SBI MLS Team Previews: Philadelphia Union

UnionLogo

By AVI CREDITOR

Major League Soccer's newest franchise will open the season Thursday night against the team to most recently hold that distinction. The temptation to compare the Union to Seattle Sounders F.C. during the season opener will be mighty, but unfair.

After Seattle's conquests in its expansion year, expectations will be high for this club to replicate that success. Make no mistake about it, Philadelphia and Seattle are made in different molds. This will be a team that the city and the Sons of Ben will embrace: a hard-working, grind-it-out squad that will rely on its strength (defense) as opposed to an attack-minded team with a bevy of high-priced offensive players.

Coach Peter Nowak has five able-bodied defenders to protect whichever first-year starter is in goal, whether it is Chris Seitz or Brad Knighton. The quintet of Danny Califf, Shavar Thomas, Michael Orozco, Jordan Harvey and Dave Myrie will be counted on for strong performances in order to get the Union off and running in year one. 

Here is a look at the 2010 Philadelphia Union:

2010 PHILADELPHIA UNION

Players to Watch – Sebastian Le Toux, Alejandro Moreno, Fred, Chris Seitz, Danny Mwanga, Toni Stahl

Projected Lineup

——————–Alejandro Moreno————–Danny Mwanga————

——————————————–Fred———————————–

-Sebastian Le Toux—Stefani Miglioranzi—Toni Stahl——–Shea Salinas-

————–Michael Orozco——–Shavar Thomas———-Danny Califf—–

—————————————Chris Seitz———————————–

Biggest Question -Will the Union sign a Designated Player?

This team lacks explosiveness, and goals may be hard to come by as the season unfolds. While Nowak & Co. have done a nice job assembling a roster of hard-working and eager players, both young and old, there is a glaring need for a player with some star quality.

X Factor – Fred

Acquired in the deal that sent the top allocation spot to D.C. United, the Brazilian midfielder is in need of a career rejuvenation. He disappointed at the end of his tenure with D.C, and a change of scenery and new coach could jump-start the 30-year-old.

Fred is going to be responsible for creating much of the Union's attack, and he must be in form for the goals to start flowing for Philadelphia. He will miss Thursday's season opener while serving a one-game suspension for a red card he received in his final match with D.C.

Outlook – A Nowak-coached team always has a chance, but the expectation that this is the "next Seattle" should be tempered a bit. The Union will win its share of games, and opening PPL Park will be an inspiration, but the team is a star player or two away from making a run to the postseason.

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56 Responses to SBI MLS Team Previews: Philadelphia Union

  1. BetaMale says:

    I think these guys will be following in Seattle’s footsteps as a motivated and talented expansion team right out of the gates. Look at that midfield and it could easily be one of the best in the MLS on paper. Same could be said for their defense, and of course Moreno is a threat. Their stadium will provide a huge boost in the middle of the season when other teams stagnate, so I’d say if I was a Union fan that I’d be pretty excited.

    Nice to see some excitement come from the East for a change.

  2. Camjam says:

    So does Nowak usually use a 3-5-2? I was agree completely that the talent and reliance of this team will be on defence for right now, and if the case, why use a 3 man back line?

  3. Camjam says:

    I gotta be honest….outside of their defence and goalie the team look sub-par (including the midfield)

  4. RSLFANINCALIFORNIA says:

    One of the best midfields in MLS?? What kinda crack are you smoking. Are you insane! They don’t have 1 player in the midfield that would start on most of the teams in the league. Come on dude.

  5. UPthaTOON says:

    Don’t be surprised if Amobi Okugi ends up starting regularly. He’s going to be a top player one day.

  6. mato says:

    “This will be a team that the city and the Sons of Ben will embrace: a hard-working, grind-it-out squad that will rely on its strength (defense) as opposed to an attack-minded team with a bevy of high-priced offensive players”

    Translates to… Zzzzzzzzz.

  7. Willits says:

    Well three of them did start for teams last year. Granted two of them were for DC and San jose, but no doubt Fred will be the key to whether or not they can actually score any goals. Apparently Jack Mac has looked pretty good in preseason though and danny mwanga will be a beast so there is hope for the future.

  8. Willits says:

    The backline will be harvey, Califf, Thomas, and orozco. If they do use a threeman backline I can’t see shavar and califf being back there together unless they would like to be known as the slowest team in MLS.

  9. BadWolf says:

    Totally agree with Ives assessment…but it sure sets up some fun games – v DCU and NYRB – and the chance of some real nut crunching rivalries. :)

  10. grubbsbl says:

    As a DC United fan, I can’t see Fred having much of an impact. I hope Union fans enjoy constant turn overs and zero pace. Fred does have some quick feet, and would beat defenders off the dribble, but was so slow another defend would always step in and win it. Depending of Fred as your X factor doesn’t bode well.

    I must say though that the Union does have a strong looking defense. Grind out wins may not be entertaining but if it keeps the Union in the playoff hunt I doubt the locals will care.

    Even as a DC fan I am going to make a trip up to see a game in the new stadium too. The same goes for Red Bulls Arena.

  11. BetaMale says:

    Fred is going to have a big season, mark my words. SO will Le Toux

  12. Advocate says:

    No way this team makes the playoffs without some talent addition mid-season or earlier. I don’t see anything impressive on offense outside of some very promising young talent. Talk to me in three years and I’ll feel differently, but relying on Moreno, a rookie, an out-of-form Fred, and some B List midfielders for your attack is not the way to succeed as an expansion side.

    All the best, Philly–hope you have great success, but I think you’ll find it difficult this year.

  13. Randall says:

    If Philly plays a 3 man back line against Seattle I’ll revise my 1-0 Seattle prediction to 4-0 Seattle.

  14. GSScasual says:

    agreed, i think they have a good D but i dont see a pretty football coming from them, and pretty football reigns supreme in MLS.. Shocker is that they are going to be the next toronto of expansions, and NYRB are gunna explode this season as an arsenal-esk type of flowing team… goals will fly by the feet of NYRB.

  15. Good Point says:

    Haha, I agree 110%! Playing a 3 man backline as an expansion side would be suicide unless you had two rock solid D mids. And let’s be honest—Philly doesn’t have that.

  16. Luis F says:

    Take it from a Sounder fan – Le Toux is a joke. You’ll realize very quickly what his limitations are as a full-time player.

  17. UPthaTOON says:

    Okugo* haha

  18. Doug says:

    Avi, Seattle built its fantastic first season on defense, not a bevy of “high-priced scorers.” We had Montero, yes, but aside from him our goals came from all over the field. We were and are a team of role players with a solid defense to keep us in games.

  19. Hopper says:

    Le Toux is garbage. His terrible first touch and dumbness with the ball at his feet was the stuff of legend while he was here in Seattle. He’s a turnover machine. Good luck Thursday night though.

  20. Ken says:

    As a fellow Sounders fan, I have to disagree — I don’t think that Seba’s attributes fit into the Sounders’ tactical plans very well last year, but to call him “a joke” is a little bit harsh. His limitations are evident, particularly when he plays as a midfielder, but remember that he won the USL scoring title a couple of years ago playing off the shoulder of the last defender in Brian Schmetzer’s punt-and-chase system. If Philly is planning to play defensively and keep men behind the ball, then Seba could potentially play that same role, or at least poach a goal or two. I’m excited to see him come back to Seattle on Thursday, at least.

  21. Hopper says:

    Word up. I couldn’t agree with you more about Le Toux. I’m glad he’s gone.

  22. Daniel says:

    Yeah, I’m adopting the Union as my team but expecting this first year to be a bit rough. Lots of young talent bodes well for the future though. I’m excited to see how Mwanga, Okugo, Torres, and McInerney develop. Those 4 could lead a top offense a couple years from now.

  23. BetaMale says:

    I’m an LA fan, so really don’t care what happens to the Union.

  24. TJPierce says:

    I think Philly is going to experience a hell of a lot more in the way of growing pains than Seattle did, but with Nowak in charge, some really intriguing rookies and young guys coming up, and a brand new stadium coming, I have to believe they will be legit playoff contenders within the first 3 years.

  25. dbag says:

    I am waiting for jack McInerney to show up in some games eventually. From what i have read, he had a pretty good preseason, especially for a 17 year old.

  26. jonasbrother#4 says:

    Agree 100%

  27. Josh D says:

    Can’t see them progressing far in the season. Not sure what their cap space looks like but they need attack-minded, quality strikers soon!

    I’ll head up for a game there and in NY while still praying RFK blows up and out drops a stadium with a wink from God…

  28. bob says:

    seattle is going to kill them 3-0

  29. Aaron in StL says:

    Where are the Union going to be playing home matches?

  30. Osvaldo Alonso says:

    Le Toux is terrible.

  31. scott47a says:

    outsider’s perspective:

    More San Jose than Seattle. Not sold on the goal scoring and most of the midfielders were second choicers in their previous stops — Migz < Kovalenko in LA; LeToux < Zakuani in Seattle; Salinas < Alvarez in San Jose; Fred < any breathing human being in D.C.

    I can’t imagine this team making the playoffs.

  32. Mark says:

    Did you guys see Charlie Davies running and stretching?

    link to fcsochaux.fr

  33. quakes says:

    This team lacks explosiveness?

    Salinas is explosive! He is one of the fastest players in MLS and can take people on the dribble.

  34. NYRB_4_EVAH says:

    From Your mouth to Gods ears!!

  35. SeattleStan says:

    I wouldn’t go as far to say Le Toux is terrible. It just seemed like he lost his touch when he played in MLS matches. During the Open Cup (against some fairly decent opposition) he played well. But toss him in a league game, and his first touch was pretty poor. I still wish he was a Sounder though.

  36. jake says:

    I really hope the Union get shut out on opening night.

    To be honest, this is only because I really want the SoB to be able to respond to the question:
    “Who scored your first goal?”
    with
    “Fred.”

  37. John in FL says:

    All over the field? 8 out of 33 (regular season) were not scored by forwards.
    Your D scored 2 goals and your midfield scored 6.

    When Ives pointed out “high priced scorers” he was right cause you high priced Montero scored about 36% of the totals goals alone…and 48% of the goals scored by your offense.

    When you try and correct Mr. Ives please do some fact checking on your own team first.

  38. Rastafari- SBI herbsman says:

    Le Toux will get a standing ovation but that might just be the only positive note for the visitors.

    3-0 SOUNDERS!!!!!

  39. cwbyjnky08 says:

    Almost the whole first half of the season will be on the road. They have 2 games at The Linc, where the Eagles play, then in June they move into their soccer specific stadium being built in Chester (south of Philly), called PPL Park and spend almost the whole second half of the season playing home games.

  40. g-dub says:

    I agree with Ken here. Seba is a solid, average MLS pro, not a joke. I think Sounders left him unprotected in part because his salary was a bit overpriced. $125K I think. I’ll be cheering for him in his return to Qwest on Thursday. He gave a lot to a the club over the years.

  41. DougS says:

    John in FL, why are you so defensive about my point regarding Seattle’s defense? It was Avi Creditor, not Ives, that wrote this piece. It’s a good piece and I greatly appreciate the work the entire SBI team does, especially on the MLS. But I am correct that it is the backline that got us into the playoffs, not Montero alone. And Montero does not constitute a bevy.

  42. Gary says:

    As a union fan, I’m hoping Zimmerman has a breakout year. The kid is good.

  43. frank from sf says:

    salinas wasn’t a starter. alvarez is/was.salinas always came off the bench, unless alvarez was injured or w/ the salvador nt.

  44. Charles says:

    Ditto, I wish he still played for the Sounders.

    I see him getting picked up by Portland or Vancouver next year.

    He can be the first player signed on three straight expansion teams.

  45. Tim says:

    Ives didn’t write this. Avi Creditor did.

  46. BadWolf says:

    I stand corrected – no offense to AVI Creditor – well written and I am agreement with the assessment

  47. ryan says:

    i think they have the potential to be a very good midfield in a few years but not for this year

  48. GSScasual says:

    I love mls so much right now, i a cant hold my exitment any longer for Phi@Seattle…. and im a REDBULL

  49. GSScasual says:

    And Im going for Seattle… Cuz i have a predetermined hatred for this warlock of a team

  50. sammysounder says:

    Gotta agree with Avi. Montero, Jaqua and Ljungberg would all be considered high-priced to what Philly’s running out there.

    True, our D was the strongest part, but our offense was truly much stronger than Philly’s is.

    Come to think of it, I’m not sure a single one of those 11 predicted starters get into Seattle’s side. Maybe with the injuries/suspension.

  51. Aljarov says:

    Team looks short on goals. I think they’ll come in last, unless they get some ROTY form from Mwanga, who is likely to be on the bench to start. I think Le Toux is up top in a 4-4-2. I think the 3 man back line looks sensible on the surface, but it’s not what they’ve been playing. Orozco has been on the right (as a lefty) and Harvey has been playing at the left.

  52. madmax says:

    You are right, it was defense that got Sounders into play-offs. They averaged slightly more than 1 goal a game. In their last three 2010 pre-season games they scored 1 goal, and were shut-out by two USL squads.

  53. Jon says:

    Yes, it will probably be a rough first year for the Union – all of the predictions I’ve seen so far have us at the bottom – and this assessment seems reasonable. We Philly fans are used to adversity and as a first year team I have minimal expectations. To be honest, I’m just happy that after 15 years Philly has a team…way too long to wait in my opinion.

    I’ll be at the match tomorrow, and just hope that my eyes recover from all of that Sounders “green”…

    Jungite aut Perite

    Come on Union!

  54. Joseph says:

    link to philadelphiaunion.com

    Union website predicts a 4-3-3

    le toux, moreno, zimmerman

    migz okugo torres

    orozco thomas califf harvey

    maybe it looks more like a 4-5-1, but still interesting to see all the youth they are throwing out there

  55. AD22 says:

    I don’t see Mwanga as a starter from the get-go. Nowak will use Le Toux as a striker (forget where I read this, but it’s his – Seba’s – preferred position I believe), partnered up top with Moreno. With Fred out for the first game (damn red card vs the Wiz), Nowak will use a 4-4-2 with the midfield comprised of:

    Salinas – Miglioranzi – Stahl – Torres

    Then the back line will be set up as:

    Harvey – Thomas – Califf – Orozco

    Orozco can play on the left, but he’s a versatile player, and can play/has played on the right. The Union will need him there to counter Zakuani and his speed coming down the left for Seattle.

    Once Fred comes back, I wonder how the midfield will be set up. I don’t see a 3-5-2 formation, but maube some kind of diamond midfield with Migz as a DM and Fred in an attacking-mid role, essentially becoming more of a 5-3-2 I suppose.