The Philadelphia Union is less than two months away from starting their 2023 season. The club wants to play 50+ matches in the coming season, and Ernst Tanner will be pressed for time to round out the roster. While the preparations are being made, the most important players on the 2023 Union side are already on the roster!
Who will be the players pushing Philly to greatness in ’23?
Glancing back on this past year, the Union relied on a handful of players to achieve the success that the team had. This will likely be the same way the team finds success in 2023. Looking at the players who are under contract for the coming season, there are six players who will be vital to the success Philly finds.
- Alejandro Bedoya
- Julian Carranza
- Leon Flach
- Jack Elliot
- Andre Blake
- Daniel Gazdag
It may seem obvious that some of these players are vital to a successful 2023 season. However, there’s no denying that taking one or multiple players out of this team brings the potential for success down exponentially. Let’s take a look at why these six players are ones to watch for in 2023.
1. Alejandro Bedoya
Alejandro Bedoya is a legend at this club. He’s been the captain since 2017, and his influence as a player and a leader is the main reason why Philly has been on an upward successful trajectory since he joined the club. Winning has been the number one priority for Bedoya, and the club has backed that and produced. Unfortunately for Ale and the team last year, an injury kept him out of MLS Cup.
The injury greatly hurt Philly in that final, and also down the stretch of the regular season. One could say that if Bedoya stayed healthy that Philadelphia would have won both the Supporters Shield and MLS Cup in 2022. The way he plays the game and leads the team on the field is second to none. Bedoya signed a contract extension for 2023 and wants to win more than anyone on the roster. His impact is second to none on this team, which is why he’s one of the six most important players to watch in 2023.
2. Julian Carranza
In what was a shocking in-league move just about a year ago, the addition of striker Julian Carranza helped the Union’s attack go from good to elite in 2022. He scored two hat tricks last year, and his ability to be lethal in front of the goal, but also do the dirty work the Union ask all their players to do is what makes him indispensable to this team.
Carranza is possibly the best defensive forward in MLS. He presses relentlessly while he’s on the pitch. He was the trigger for Philly’s selective pressing style of play and forced turnover after turnover leading to goal after goal last season. Coming into 2023, he will look to take this game to the next level, and become even more productive. In 31 games played in 2022, Carranza scored 16 goals and notched 9 assists, can he make even more of an impact if the Union hit their goal of playing 50+ games in 2023?
3. Leon Flach
When looking at Philly’s diamond midfield over the past few seasons, there hasn’t been a player more influential to the way the team plays than Leon Flach. Because the team play’s very narrow, they rely on their shuttler midfielders to progress the ball forward; sometimes providing width and overlaps in the attack, while also putting out fires when the opponent moves forward. Flach is the quintessential player for this type of midfield play, and he’s vital to the success of the team.
Leon never stops moving he runs all around the pitch usually as that left-sided shuttler midfielder, but he can also play the d-mid spot, and also left back. His versatility plus his never-ceasing motor makes him a starter no matter what on this team. As we await possible outgoing transfers for some players (Kai Wagner and possibly Jose Martinez) Flach will be vital to this team in 2023 in whatever role he’s asked to play!
4. Jack Elliot
Jack Elliot was one of the best defenders in MLS last season. He is a shutdown centerback and has a knack for scoring goals as well. Scoring two goals in the MLS Cup, almost securing a win for Philly and the final MVP trophy for himself, showcases his skill on the pitch. That plus his snub of not even being a nominee for defender of the year in 2022 makes him hungry for dominating the league in 2023.
Elliot is part of the best back line in MLS and plays in front of the best goalkeeper in MLS; however, if his play slips up then the entire team suffers. This was seen at times in 2022 by both Jack Elliot and defender of the year Jakob Glesnes. In 2023 Elliot will be the lynchpin for the Union’s back line as he is the left-sided center back, and there could be changes on that left side if Wagner leaves.
5. Andre Blake
Andre Blake is the best goalkeeper in MLS! His ability to pull out the spectacular athletic save changes draws to wins and losses to draws. His skill level tops the league from the goalkeeper position, and he’s an MLS Cup win away from being the best goalkeeper in MLS history. This makes the 2022 loss more hurtful as it puts doubt in the minds of those ready to anoint him as the best ever in the league, but it also lights a fire under Blake to keep the high-level play going.
There have been years where Blake’s form has dipped. Back in 2019, he had some gaffes that lead to the team dropping points. This has not happened since then, and he’s been the undisputed best keeper in the league since 2020. Looking forward to 2023, he will need to keep his level of play up to lead this team to a trophy. He was captain of the team in the MLS Cup final and was a few penalty saves away from lifting the Cup. He’s back and ready to help lead this team to trophies in 2023!
6. Daniel Gazdag
Daniel Gazdag had the best attacking season any Union player has ever had last season. He scored 22 goals and assisted 10 times. His numbers were second-best in all of MLS, yet he was left off of the MVP ballot. Gazdag’s prowess in front of goal has given Philly’s attack a dynamic that it never had before. In 2023 he’s looking to produce at the same level and win league MVP.
In a recent interview Gazdag said he felt disrespected to not be on the MVP ballot in 2022, this bodes well for the Union and their fans as he’s going to come into 2023 with a vengeance to show the league he’s for real. This is something that could be seen for years to come as Daniel also said he is close to a contract extension with the club. Gazdag contributing 30+ goals will be needed if the club is going to play 50+ games and win some trophies this coming season!
These six players are going to define the Union’s season in 2023. While there could be someone not on this list who is just as influential to the success of the team, these six need to be playing at their best if this team wants to lift a trophy next year!
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Mandatory Credit: Diego Diaz/Icon Sportswire