Can the league's newest expansion team compete this season?This season, the Philadelphia Union will begin play as the 16th club in Major League Soccer. Manager Piotr Nowak, a former USMNT assistant coach and an MLS Cup winning manager with DC, has assembled a talented young squad with a hard-working veteran core.
Most of the team was assembled in the 2009 Expansion Draft and the 2010 SuperDraft, with other players acquired via free transfers, loans, and trades.
Last Season: The Union didn't exist, except on paper.
Dearly Departed: As of yet, nobody. The closest the Union have come to dealing a player away is trading the allocation for Troy Perkins to DC.
New Faces: Everybody. As an expansion team, every player, and just about the entire front office, have only been around for a short while. Getting these players to form a cohesive team bond will be one of Nowak's top priorities.
GK: Chris Seitz - A highly rated US youth international keeper. Spent time at former club Real Salt Lake deputizing for 2009 MLS Cup MVP Nick Rimando. Started for the 2008 Olympic team coached by Union manager Piotr Nowak. Acquired via trade with RSL.
RB: Michael Orozco - A defender who has played for the US National Team, and represented the US at the 2008 Summer Olympics, coached by Union manager Piotr Nowak. Currently on loan to MLS from Mexican club San Luis.
LB: Jordan Harvey - A former US youth international defender who established himself as a reliable starter for Colorado over the past two seasons. Selected in the 2009 Expansion Draft.
CB: Shavar Thomas - An experienced Jamaican international defender. Represented Jamaica in the 2001 World Youth Championship and the 2009 Gold Cup. Drafted by Dallas in 2003, he established himself as a first-team player with Kansas City and later, Chivas USA. Selected in the 2009 Expansion Draft.
CB: Danny Califf - An experienced American International Defender. A member of the US squads at the 2000 Summer Olympics, the 2003 and 2009 Confederations Cups, the 2003 Gold Cup, and the 2007 Copa America. Spent six seasons in MLS with Los Angeles and San Jose before playing in Denmark with Aalborg and Midtjylland. Signed with the Union on a free transfer in December 2009. Likely to be Union captain.
RM: Shea Salinas - A pacy young winger who was drafted in the first round of the 2008 Superdraft by San Jose. Often used as an impact substitute, but also made 13 starts for San Jose in 2009. Taken by the Union in the 2009 Expansion Draft.
LM: Fred - A veteran journeyman Brazilian playmaker. Acquired, along with allocation money, in a draft-day deal that sent DC the rights for Troy Perkins. Played for Tupi, America, and Guarani in Brazil before impressing in the Australian A-League with Melbourne Victory, which led to DC offering a contract.
CM: Stefani Miglioranzi - A veteran Brazilian-American defensive midfielder. Played in England with Portsmouth and Swindon Town for eight years before signing with Los Angeles. Traded to Columbus, helped that team win the 2008 MLS Cup and Supporters Shield, before being traded back to the Ggalaxy, who he helped make the MLS Cup Final. Acquired by the Union in the 2009 Expansion Draft.
CM: Toni Ståhl - A Finnish defensive midfielder. A successful youth player in Finland before moving to the US to play College soccer with UConn. A four-year starter, won multiple awards. Drafted 17th overall in the 2010 SuperDraft.
ST: Alejandro Moreno - Veteran Venezuelan international striker. Drafted in the 2002 SuperDraft by Los Angeles. Won the MLS Cup with three different teams. Selected in the 2009 Expansion Draft.
ST: Sebastien Le Toux - Experienced French striker. Played in France's Ligue 2 with Lorient before signing with USL Sounders. Became first player signed by MLS expansion Sounders. Selected in the 2009 Expansion Draft.
Best Of The Rest:
ST: Danny Mwanga - Talented young Congolese striker. Impressed at collegiate level with Oregon State. Drafted First overall in the 2010 SperDraft.
ST: Jack McInerny - Highly rated American youth striker. Scored eleven goals in fifteen games with the USA U-17 team, including 2 at the 2009 U-17 World Cup. Drafted seventh overall in the 2010 SuperDraft.
MF: Roger Torres - Another highly-rated playmaker. Made fifteen appearances for Colombian side America de Cali as an eighteen year old. Signed with MLS on a loan deal.
MF: Andrew Jacobson - Promising midfielder. Made 17 appearances for DC in 2009. Generating buzz as a smart sleeper pick. Selected in the 2009 Expansion Draft.
Will The Union Live Up To Expansion Standards: It's been a good few years for expansion in Major League Soccer. Seattle's franchise was wildly popular last season, and despite not playing that great, Toronto also has been a success. It remains to be seen whether the Union can raise the bar this season or not.
Nowak Coaching Style: He's know to be a tough SoB, but whether he can imprint his style on these new group of players and quick enough, is the real question. They've come together quickly and now they have to buy into the veteran coach's philosophy.
The Young Starlets: The Union boast an impressive core of young talent (Mwanga, McInerny, Okugo, Torres, Seitz) and some of them will be pushed to step up and produce early on. Whether or not they respond in a positive fashion or not could determine how well the team as a whole does this season.
Predicted Placement: The defense is good enough to get into the post-season, but the attack is mostly unproven at MLS level. The Union will be a mid-table team, with a chance at sneaking a playoff spot. They will be very difficult to score against, but proneness to disciplinary issues could be the Union's Achilles' heel.
Did You Know? Union manager Piotr Nowak is no stranger to immediate MLS success. He helped lead Chicago to the MLS Cup title in their first season, and won the MLS cup again in his first season as a manager, with DC United.
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