedy and tenacious; Tribbett is physical and is a great distributer of the ball. These guys each had injury problems and inconsistencies last season, but with a full season under their belts they are ready to battle for the starting spot.
If the Union can find a veteran centerback to bring into their side they will improve mightily. However, these two young defenders will battle it out in camp for the starting spot whether there is a veteran signing or not! The depth chart for the right-centerback’s, in my opinion, is: Yaro, Tribbett. Yaro looked the better of the two last year, and is now 100% healthy and ready to go.
Who will play the number eight?
Alejandro Bedoya played the eight last year. But with the departure of Tranquillo Barnetta, he could move up and play the attacking number 10 spot for the Union. Bedoya is a good number eight, but he looks to be better as an offensive player. If he moves the Union would either have to sign a new player, or play one of their defensive midfielders in that role. One that could fit the eight role is Warren Creavalle.
Creavalle is a defensive midfielder at heart, but his drive make him a great option to play the box-to-box role.In last seasons home opener, creavalle found himself in a forward position a great deal. He had a great assist, and looked like a dangerous passer on the ball. If no one is signed, and Bedoya moves up the field, then Creavalle should be the man for the eight spot. My depth chart for the eight looks like this: (If new signing): new signing, Bedoya, Creavalle. (If no signing & Bedoya at the eight): Bedoya, Creavalle.If no signing & Bedoya at the 10): Creavalle, Bedoya. The Union need a new box-to-box player if they want to move Bedoya into a more natural attacking position.
Who will play the number 10?
With Tranquillo Barnetta leaving, the Union have to make a choice at the 10 spot. Give the job to Roland Alberg who prayed on opposing teams in that role in 2016, or give the spot to Bedoya who is more comfortable there then at the eight. Both would be a good option for the Union. Alberg is a more flashy, goal scoring number 10; almost like a second striker who sits deeper. Whereas; Bedoya is the stereotypical play-making number 10. The direction this team takes is dictated by signing another midfielder. If a box-to-box player is signed then Bedoya should move up and take the 10. If not then Alberg should get the 10 and Bedoya the eight.
That’s how I see the depth at this position: (If another number eight is signed): Bedoya, Alberg. (If a number eight is not signed): Alberg, Bedoya. Either way, the Union will have a great player playing the 10 after Tranquillo’s departure.
How will Maurice Edu be coming off of his injuries?
Last season the Union dealt with key injuries, none was more serious than the Maurice Edu injury. Edu missed all of last season. He was scheduled to make a return at the end of the season, just before the playoffs, but he suffered another injury in training that ended his season completely. Edu is now working out with the team, and is eager to start preseason to get back onto the pitch. He is looking like he is close to full health; and seems optimistic about being able to start day one of the 2017 season!
Who will step up with three starters being away with USMNT?
Bedoya, Rosenberry and Pontius are away with the Us Men’s national team; they’ll be there throughout the whole first week of preseason. With their absence, other players will have to fill their roles in training sessions. This could lead to second-stringers and possible newcomers to play with the other first team players. Ray Gaddis should be the right back while Keegan is away, Creavalle should step into, Bedoya’s eight spot and maybe Fabinho comes in and plays left-wing for Pontius. Obviously none of these players will likely take the spots away from the US internationals. But it’s time for them to impress the coaches while the starters are away.
Union preseason is tomorrow! It’s time to get hype Union fans! Games are just around the corner!
Sunny skies for preseason training. We're headed to Clearwater for the @TampaBayRowdies Suncoast Invitational
— Philadelphia Union (@PhilaUnion) January 17, 2017
Make sure to come back to Philly Sports Network for more updates on the Union preseason. Until then peace out Union fans!
Mandatory Credit: Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Philadelphia Union Editor of Soccer Content
A passion for the beautiful game drives me.