It’s been a long ten years. They say as you get older, each year feels like it goes by a bit faster. That’s not always the case, especially for fans of the Philadelphia Union. Regardless of expectations or lack thereof, it’s never been a smooth ride. Definitely fun at times, but always with a heaping side of gut-wrenching aggravation with the coach, ownership, management and players. But I say don’t fret! Things are about to change in 2019…
Talented Outside Influences
The most glaring hole coming into the 2019 season was replacing midfielder and MLS assist leader, Borek Dockal. Sporting Director, Ernst Tanner’s most recent signing, Marco Fabian will fill that role, maybe not from a distribution perspective, but he will create enough scoring opportunities of his own to make up the difference. Fabian brings experience from the German Bundesliga while at Eintracht Frankfurt the past few seasons. He’s faced some of the best competition in the world. Brazilian, Sergio Santos from Aduax Italiano of the Chilean top-tier league, brings a combination of speed and ball skills the Union have never had at striker. The fact that the Union have preached about the academy for so long, it’s good to see they have gone outside the organization for what could pay immediate dividends.
The signing of veteran center back, Aurielen Collin, might have a bigger impact on the club than most expect. As a former MLS Best XI member and MLS champion with Sporting Kansas City, he is the perfect defender to help teach the young Union center backs. I’m also fully confident with him filling in on the field when called upon.
I believe this is the largest number of players with international experience on the Union roster at one time. The most notable being Fabian (Mexico), Cory Burke (Jamaica), Andre Blake (Jamaica), Alejandro Bedoya (USA), Auston Trusty (USA), Mark McKenzie (USA), Matt Real (USA), Fafa Picault (USA), C.J.Sapong (USA), Derrick Jones (USA), Anthony Fontana (USA), Haris Medunjanin (Bosnia & Herzegovina),David Accam (Ghana) and Olivier Mbazio (Cameroon).
International coaches, aside from talent, look for who is currently in good form when duty calls. Especially for the younger players in this list, the honor and thrill of taking the field for their native country should provide that extra bit of motivation to perform at their highest level throughout the MLS season.
Into the Depths
Another thing coach Jim Curtin’s club has going for it in 2019 is depth at multiple positions. Real, Kai Wagner and Fabinho at left back; Ray Gaddis and Mbaizo at right back; Burke, Santos, Sapong, Picault, Accam and Kacper Przybylko at forward; Bedoya, Ilsinho, Jones, Medunjanin, Fontana and Brenden Aaronson at midfield; and Trusty, McKenzie, Colin and Jack Elliot at center back. Not only will the Union be in good shape if an injury or two were to force some changes, the excellent depth on the current squad will be another reason the players can’t let up. Someone is right behind them waiting to take that starting spot.
Change of Perspective
This part is two-fold. Ernst Tanner’s approach to his first full season as Sporting Director is a unique one to Union supporters. He doesn’t have a 3-5 year plan. He wants to win now. He doesn’t see any reason why they can’t win now, and doesn’t seem the type to make excuses. It’s something refreshing around Chester and although unfamiliar, is what we’ve been waiting for. And speaking of what we’ve been waiting for, Jim Curtin is finally going to institute a 4-4-2 formation, allowing for two strikers on the field at once. Another foreign idea to the Philadelphia Union and it’s fans, but one that not only allows for a faster pace, but one that allows for continued hope in the future.
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Peace out Union fans!
Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union