The Union had a full preseason. New players featured, and games against quality MLS opponents took place. The Union look revamped as they get ready to tackle the challenge of 2017. It’s time to see what we have learned about this team; here’s a full preseason review of the 2017 Philadelphia Union.
Goals by committee:
The Union addressed striker in the offseason, but don’t seem to have someone who’ll put the team on their back offensively. This team is going to have to rely on a committee to score goals this season, like they did last year. However this years committee is stronger. Simpson, Sapong, Alberg, Ilshino, Pontius, Herbers and Bedoya are all capable of getting at least five goals in a season. One, or more, will have to step up and get more than that if the Union want to be at the top of the east. The Union don’t have that go to guy, and that could be a blessing in disguise. This allows each of the attacking players to trust their abilities to find the back of the net. Hopefully the committee will produce more goals than last year an propel this team towards the top.
The rise of a Union Homegrown?
Derrick Jones showed well in the preseason. Strong play in the middle of the field, coupled with ball winning skills, and the ability to go forward putting shots on target is what a number eight is supposed to do. His strong preseason has him practicing with the starters in the 11v11 games at practice. His rise could see him get his first competitive start for the Union soon. Derricks rise is something special. He rose up through the Union academy, and moved on to Bethlehem steel for their inaugural season. After strong play there, he signed a first team contract last summer. six months later he is competing for the starting spot. We could be witnessing the rise of the Union’s next homegrown star.
Defense still the weak link:
When Josh Yaro was pronounced out for the first 3-4 months of the season due to shoulder surgery the Union’s back line went into flux. New addition Oguchi Onyewu stepped up to fill Yaro’s spot, but the back line looks shaky as the season starts. In the later preseason games the back line looked very disjointed. The full backs would get caught too high, and Marquez and Onyewu’s were tested and beaten by great MLS attackers. The problem lies in the set up of defending the oppositions transition game. When the Rosenberry and Fabinho are caught high in the attack, Marquez needs to step and Onyewu needs to sit. Marquez’s speed will better quarrel the oppositions attack, and Onyewu can be the last line of defense in front of Blake. If they can get this right, the Union will be better at combating lethal counter attacks. However, team’s know this is the Union’s weakness, so they will look to test it early; especially Vancouver and Toronto.
Vincent Nogueira 2.0?
The Union signed Bosnian-Herzegovinian defensive midfielder Haris Medunjanin. His game is very similar to that of Vincent Nogueira, and he looks to fill the hole left by the Frenchman last season. With Nogueira in the squad the Union were the first place team in the east in 2016; without him, they slid down the table barely making the playoffs. Haris gives the Union another quarterback. He will come back and split the center backs in possession, then will look to play balls down the field. Medunjanin can be Nogs 2.0. He can do this because of his ability to join the attack, and his lethality from set pieces. Only time will tell if he is Nogueira 2.0, but if he is the Union will be great this season.
Will Mo Edu ever be back on the field?
Mo Edu has made progress coming back from his injury, but he didn’t join the team at all in preseason like the team had hoped. The set back leaves many thinking will Edu ever come back? Off course he will! Edu is one of the corner stones of this club. His versatility makes him an important piece to the Union’s aspirations this year. If he comes back into the midfield he plays next to Haris as the ball winning number six. If Onyewu doesn’t perform well, and Yaro is still hurt, he comes in as the center back next to Marquez. Mo is still one of the team captains even though he hasn’t been on the field since 2015. He will come back, and play a role at some point in 2017.
Depth makes all things stronger:
For the first time ever, the Union have depth at all positions. They are three deep at each spot, this creates a stronger squad! The Union now have an option if injury strikes, or if a slump occurs at every spot. They don’t have to worry about the team dropping points and their place in the standings due to a player being out. This depth also creates more competition in the squad. Position battles will go on throughout the season, this will make the game preparation better, and will create a better product on the field.
The Union’s preseason was an eventful one. The time for games to get players fit and player acquisitions are over. It’s time to focus on the fixtures, and the start of the 2017 regular season! BE sure to come back to Philly Sports Network later for our first game preview of the 2017 regular season, and an update on how we will cover the Union throughout 2017. Until then, peace out Union fans.
Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports