State of the Union; The Blue and Gold 2012 Edition
Well its that time of year again; time to take stock of the team that will represent the Union faithful in the new season. For an in-depth look at the position, by position breakdown of the 2012 Philadelphia Union…keep reading!
(My starters are based off of a 4-2-3-1 formation that I expect Nowak to roll out a majority of the time. Keep an eye out for variations in formation based on game situations. A 4-2-2-2, 4-3-3, and 4-1-3-2 are very possible alternative options)
Starter: Zac MacMath
Backups: Chase Harrison, Chris Konopka
With Faryd Mondragon asking for his release to return to his boyhood club the reins are passed to MacMath in just his second season. There remains the question of the Olympics, if an injury occurs to Bill Hamid or Sean Johnson, MacMath would be next in line, leaving the Union with two keepers that can’t be considered anything more than backups. MacMath could be great this season, but the Union are ill prepared to deal with his absence due to Olympics or injury.
Starters: Sheanon Williams – Carlos Valdes - Danny Califf – Porfirio Lopez
Backups: Raymond Gaddis, Chris Albright
Possible Cover: Amobi Okugo, Gabriel Gomez, Gabe Farfan, Greg Jordan
This will be, without a doubt, the strongest defensive unit the Union will trot onto the field in the teams short history. With added depth than last year and four players playing their desired position, look for another year of low goals against. I’d still prefer to see an actual centerback backup brought into the team, but Albright, Okugo, and Gomez can all fill in if needed.
CDM: Gabriel Gomez – Brian Carroll
Backups: Amobi Okugo, Greg Jordan
In front of CDMs: Michael Farfan – Freddy Adu – Keon Daniel
Backups: Roger Torres, Gabe Farfan, Jimmy McLaughlin, Zack Pfeffer
A lot of options in the center of the pitch this year, the only question is how best to utilize it? Center Defensive Mid is by far the strongest, deepest position on the roster. An international captain. The underrated, unsung hero, league veteran. The rising star for league and country. An unproven rookie. What more could you ask for at the position? Sitting in front of the defensive mid pairing is a lot of creative talent, but not much in terms of wing play. Look for these positions to be very fluid throughout the game with players cycling between the three spots and coming inside more times than they are on the touch line. Daniel might not be ready to start right away as he is still recovering from his illness, but expect a breakout season from Marfan. And of course there is the battle of Adu/Torres. Adu gets the nod because of his salary and experience, but if he falters, I’d expect a move in the summer transfer window and Torres given the drivers seat to the offense.
Starters: Lionard Pajoy
Backups: Danny Mwanga, Josue Martinez, Jack McInerney, Chandler Hoffman, Krystian Witkowski, Antoine Hoppenot, Christian Hernandez
It is obvious the lack of goal scoring was a concern of the coaching staff in the offseason as there are six new strikers on the roster. Pajoy gets the early start as he is coming off the best season of his career. Mwanga will play a key role this year, getting more playing time. McInerney has a chance of seeing time at the Olympics and Martinez could add a real spark to the side. Keep an eye out for Hoffman. It was a surprise that he fell as far in the draft, even picked by some “experts” as going in the top 3. He’s got something to prove and if he can make his point it would be great for the Union.
The casualty report:
Seba LeToux is by far the most notable loss of the offseason. What really happened behind the scenes will likely always be a mystery as getting insider information out of Peter Nowak is as likely as Stefani Miglioranzi finishing his career with Manchester United. Faryd Mondragon will be missed, but his absence will be less drastic with the more than capable MacMath between the posts. Justin Mapp and Veljko Paunovic were aging veterans who at times were great assets, but also had moments of absolute obscurity on the field. Outside of those four players the rest of the 9 players that won’t be back will not be missed. Only Kyle Nakazawa of those will be missed for his strong relationship with the fans.
The mystery that was the Union’s 2012 pre-season makes it very difficult to tell just how good the additions to the roster are. The beginning of the season is not a particularly friendly one for the Union. A trip to arguably the toughest place to play in the league (second to PPL…of course) followed by a home game against the only team to leave PPL with all 3 points last year is not a great way to ease into a season. No matter how the beginning of the season goes, keep in mind that the unbalanced schedule is a huge bonus for the Union. With only one game against some of the top teams in the league (LA, Seattle, FC Dallas, Real Salt Lake) and multiple home games against conference rivals DC and NYRB, I am expecting an increase in points for the Blue and Gold.