Union Matchday One: The Loons Come Marching In

Week 12

Here is the moment that Philadelphia Union fans have been hoping for since last season ended; the 2022 season opener. After a short offseason, our boys in blue are back at it and welcome on in Minnesota United to the Soob for the start of the 2022 season and home opener for the team.

Can Union beat Crew SC
Mandatory Credit: PHILADELPHIA UNION, ANDREW ZWARYCH

The teams have played just four times in league play with the Union having a slight edge of two wins to 1 Minnesota win and a draw. The Loons got the better of the Union in Minnesota last October 3-2. With the home opener on the horizon, let’s look at how Minnesota United did last season, the key acquisitions/departures for the team, who to watch out for, and even a prediction.

2021 MLS Season

Minnesota United had a bit of a rocky start to the 2021 season. For most of the year, they were hanging outside the playoff window and did not seem like they would make the playoffs. With a strong second-half surge, the team finished with a 13-11-10 record, which was good enough for a fifth-place finish. Unlike the prior year, where they made the western conference finals and were a Seattle comeback away from the MLS cup final, the 2021 season saw the Loons crash out in the first round to the eventual western conference champion Portland Timbers 3-1 in Portland. This was a tough year all around for the team with many fans feeling that coach Adrian Heath should have been on the hot seat.

Key Departures

Minnesota kept a quiet offseason but did make some big moves in terms of players leaving. The key departures from last year’s roster were:

  • Ozzie Alonso
  • Jan Gregus
  • Thomas Chacon

The name on that list that was big on the list for yours truly was Ozzie Alonso. Alonso came to Minnesota off a successful stint with the Seattle Sounders, winning an MLS Cup in his time with the team. Alonso’s arrival to Minnesota was key in changing the team’s culture, turning the team around from one of the worst defenses in the league to a team that made the playoffs all three years of his tenure. Despite him playing fewer minutes last season, it was apparent the impact that he had on the midfield and the veteran presence of Ozzie Alonso will surely be missed this year.

Key Acquisitions

Minnesota did not make a ton of signings this offseason, but the ones that they did make showed a striking similarity to the Union’s priorities this offseason. The key acquisitions this offseason were:

  • Kervin Arreaga
  • Luis Amarilla
  • Bongokuhle Hlongwane

The name that stuck out on this list was Luis Amarilla. Amarilla was on loan with Minnesota back in the 2020 season. He got off to a hot start by scoring in his first two games. Unfortunately for him, this was the pandemic season which halted everything for a while and Amarilla was never the same. He comes back to the team this season as a DP signing, which certainly means that there are higher expectations for him.

X-Factor

While Minnesota has retooled their striker core for this season, the biggest x-factor for the team is the play of their star number 10, Emanuel Reynoso. This offense only goes as far as he does, which is why he must draw a lot of attention from the Union defense. The defense for the Loons is not a bad one, but if Reynoso cannot get going, they are not going to be able to shut down the Union for awfully long. If Reynoso can get going, this will be a long home opener for the boys in blue.

Prediction

While the Union might be missing Sergio Santos and Mikael Uhre, I am supremely confident that this attack will be much better than we have had in past seasons. Julian Carranza has already started to make Ernst Tanner look like a shrewd genius for acquiring him. Daniel Gazdag, our very own Zach LoBasso’s MVP for 2022, has been playing like a man determined to truly make his mark on the league. This will be a chilly affair on the banks of the Delaware with both teams trying to get a good start on their 2022 MLS cup campaigns. I like the Union to win 2-1 on Saturday afternoon to get a good start on the 2022 season. Hope to see everyone else at Subaru Park to cheer on our boys in blue!

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Mandatory Credit: PHILADELPHIA UNION, ANDREW ZWARYCH


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