As the 2015 season draws closer, we’ll have a new MLS 2015 Season Preview up everyday. Today we take a look at what Philadelphia Union will be looking to do this season…
The Philadelphia Union endured a mixed campaign last time out as they failed to reach the MLS Playoffs but managed to get to the final of the US Open Cup where they fell 3-1 to the Seattle Sounders after extra-time. John Hackworth was removed of his duties at the midway point of the season after the Union won just three of their opening 15 fixtures. Jim Curtin was brought in and he will hope to guide the Union to the playoffs in his first full season in charge in what will be the club’s sixth season in MLS.
Last season’s finish: Eastern Conference position: 6th – P34 – W10 – D12 – L12
What needs to change this year?
The Union need to try and close games out much more effectively in 2015. They conceded 17 goals in the final 15 minutes of games in the regular season and that is not good enough. The worst example of this came in their 3-2 loss to the Columbus Crew in October as they threw away a two-goal lead in five minutes in a defeat that confirmed their elimination from playoff contention. Whether the late lapses were because of fitness concerns or just lack of focus, Curtin needs to make sure he addresses them and improves that poor record this year. Philadelphia conceded 51 goals last year and will want to improve defensively too. The addition of Steven Vitoria on loan from Benfica could help solve that problem.
Key changes to the squad:
Ins: CJ Sapong – Forward, Dzenan Catic – Forward, Steven Vitoria – Defender, Fernando Aristeguieta – Forward
Outs: Amobi Okugo – Midfielder, Pedro Ribeiro – Forward, Zac MacMath – Goalkeeper, Carlos Valdes – Defender, Aaron Wheeler – Forward
Key Player: Maurice Edu – Midfielder
After spending last season on loan with the Union, Maurice Edu made his permanent return to MLS this January. The midfielder started in all 31 of his appearances last season, scoring three times with two assists, and was a key man in the side. Edu led the team in tackles and made almost 3 per game. He played at centre-back at times last year but is expected to play in his more natural midfield role in 2015 alongside Vincent Nogueira.
One to watch: Fernando Aristeguieta – Forward
The Venezuelan striker has been brought in on loan from French side FC Nantes as a young Designated Player and will be expected to fire the Union to success in 2015. The 22-year-old has it all according to his new coach: “He can run, he’s big, he’s fast, he’s strong — he has all of those things. But he also has good technique too,” Curtin said. Watch out for Aristeguieta.
Predicted finish: Eastern Conference – 9th
Philadelphia Union have only made the playoffs once in their five-year history so far and that was in 2011. The wait could go on another year as it is unclear whether they have the strength in the current squad to make a splash in the Eastern Conference in 2015. It is a case of ‘what if’ as if Fernando Aristeguieta can score the goals, if Maurice Edu can control the midfield and if Steven Vitoria can shore up the defence then the Union could be a real force. But until they prove that there are too many teams that look stronger.
What are you expecting from the Philadelphia Union in 2015?