Philadelphia Union endured one of their most disappointing year’s in MLS in 2015. A ninth placed Eastern Conference finish and 18th place finish overall is the lowest in their short history so far. The season started slowly with just one win from their opening 11 games and they never strung a run of games together in an inconsistent campaign. The Union did manage to reach the final of the US Open Cup, where they agonisingly lost on penalties to Sporting Kansas City. But in MLS, it was a year with few highlights to reflect on and it’s certainly a case of onwards and upwards from now on. All that has gone before needs to be brushed under the carpet so that head coach Jim Curtin can rebuild and focus on achieving better results in the future.
Last season’s finish:
Eastern Conference – Position: 9th – P34 – W10 – D7 – L17Embed from Getty Images
What needs to change this year?
Philadelphia Union have never been as defensively poor as they were in 2015. They leaked 55 goals, which is more than they have conceded in any other season previously. The offseason has seen the Union revamp their squad, giving it a very different look, with 15 players departing and 12 new faces coming in. They’ve signed six new defenders in an attempt to steady the ship and give themselves strength in depth at the back. But it isn’t just defensive issues that need addressing. They had the least potent attack in the Eastern Conference last year, scoring 42 goals – only four teams scored less across the whole of MLS. Jim Curtin must find a way for his side to be more competitive offensively as well.
Key changes to squad:
Ins: Matt Jones – Goalkeeper, Anderson Conceicao – Defender, Joshua Yaro – Defender, Keegan Rosenberry – Defender, Taylor Washington – Defender, Cole Missimo – Defender, Ken Tribbett – Defender, Chris Pontius – Midfielder, Walter Restrepo – Midfielder, Roland Alberg – Midfielder, Ilsinho – Midfielder, Fabian Herbers – Forward
Outs: Zac MacMath – Goalkeeper, Ethan White – Defender, Steven Vitoria – Defender, Cristian Maidana – Midfielder, Andrew Wenger – Midfielder, Fred – Midfielder, Michael Lahoud – Midfielder, Zach Pfeffer – Midfielder, Fernando Aristeguieta – Forward, Conor Casey – Forward
Key Player:Embed from Getty Images
Chris Pontius – Midfielder – The experienced 28 year old arrives at Philadelphia Union after six successful years with DC United. He’s just the type of player the Union need in the centre of the park and he will bring with him the kind of winning mentality that’s been missing. The likes of CJ Sapong and Sebastien Le Toux up front should benefit from having Pontius in the side.
One to Watch:
Roland Alberg – Midfielder – The Dutchman has signed from Eredivisie side ADO Den Haag where he made 105 league appearances, scoring 22 goals and making 16 assists. He’s likely to slot straight into the Union side and could bring valuable experience having played for a number of years in Europe. At the age of 25, he’s approaching the peak of his career, so the Union will be hoping they’ll see the best of him.Embed from Getty Images
Eastern Conference – 9th – Philadelphia Union are certainly doing everything they can to make things work in 2016 with so much offseason activity. With so many changes, it’s going to take time for this team to gel. That’s not to say that things won’t fall into place eventually, but there are numerous other teams in MLS that appear to be in better shape than Philadelphia right now. It’s easy enough to point out the areas that need improving – they’re clear for all to see – but it’s a whole different task putting it into action and getting results on the pitch. The Union would be proving a lot of people wrong if they were to break into the top six this year, so it would certainly be a pleasant surprise if they could take the league by storm.
What are you expecting from Philadelphia Union in 2016?