The Union are ramping up their preseason activities down in Florida. Meanwhile, most of the people who cover this team are stuck in frigid Philadelphia. Enough about the weather, let’s move onto a more fun subject; like looking at the Union’s opponents, and predicting how they’ll match up. It’s that time of year again. Time to take an in-depth look at the Union’s opponents. Over the next few weeks leading up to the start of the 2018 season, Philly Sports Network will be taking an in-depth look at the Union’s MLS matches. Here’s a look at the Union’s 2018 opponents: Part 1.
vs New England Revolution.
Saturday, March 3rd. 7:00 pm.
2017 record: 13 wins 15 losses 6 ties.
2017 Eastern Conference Standing: 7th.
The Union open the season at home for the first time in two seasons. They also get an in conference opponent to start the season. The Revolution are coming off a disappointing season. Ever since their MLS Cup run in 2014, they have never been able to put together consistent seasons. However, a coaching change and many new acquisitions could change that
|PLAYERS IN:||PLAYERS OUT:|
|M – Isaac Angking (1/2/18 – Homegrown)
D – Gabriel Somi (1/5/18 – free)
M – Wilfried Zahibo (1/11/18 – free)
F – Cristian Penilla (1/23/18 – loan from Pachuca)
|D – Benjamin Angoua (11/27/17 – option declined)
M – Xavier Kouassi (11/27/17 – option declined)
D – Donnie Smith (11/27/17 – option declined)
D – Josh Smith (11/27/17 – option declined)
D – Je-Vaughn Watson (11/27/17 – option declined)
D – London Woodberry (11/27/17 – option declined)
M – Daigo Kobayashi (11/27/17 – out of contract)
M – Gershon Koffie (11/27/17 – loan expired)
F – Kei Kamara (12/10/17 – traded to Vancouver)
New England’s new coach Brad Friedel, has come in and changed the entirety of the team. He chose to move on from goal scoring striker Kei Kamara, veteran midfielder’s Xavier Kouassi and Gershon Koffie, and defender Je-Vaughn Watson. On the other end, they brought in some new faces to MLS. One important player still on their roster, may not be there at the start of the season. Lee Nguyen wants out of New England, but the team is fielding no trade offers or transfer fees for Lee’s services. With all these changes what can the Union except as the season opens?
The Revolution will be a mix of new players and newer ones. While the first game of a season is usually sloppy, this one has the potential to be more than sloppy. The Union will have a squad very familiar with MLS, trying to shake off the rust. The home team usually has the advantage in season openers, and I think the Union fans will be raring to go.
Result: Union 2 Revolution 1
vs Columbus Crew.
Saturday, March 17th. 2:00 pm.
2017 record: 16 wins 12 losses 6 ties.
2017 Eastern Conference Standing: 5th.
The Union welcome Columbus to town for their second match of the season. Philadelphia has played well at home against Columbus over the past few years. However, this season could be different. With all the speculation on if the Crew are going to be forced from Columbus in 2019, the 2018 campaign has started with many jumping ship. Two of the Crew’s best players from 2017 (Ola Kamara and Justin Meram) asked to be traded and were traded. With the team taking new shape in what could be their last season in Columbus, you’d have to bet that every game will have an extra bit of motivation for Crew players.
|PLAYERS IN:||PLAYERS OUT:|
|GK – Jon Kempin (12/13/17 – trade from LA Galaxy)
M – Mike Grella (12/15/17 – trade from Colorado)
M – Eduardo Sosa (1/9/18 – transferred from Zamora FC)
F – Edward Opoku (1/19/18 – SuperDraft)
F – Gyasi Zardes (1/20/18 – trade from LA Galaxy)
D – Milton Valenzuela (1/26/18 – loan from Newell’s Old Boys)
|GK – Brad Stuver (12/1/17 – option declined)
D – Waylon Francis (12/1/17 – option declined)
M – Marshall Hollingsworth (12/1/17 – option declined)
M – Abuchi Obinwa (12/1/17 – option declined)
M – Rodrigo Saravia (12/1/17 – option declined)
M – Ben Swanson (12/1/17 – option declined)
F – Kekuta Manneh (12/1/17 – out of contract)
D – Jukka Raitala (12/12/17 – Expansion Draft)
F – Ola Kamara (1/20/18 – traded to LA Galaxy)
M – Justin Meram (1/29/18 – traded to Orlando City)
As mentioned before. Two offensive stars for the crew wanted out and got out, both of them landing on other MLS rosters. The additions that Columbus made filled some of their needs, but it’s hard to tell if the quality and production of these players will be the same. For Ola Kamara, Columbus received Gyasi Zardes. He (probably) won’t put up Kamara type numbers, but at least they got an MLS vet. Mike Grella comes into the side, he will likely be the Meram replacement, but won’t score as much. They also brought in some newcomers who they hope will make an impact the way that past foreign players have done. Will the Crew have a shot at all three points in Philly?
The Union should be riding high coming into this match after a win against New England, and a week off to prepare for Columbus. The Crew will also be coming back from an off week, but they will be recovering from a match against 2017 MLS Cup champions Toronto FC. The Union have the edge with home field advantage but it won’t be easy to beat down the Crew if they decide to show up at Talen Energy Stadium. I think the Crew show up for part of the game, but then fall apart like they usually do in Chester.
Result: Union 3 Crew 1
@ Colorado Rapids.
Saturday March, 31st. 9:00 pm.
2017 record: 9 wins 19 losses 6 ties.
2017 Western Conference Standing: 10th.
The Union’s first road game, and first game against western conference opponent of the season comes at Colorado. Colorado is in the midst of change. Their new head coach Anthony Hudson has come in to bring the Rapids back from mediocrity. Can the Kiwis bring back their winning mentality?
|PLAYERS IN:||PLAYERS OUT:|
|M – Johan Blomberg (11/21/17 – free)
F – Jack McBean (12/14/17 – trade from LA Galaxy)
M – Mike Grella (12/15/17 – Re-Entry Draft)
D – Deklan Wynne (12/21/17 – trade from Vancouver)
D – Edgar Castillo (1/9/18 – loan from Monterrey)
M – Jack Price (1/12/18 – transfer from Wolverhampton)
D – Tommy Smith (1/21/18 – transfer from Ipswich Town)
D – Danny Wilson (1/29/18 – transfer from Rangers)
|GK – John Berner (11/27/17 – option declined)
D – Dennis Castillo (11/27/17 – option declined)
D – Mekeil Williams (11/27/17 – option declined)
M – Joshua Gatt (11/27/17 – option declined)
M – Mohammed Saeid (11/27/17 – option declined)
F – Alan Gordon (11/27/17 – option declined)
M – Luis Gil (11/27/17 – loan expired)
D – Bobby Burling (11/27/17 – out of contract)
M – Mike Grella (12/15/17 – traded to Columbus)
This offseason, the Rapids got rid of a lot of their older players, and players they traded for in the past few seasons. These players were part of the old regime, and now there’s a new core of players coming in for Colorado. Some of the noteworthy players added by Colorado were their two new defenders Tommy Smith and Danny Williams; they sure up an already strong defensive unit which could make them one of the hardest teams to break down, should these signings live up to their hype. So, will the Union be able to get a road win, and put their bad road record from 2017 behind them?
The Union have made it a point of emphasis this off-season and preseason that they have to be better on the road. Coach Jim Curtin has said many times that the team needs to play like they do at home on the road. That being said, I think it’ll be tough to break this Colorado side down more than once. It’ll take two to beat the Rapids in their house.
Result: Rapids 1 Union 1
vs San Jose Earthquakes.
Saturday April 7th. 7:00 pm.
2017 record: 13 wins 14 losses 7 ties.
2017 Western Conference Standing: 6th.
The Union return home to face their first western conference team in their building. The Union will welcome in the San Jose Earthquakes. San Jose is an interesting team. They’re hard to get a read on. It seems like their only constant is Chris Wondolowski starting and wearing the captain’s armband. Let’s look at all the changes San Jose is going through again.
|PLAYERS IN:||PLAYERS OUT:|
|D – Joel Qwiberg (12/1/17 – transfer from IF Brommapojkarna)
GK – JT Marcinkowski (12/6/17 – Homegrown)
D – Jimmy Ockford (12/14/17 – USL)
M – Luis Felipe (12/14/17 – USL)
M – Chris Wehan (12/14/17 – USL)
D – Jacob Akanyirige (12/15/17 – Homegrown)
F – Magnus Eriksson (12/20/17 – transfer from Djurgardens)
D – Yeferson Quintana (1/17/18 – loan from Peñarol)
M – Eric Calvillo (1/20/18 – free)
M – Gilbert Fuentes (1/26/18 – Homegrown)
|D – Victor Bernardez (11/27/17 – option declined)
D – Kip Colvey (11/27/17 – option declined)
M – Cordell Cato (11/27/17 – option declined)
M – Lindo Mfeka (11/27/17 – option declined)
M – Marc Pelosi (11/27/17 – option declined)
M – Matheus Silva (11/27/17 – option declined)
D – Andres Imperiale (11/27/17 – out of contract)
D – Kofi Sarkodie (11/27/17 – out of contract)
F – Marco Ureña (12/12/17 – Expansion Draft)
GK – David Bingham (12/18/17 – trade to LA Galaxy)
M – Darwin Ceren (1/19/18 – traded to Houston)
Coming off a playoff year, you’d think that the core of a team would be kept to do more than they did the year before that’s not the case in San Jose. Seven players who featured for them last year won’t be returning, including young promising goalkeeper David Bingham. To counter all their departing players, the earthquakes turned to their own backyard so to speak. They brought in 6 players as either homegrowns, or up from their USL affiliate. While only four other players were brought in either on loan or through a transfer. Will this younger San Jose team be able to come into Philly and get points?
This young team, surrounded by strong veteran leaders has the potential to pose an upset threat. The last time San Jose came to Philly they did just that. This time Philly will be ready. If he hasn’t already had a breakout game by this point, I’d say this game is where David Accam has a breakout game for the Union.
Result: Union 3 Earthquakes 0
vs Orlando City.
Friday April, 13th. 8:00 pm.
2017 record: 10 wins 15 losses 9 ties.
2017 Eastern Conference Standing: 10th.
The Union should be off to a nice start in the 2018 season at this point. They then get to welcome the newly revamped Orlando City. The Lions have sold players (Cyle Larin), bid farewell to a legend (Kaka) and have used a seemingly endless stream of targeted allocation money to make their team even more talented than last season.
|PLAYERS IN:||PLAYERS OUT:|
|D – R.J. Allen (12/18/17 – trade from NYCFC)
F – Stefano Pinho (12/18/17 – free)
F – Jose Villarreal (12/27/17 – trade from LA Galaxy)
D – Mohamed El-Munir (12/27/17 – free)
M – Sacha Kljestan (1/3/18 – trade from NY Red Bulls)
GK – Adam Grinwis (1/5/18 – free)
M – Josue Colman (1/15/18 – transfer from Cerro Porteño)
M – Cam Lindley (1/18/18 – Homegrown)
M – Chris Mueller (1/19/18 – SuperDraft)
M – Justin Meram (1/29/18 – trade from Columbus)
M – Oriol Rosell (1/30/18 – allocation)
|M – Kaká (10/23/17 – out of contract)
GK – Josh Saunders (11/6/17 – option declined)
D – Seb Hines (11/6/17 – option declined)
D – Conor Donovan (11/6/17 – option declined)
M – Antonio Nocerino (11/6/17 – option declined)
M – Servando Carrasco (11/6/17 – option declined)
F – Giles Barnes (11/6/17 – option declined)
F – Hadji Barry (11/6/17 – option declined)
D – Kevin Alston (11/6/17 – out of contract)
M – Devron Garcia (11/6/17 – option declined)
D – Leo Pereira (11/6/17 – loan expired)
F – Carlos Rivas (1/3/18 – traded to NY Red Bulls)
D – Tommy Redding (1/3/18 – traded to NY Red Bulls)
F – Cyle Larin (1/30/18 – transferred to Besiktas)
While Orlando has moved a lot of players, they have made great moves to be competitive in 2018. They now have Sasha Kljestan and Justin Meram to create attacks for a team that had a hard time doing so last season. With Dom Dwyer ahead of those two playmakers, Orlando could be set to become the next powerhouse in the east. They also fixed their central midfield by signing true holding midfielders to help out defensively. Orlando now have a solid team that will attack and defend as a unit, will they be able to put a halt to the Union’s good start in 2018?
Orlando’s attackers will make the Union’s defense shaky. Even at Talen Energy stadium, Dwyer, Kljestan and Meram will be able to find a way to get goals. The Union will have to take them out of the game and dictate the possession to get a W.
Result: Union 1 Orlando City 2
@ FC Dallas.
Saturday, April 21st. 8:00pm.
2017 record: 11 wins 10 losses 13 ties.
2017 Western Conference Standing: 7th.
Philadelphia goes out west early in the season again against FC Dallas. The Union miss the extreme heat of a Dallas summer, but will they feel the heat from this Dallas team? FC Dallas had one of the most historic dry spells at the end of last season, that saw them go from western conference contender to missing the playoffs in a matter of a few months. This Offseason, they’re trying to get back to their roots.
|PLAYERS IN:||PLAYERS OUT:|
|GK – Jimmy Maurer (12/18/17 – free)
D – Anton Nedyalkov (12/21/17 – transfer from CSKA Sofia)
D – Reto Ziegler (1/2/18 – transfer from Luzern)
M – Brandon Servania (1/3/18 – Homegrown)
D – Kris Reaves (1/10/18 – Homegrown)
D – Jordan Cano (1/11/18 – Homegrown)
F – Francis Atuahene (1/19/18 – SuperDraft)
M – Ema Twumasi (1/19/18 – SuperDraft)
|GK – Chris Seitz (11/27/17 – out of contract)
M – Carlos Cermeño (11/27/17 – option declined)
GK – Eduardo Cortes (11/27/17 – option declined)
D – Hernan Grana (11/27/17 – option declined)
M – Luis Gonzalez (11/27/17 – option declined)
D – Aaron Guillen (11/27/17 – option declined)
D – Atiba Harris (11/27/17 – option declined)
D – Walker Hume (11/27/17 – option declined)
M – Javier Morales (11/27/17 – option declined)
M – Coy Craft (11/27/17 – option declined)
D – Walker Zimmerman (12/10/17 – trade to LAFC)
So far in the off-season, Dallas has gotten rid of some of their older pieces, and promoted/brought in young players full of potential. Three homegrowns and two SuperDraft picks from Right to Dream Academy, the same academy that produced David Accam. These players will be given opportunities to make Dallas the young scrappy contender they’ve been over the past three seasons. Getting younger and putting value in the players they produce are what made them a great team, now they’re hoping that it happens again with this new wave of young players being added to their roster of veteran homegrowns.
The Union have always had trouble in Dallas. However this Dallas team is in a similar position as Philly right now. Young promising players surrounded by good veteran leaders creates a strong foundation. This match is likely to go back and forth.
Result: Dallas 2 Union 1
vs DC United.
Saturday, April 28th. 3:30 pm.
2017 record: 9 wins 20 losses 5 ties.
2017 Eastern Conference Standing: 11th.
Philly finishes their first two months of the season against a familiar foe. DC United comes to town for the first time in 2018. DC has been in the midst of a massive rebuild for the past year. With that, they have put a lot of focus in building team chemistry from their busy Summer 2017 window.
|PLAYERS IN:||PLAYERS OUT:|
|D – Frederic Brillant (12/10/17 – trade from NYCFC)
F – Darren Mattocks (12/10/17 – trade from Portland)
M – Ulises Segura (12/21/17 – transfer from Deportivo Saprissa)
M – Junior Moreno (1/2/18 – transfer from Zulia FC)
GK – David Ousted (1/8/18 – trade from Vancouver)
|GK – Bill Hamid (10/24/17 – out of contract)
M – Chris Rolfe (11/9/17 – retired)
F – Deshorn Brown (11/29/17 – option declined)
M – Julian Buescher (11/29/17 – option declined)
D – Sean Franklin (11/29/17 – option declined)
GK – Eric Klenofsky (11/29/17 – option declined)
D – Chris Korb (11/29/17 – option declined)
D – Chris Odoi-Atsem (11/29/17 – option declined)
M – Lloyd Sam (11/29/17 – option declined)
M – Rob Vincent (11/29/17 – option declined)
M – Patrick Nyarko (11/29/17 – out of contract)
M – Marcelo Sarvas (11/29/17 – out of contract)
That formula has been evident in their 2018 off-season. DC has only made one major position move. Letting keeper Bill Hamid leave, and trading for, ex-Vancouver keeper, David Ousted. The rest of the signings and departures have been more so role players. Now that DC has had it’s core of players together for half a season, they’ll hope that there is already chemistry heading into 2018.
The Union have dominated DC at home over the past few seasons. It hasn’t mattered if DC has been at the top of the standings or the basement, the Union under Jim Curtin, don’t lose to DC United at home.
Result: Union 2 DC 0
Where will the Union stand?
After the first two months of the season are over, the Union will have played seven games. Five of them at home. This is by far the easiest stretch of the season, so an over performing team could get more points from theses matches; however, if the Union get off to a slow start like they did in 2017, then they could very well be near the bottom of the east.
I think they’ll be able to have a 4-2-1 record from these matches bringing in 13 points.
Look for part two of this series next week!
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Peace out Union fans!
Mandatory credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports