Union Starting 11 Preview: 2018 Back Four


As a group, none is more in question for the Philadelphia Union than defender. Let’s break this starting competition down to three positions… center back, right back and left back. We continue our Union starting 11 preview with a look at the 2018 Back Four.

Center back

Jack Elliot

He is the only lock to start vs. New England on March 3rd. No one predicted the season he would have in 2017. Originally predicted to be mostly a sub/part-time starter last season, Elliot ended up playing in 30 games, starting in 29. A finalist for MLS Rookie of the Year, he showed a calmness and knack for delivering great balls 40-50 yards down the pitch. His quality tailed off a bit towards the end of the season but that could have been due to hitting the rookie wall.

Auston Trusty

Jim Curtin will never admit it, but Auston Trusty is the coach’s favorite young player on the roster. Every time he is asked about Trusty, Curtin has trouble keeping a poker face. The Media, PA native grew up a stone’s throw away from his coach’s alma mater, Villanova. His excitement is shared by many Union faithful. Trusty brings with him a good deal of experience with the USA U-20 squad and at 6’3” provides a great sized centerback tandem with the 6’5” Elliot.

Richie Marquez

At an ancient 25 years old, Richie Marquez is the elder statesman of this group of center-backs. He replaces Onyewu as the most physical player on defense being 6’3” and nearly 200 lbs. Starting 66 games for the Union over the past three seasons, Marquez has played with intensity and grit. He actually has a pretty good slide tackle for a bigger defender. His biggest flaw is foot speed and he has a tendency to let strikers/wingers get behind him too easily. If Trusty doesn’t prove himself early on, Marquez will probably move into a starting role again.

Josh Yaro

The former overall #2 pick in the MLS Draft, Josh Yaro, has yet to live up to the hype. After playing in about half the Union’s matches in his rookie season, he appeared only 6 times in 2017. Granted, he was coming off of shoulder surgery, but had a difficult time gelling with the starters when he did return. In his brief stint last season, Yaro made a few crucial mistakes, either not following the ball behind him or distributing poorly, resulting in a few bad giveaways and eventually goals.

Mark McKenzie

After making a total of 8 appearances with Bethlehem Steel FC between the ages of 16 and 17, Mark McKenzie moved onto Wake Forest for just his freshman season. Now a member of the Union, he has an opportunity to get quality minutes with the big club. At 6’0”, 185 lbs, he is basically a combo of Marquez and Yaro as far as size and speed, and if those two veterans don’t step up their game, you might see McKenzie spend most of the season in Chester instead of Bethlehem.

Right back

Keegan Rosenberry

He is clearly better on the ball at crossing into the box. If Rosenberry is out of Curtin’s doghouse and performs on par with Gaddis, I’d expect him to get the nod on opening day. The runner-up for MLS Rookie of the Year in 2016, Rosenberry played every minute of the season, becoming the first rookie to do so. He has the ability and the motor. Let’s hope his head is on straight this time around or whatever happened between him and the coaching staff is water under the Commodore Barry.

Raymond Gaddis

He’s been a solid citizen giving back to the Philadelphia area and always gives everything he has on the field as well.  Amongst the top ten in games played for the Union since their inaugural season, Ray Gaddis has appeared in 144 matches for the Boys in Blue. A big need for the Union is to build possession out of the back and the blunt truth is that Gaddis is not very efficient on the ball.

Left back


It’s not typical to describe a defender as streaky, but I can’t find a more appropriate term to describe Fabinho. Starting 102 matches over the past 5 seasons, Fabinho has played more games at left back than anyone in Union history. He does have some talent offensively, which the Union desperately need, but even that is becoming predictable – always a cross from 30 yards out. I’ll admit last season he had a run of several solid defensive games, but he never seems to maintain that level of play for an entire season. I have no problem keeping Fabinho at his under $200K salary as a part-time starter, but it’s time to move on after this season.

Matt Real

Last season, Matt Real got some quality playing time under his belt, making 17 appearances for Bethlehem Steel FC. If he and Fabinho play at the same level throughout training camp and the preseason, Jim Curtin will assuredly go with the veteran Fabinho. Trusty is more of a lock to start in the back four, and Coach Curtin will be hesitant to start two rookies to begin 2018.

Starting 2018 Back Four

Philadelphia Union Starting 11

We are less than two weeks away from opening day; we’ll be back next week with our 2018 Goalkeeper preview!


Tim Lovenguth

Matt McClain

Jeff Green

Peace out Union fans!

Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports