The Philadelphia Union is just five days away from the start of the 2023 season! As we get closer and closer to the start of the season, we at Philly Sports Network will have you covered with previews of the team, their competitions, and their quest for redemption and glory. Today we’ll take a look at the deep roster Philly has this year!
The Union’s 2023 Roster is stacked
Philadelphia was minutes away from winning MLS Cup last year, they were one point short of winning the Supporters Shield as well. The 2022 version of this team was so so good, and the 2023 version has the potential to be even better.
The Union only lost three players from last season, Paxten Aaronson, who joined Bundesliga side Frankfurt, Cory Burke, who joined New York Red Bulls in free agency, and Matt Freese who was traded to NYCFC. All three of these players were important backup players, but none were important starters; all of those players are still on the roster in 2023.
The core starters from 2022 are all coming back in 2023. Kai Wagner, Jose Martinez, and Oliver Mbaizo were all rumored to be leaving the club this past offseason, but no official bids came into the club for them. Now this team is at full strength and added some MLS depth to make the team even better.
Philly brought in Andres Parea (M) from Orlando City, Joaquin Torres (M/F) from CF Montreal, and Damian Lowe (D) from Inter Miami CF; the team also utilized the MLS SuperDraft for the first time in years taking Holden Trent (GK). These four additions bolster the depth of this team which will be put to the test this year as the club is looking to play in more than 50 games across all competitions!
Now let’s dive into the roster position by position to get to know the 2023 Philadelphia Union.
- Joe Bendik
- Andre Blake
- Holden Trent
We all know goalkeeping has been a strength of this Philadelphia side. Andre Blake is entering his 10th season with the club after being drafted number one overall in the 2014 SuperDraft, and he’s been the starter for just about nine of those 10 years. He is the best keeper in MLS and will look to win the goalkeeper of the year award for the fourth time in 2023.
Behind Blake, is veteran Joe Bendik. Bendik has been an MLS journeyman his entire career and is a serviceable player who is always ready to be called upon. His impact on this Union team, now that Matt Freese is no longer at the club, is to be the number-two keeper. We may see him get some minutes in the Leagues Cup or the US Open Cup this year.
The third keeper on the depth chart is rookie Holden Trent. Trent will have the privilege of learning from one of the best goalkeepers in MLS history, Blake, and the professional MLS mainstay, Bendik. While he likely won’t see first-team minutes, he will be called upon to lead Union II this year.
- Jakob Glesnes
- Damion Lowe
- Oliver Mbaizo
- Jack Elliot
- Kai Wagner
- Matthew Real
- Nathan Harriel
- Anthony Sorenson
- Brandan Craig
- Gino Portella
The Union’s defense has been the strength of this team throughout the tenure of head coach Jim Curtin. This team’s starting core over the last few seasons has been next level and these players are back for the 2023 season. Kai Wagner, Jack Elliot, Jakob Glesnes, and Oliver Mbaizo will be the starting four yet again this season. The top two in the 2022 defender of the year voting (Glesnes, and Wagner) along with the unsung heroics of Elliot, and the redemption arch of Mbaizo will be there to put out the fires!
Philly is so stacked that they have a second back four that could be very serviceable for the majority of MLS clubs. Matthew Real, Damion Lowe, Brandan Craig, and Nathan Harriel are second on the depth chart for their positions, but they will all be pushing for the starting XI minutes this year. All of these players will be called upon at some point this year to play minutes either from the start or as subs, and their impact could be the difference between wins and losses!
The last two defenders on the roster are prospects, and likely won’t have much of an impact on the first team. Anthony Sorenson is a young left-back who will get most of his pro minutes with Union II this year, while Gino Portella is a player who has been constantly loaned out year after year; this year might prove to be a similar year for the young center back.
- Alejandro Bedoya
- Joaquin Torres
- Daniel Gazdag
- Jose Martinez
- Jesus Bueno
- Jeremy Rafanello
- Jack McGlynn
- Leon Flach
- Richard Odada
Philadelphia’s midfield is the heartbeat of the team. As they go, so too does the team. They are called upon to do the dirty work for the team, help out in defense, and start the attacks. Luckily, the starting core for the Union might be the best in MLS. Jose Martinez, Leon Flach, Alejandro Bedoya, and Daniel Gazdag are the starting four from last season, and will likely be the starting four this coming Saturday.
Martinez is the best number six in MLS and was an MVP finalist last season. Flach grinds opponents into making mistakes and does well progressing the ball forward down the left. Bedoya is the team’s leader, and wills the team to succeed with his tenacious play. Gazdag scored 22 goals and notched 10 assists last season, he is the player who starts the team’s press and is a lethal attacking player!
Once again the depth of this team is crazy when you look at the players who are second on the depth chart in the midfield positions. A midfield four of Richard Odada, Jack McGlynn, Jesus Bueno, and Joaquin Torres is an overpowered midfield that could be a starting four for many in the league. Just like the backup defenders, this group of backups will be pushing the starting group for minutes. The depth and personnel allow the team to plug in one of these players either from the start or as a sub, and the quality of the team doesn’t drop at all.
The only midfield player on the roster that falls outside of the starting group, and possibly the reserves is homegrown Jeremy Rafanello. He is a great attacking midfielder option, but with Torres and even Sullivan (listed as an attacker) ahead of him, Rafanello might be more of a Union II player this season. However, coach Curtin has said that the entire midfield group is playing at the level of a starter in MLS!
- Mikael Uhre
- Julian Carranza
- Quinn Sullivan
- Chris Donovan
The Union’s attack reached a level that the club had never seen before in 2022. This was in large part due to the striker tandem of Mikael Uhre and Julian Carranza. Philly was lacking in the attack, and Ernst Tanner went out and got two DP strikers and the team scored 72 goals last year. 2023 will be year two of the Uhre-Carranza partnership. When paired with Gazdag they create the best-attacking trio in MLS. This bodes very well for this Philly team in 2023.
The only area that the Union may be lacking a bit is their backup striker core. Quinn Sullivan and Chris Donovan make up the backup strikers. While they are serviceable players who have great quality, they are not the game-changing player that Cory Burke was for this team last year. Both of these players will likely be on the bench for the majority of the Union’s matches this season, but Curtin may call on Joaquin Toress as the attacking option off the bench as either a midfielder or a striker as he has more 1v1 game-breaking ability.
There you have it! The Union’s roster is set ahead of the 2023 season! They will be tasked with being the team to get the club over the hump and winning a trophy this year. The team fell agonizingly short of two different trophies in 2022, and now this group of 26 players will be called to lift a trophy in 2023!
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Mandatory Credit: Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire