Preseason for the Philadelphia Union has finally begun, and the high anticipation and expectation for the Union this year has picked up. Since last year’s disappointment in the league, the Union have made some key signings and have been very busy.
In this year’s MLS Super Draft, the Union traded up from second to first to sign Connecticut goalkeeper Andre Blake. At first this move seemed questionable, as the Union already had drafted 23 year-old goalie Zac Macmath 2 years prior. However, this years draft class was poor and the the coaching staff must have just decided to take the best man available, a man with apparently unlimited potential. Along with Blake, Philly elected to draft Pedro Ribeiro, a midfielder out of Coastal Carolina Reading United. In the second round, the Union selected Kevin Cope, a defender out of Michigan St. Ribeiro and Cope are guaranteed to be role players, and players that will be sure to provide valuable minutes for John Hackworth in the future.
As the players arrived in Florida for preseason, big news was in the making as United States and Stoke City midfielder Maurice Edu was inked to the club. A proven midfielder in the holding role, Edu has showed his talents on the biggest stage in world soccer, the World Cup and Barclays Premier League. Unfortunately, Edu has struggled to get game time as of late and has asked for a move to get ready for the World Cup this summer in Brazil. A former number 1 pick in the MLS draft, Edu brings the star quality this side has been searching for. As of now, Edu is on a loan to buy contract, which gives the option for the Union to sign him permanently from Stoke City at the end of this year. They have seen glimpses of stardom from striker Jack McInerny, but the home-grown academy player has yet to prove he is consistent on the highest level.
When you look at this Union side, you see a very balanced team with discipline, yet a creative flair. Edu will provide cover in front of the defense, allowing attacking players such as Sebastien Le Toux, McInerny, Michael Farfan, and Danny Cruz to get up the pitch and create some goals.
Unfortunately, this team still has two holes it needs to cover. The defense is still a little shaky. Sure, Andre Blake will be slide straight onto this team and perform, but he needs defensive cover. They have proven defenders such as Sheanon Williams, Amobi Okugo, and Fabinho, but overall they are young and inexperienced. Their only other defender would be Jeff Parke, but his less-than-stellar performances and ageing body just simply isn’t good enough if the Union want to compete. If Philly can just fill the gap in the defense then I am sure they will have a good season.
Another problem is the lack of depth on this Union squad. They made good acquisitions in this year’s draft, but the bench is very weak. If the Union can find players that are willing to play a role in this team, they can be very successful.
If everything goes according to plan, I see the Union being in the playoffs and possibly in the running for the semifinals. However, the Union have been known to be very weak mentally, and they tend to lose their focus when it matters. If Hackworth can drill the focus and mental drive it takes to be successful in this league, the Union can do big things.
Many don’t understand the magnitude of importance the signing of a player of Edu’s caliber can do for the Union. Much like Mesut Ozil did for Arsenal, this signing could see their side lifted to the top of the league.