The Union has finished its first phase to the 2021 preseason. Today, they traveled to Clearwater Florida to start phase two. Now that phase one has come to a close, we can see how this team has begun its preparations for the 2021 season. As it turns out, there are more questions popping up than there are answers after the Union’s phase one of the 2021 preseason.
Union’s phase one
Phase one ended with an intrasquad scrimmage that ended in a 3-3 draw. Cory Burke scored twice; while Kacper Przybylko, Anthony Fontana, Alejandro Bedoya and Quinn Sullivan all scored one goal. The first phase was all about fitness levels and less about playing actual matches.
Head coach Jim Curtin mentioned in his weekly presser that all the players came into phase one relatively fit. This is a great sign for the team. If the team that won the supporter’s shield last season comes back in raring to go that has to be seen as good. However, there are still the same few questions that look over this team heading into the second phase of the 2021 preseason.
Roster build issues
The first main question that continues to loom over this Union squad is the build of the squad itself. The Union has not brought in any transfers that would fill the roles left by Mark McKenzie and Brenden Aaronson. Philly has signed Scottish center back Stuart Findlay. However, he is still not with the club as he and his new club deal with visa issues. Other than Findlay, the Union hasn’t added anyone else outside of the uprising homegrowns. Will this continue?
Unfortunately, it looks like there will be few rumors of player signings before the 2021 season. Sporting Director Ernst Tanner still has time to bring in the right reinforcements should he find them, but it would not be a surprise to see the current squad be the one the Union rolls with when the season begins in April.
While this is very frustrating for Union fans, it’s not the end of the world. Philly is still a top team in the MLS with this roster. As long as the coaching and style of play are executed well, there’s no reason this team can’t be competing for a top spot in 2021. With that being said, the start to 2021 could be a little shaky because of injuries and international call-ups.
Call-ups and injuries
Backup goalkeeper Matt Freese is currently with the USA men’s youth national team as they prepare for the qualification tournament for the rescheduled Summer Olympic Games. Freese has had a good camp and recently made the roster for the upcoming qualifying tournament. This means he will likely not be available to travel with the Union for their first leg CCL match against Saprissa on April 7th.
The Union has re-signed longtime MLS vet Joe Bendik, and it seems as though he’ll be the one to back up Andre Blake in that match. While this call-up throws a bit of a wrench into Philadelphia’s preparations, they have also been bit by the injury bug.
Sergio Santos is out right now with a torn big toe. This type of injury is usually one that is hard to come back from quickly. Before the Union even kick a ball in 2021, they’re already down a striker. This will mean either someone else stepping up or a change to the formation. We’ll laws how this impacts the side on phase two of the preseason.
Phase two starts now
With the Union’s phase one over, the team’s plane touched down in Clearwater Florida earlier this afternoon. They now get ready for this second phase that includes 12 days in Florida, and two preseason scrimmages against other MLS sides.
While the team just arrived in Florida, it looks like some more roster news may be made soon. Veteran back-up center back Aurelian Collin was spotted on the team plane by Union fans courtesy of Sergio Santos’ Instagram story. Now that a few more of these back-up spots are aired up, the squad looks poised to push their fitness even further.
We’ll be following along as the Union prepare for their 2021 season. This next week will show a lot as the team plays Orlando City on Monday, March 15th, and Chicago Fire FC on Saturday, March 20th. There’s no news yet on if these matches will be streamed or not, but we are inching our way closer to seeing the boys in blue take the field for a meaningful game!
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Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union