Previewing the Philadelphia Union’s 2017 season opener: The bench

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The Union have a lot of depth this season. That makes picking those who fill out the 18 a difficult decision for the coaching staff. So who will be the 7 players filling out the 18 for the Union Sunday in Vancouver?

Roland Alberg

Alberg is a great asset to have coming off the bench. Bring him in around the 70th minute and watch his attacking prowess wreak havoc on the fatigued defense. If the Union need a goal late, and don’t mind having a defensive liability, then Alberg is the guy for the Union. His addition to the eighteen makes all the sense in the world, and I even think he’ll be one of the three subs brought in from the bench.

CJ Sapong

Sapong is the second string striker on this team. His addition to the 18 is a no brainer. The Union could use him off the bench to have a more possession focused striker in the team. Sapong’s strength make him another great option from the bench. His physicality coming off the bench make him another shoe-in for a sub spot late in the match.

Fafa Picault

Fafa has been dealing with some injuries as of late, but his addition to the 18 would give the Union something they haven’t had in a long time. SPEED. Picault adds speed on the wing to a team that desperately needs it. If the Union find themselves in a pinch late in the game, and Vancouver’s defense slows down, then Fafa can come on and speed past them. His skill as both a winger and a striker makes him a versatile option off the bench.

Derrick Jones

Jones made huge strides in the preseason. He even has practiced with the first team this week leading up to the match. The only reason I have him on the bench is because of how the club has been pushing the chemistry between Bedoya and Medunjanin. Jones could end up starting, and I’d be fine with that. His play is good in the possession and transition. If he does start from the bench, he could come into the match and help the Union with his ability to keep possession and movement up the field.

Ken Tribbett

Tribbett makes the 18 solely as coverage for Onyewu. If something should happen to the older/slower center back Tribbett will be called upon to make a positive impact on the match. He had a decent preseason, but still finds himself in the wrong spot a t the wrong time more often than not. Like I said, he’s only in the 18 as a last resort, and I don’t expect him to see the field off the bench.

Ray Gaddis

Gaddis had a very strong preseason. His 1-on-1 defending stood out; he looked like the Ray Gaddis from 2015 that earned a long contract extension. He’s going to make the 18, and could come in for a fatigued outside back, or as an extra defender. He will be used if the Union more defense than offense. If the Union have a late lead, I wouldn’t be surprised if he comes on.

John McCarthy

Obviously every team needs their second string keeper in the 18. Johnny won’t see the field in this one, unless Blake somehow gets hurt in the match.

The Union’s depth makes picking the 18 very challenging. An obvious omission from this one is Warren Creavalle, the defensive midfielder just returned from an injury. I chose Fafa over Creavalle for this match because I think the Union will need more offense off the bench than defense. The three subs I expect to come into the match are: Alberg, Sapong and Jones. This would allow the Union to push for a goal late in the match.

Here’s what the entire 18 looks like on paper. Be sure to check back to Philly Sports Network later for an analysis of Jim Curtin’s first press conference of the 2017 season. Until then, peace out Union fans.

Mandatory Credit: Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

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