The conclusion of Phase 1 of Philadelphia Union’s pre-season means games with meaning are on the horizon. We’re just about 3 weeks away from Union kicking off the 2024 campaign against Deportivo Saprissa in the CONCACAF Champions Cup, and on Tuesday afternoon the club submitted their preliminary roster of available players for the continental competition. Here’s a look at all the names that made the list, those that didn’t, and what that all means.
Introduced Union CCC Roster as of 1/30/2024
- #13 Holden Trent
- #18 Andre Blake
- #76 Andre Rick Jr
- #3 Jack Elliott
- #5 Jakob Glesnes
- #15 Olivier Mbaizo
- #17 Damion Lowe
- #26 Nathan Harriel
- #27 Kai Wagner
- #29 Olwethu Makhanya
- #8 Jose Martinez
- #10 Daniel Gazdag
- #16 Jack McGlynn
- #20 Jesus Bueno
- #22 Sanders Ngabo
- #35 Markus Anderson
- #7 Mikael Uhre
- #9 Julián Carranza
- #14 Jeremy Rafanello
- #25 Chris Donovan
- #28 Tai Baribo
- #33 Quinn Sullivan
That doesn’t mean that’s the final roster, however. Per CONCACAF, Clubs that have chosen to register fewer than 35 players can add additional players up to 44 hours before each match, provided their roster does not exceed 35 players. Once a player has been registered, they may not be removed or replaced.
Players who got left off of this list
The 27-year-old midfielder struggled to find minutes in this Union team last season despite an exciting debut, and now his absence from the CONCACAF Champions Cup roster has raised some speculation about his future with the club.
Could the heavy involvement of Joaquin Torres during the first 3 pre-season games be Union showcasing the attacker to potential buyers, or does it come down to a lack of Forward options in the camp with both Tai Baribo and Mikael Uhre absent?
You’d think if it were the latter Torres would be included on this list, but maybe the signing of 20 Markus Anderson helps fill that need. For now, Torres remains a member of the Union so we’ll just have to wait and see how this progresses – he very likely could be added in the future
Leon Flach is another name that didn’t make this list, which raises a bit of concern for me. After a disappointing and injury-ridden 2023 season, Leon returned to pre-season at full strength and ready to make an impact in 2024.
Unfortunately, it’s been reported that Leon suffered another injury that required him to leave training in Florida and return to Philadelphia for treatment. And now, Leon’s name is left off the CCC roster. I really hope that’s not a sign of a long-term injury, or Union’s midfield experience gets a bit thinner.
The 19-year-old homegrown defender also didn’t make the list, and that’s because it seems like the kid is on the move once again. After his failed loan to Austin FC last season, it’s been reported that Brandan Craig will spend the season with USL Championship side El Paso Locomotive.
He probably wasn’t going to get many meaningful minutes with Union this season anyway, so anywhere that he can achieve consistent, competitive minutes is good with me.
There are several young guys that feel like mostly depth pieces that still made this initial roster, but LB Matt Real isn’t one of them from the jump.
I feel for Matt, just when he thought he might have the opportunity to take over the left-back position for Union, Kai returns and claims that spot once again. Will Matt Real ever break into this team, or is it time for him – and Union – to move on?
The U2 Crew
There are a number of players from U2 that trained with Union’s first-team during pre-season but didn’t make the CCC Roster cut for obvious reasons, including MID Nick Pariano, MID CJ Olney, MID David Vazquez, LB Isaiah LeFlore, CB Neil Pierre, and RB Frank Westfield. But again – Union has only submitted 22 of 35 available roster spots for CCC.
This one’s a little easier to explain – Ale’s return isn’t official just yet. It’s been widely reported that his return looks to be coming shortly but for now, you can’t submit someone who’s not currently a member of your roster.
I’d expect Union to add Ale to the list of available players for selection before the Saprissa game as long as Ale’s deal is signed before that 44-hour deadline.
Young guys who did make the roster
As I said above, some younger guys like Jeremey Rafanello and Olwethu Makhanya probably won’t get too much time in the continental competition but still made the cut for this initial roster anyway.
I was also happy to see the inclusion of off-season acquisitions Sanders Ngabo and Markus Anderson(who is listed as a midfielder despite being labeled an “attacker” in his press release) on the list, as well as both young goalkeepers in Holden Trent and Andre Rick, which could be an indication on Union’s backup keeper plan. Like I said, I don’t think these guys will get a lot of minutes if any in this competition, but it’s nice to see that the club is seeing them as viable future options right off the bat.
We didn’t learn a whole ton from this roster submission as it’s pretty similar to the ones of previous CONCACAF journeys, though it did raise a few new questions regarding certain players and their immediate future with the club. Does this team have the depth to handle the gauntlet that is the CONCACAF Champions Cup, or is it another season of competing at high quality without getting over the hump?
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Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union