2015 MLS Season Preview: Philadelphia Union
- Finished 6th in the Eastern Conference in 2014, just a place out of the playoffs but 7 points back of Sporting KC in 5th
- The club has a similar look from the end of 2014 to the start of 2015
- Biggest rival: DC United
Key Player: Maurice Edu
Sebastian Le Toux provides the firepower up front, but Maurice Edu arrived on loan last year and made an immediate impact, moving to defense and earning an All-Star selection. He could move back to his more natural DCM role this season with the loan signing of central defender Steven Vitoria from Benfica, which would serve Edu even better.
[ RELATED: All of PST’s MLS previews for 2015 ]
After his successful season in MLS, the 28-year-old signed a permanent, long-term deal with the Union over the offseason. With Edu left off the World Cup roster last summer, a solid 2015 year would essentially force Jurgen Klinsmann’s hand, as the USMNT is lacking in Edu’s position other than Kyle Beckerman. Will that push him to be a consistent anchor for the Union? The answer seems to be a definitive “yes” at this point.
Other names to watch: Rais M’Bohli, Fernando Aristeguieta, Sebastian Le Toux, CJ Sapong, Andrew Wenger
New signing Aristeguieta is going to be the man at the front to try and take goalscoring pressure off Le Toux on the wing. At 22 years old, Aristeguieta has already made a whopping 14 appearances for the Venezuelan national team and provides a physical presence in the opponent’s box. M’Bohli is thought of as the starter in goal now that Zac MacMath has departed, and he will look to produce the form we saw from him in the World Cup.
Manager: Jim Curtin
After coming in on an interim basis midseason last year, Curtin made an immediate impact and made Philadelphia’s playoff chase appear promising for a bit before falling short at the end. He was hired full-time in the offseason, and aside from signing the likes of Aristeguieta and CJ Sapong in the offseason along with central defender Vitoria, he has kept much of the squad the same. With so many teams making so many changes over the course of the offseason, Philly could have a leg up on the competition in the early going for this reason.
Given the Union job is Curtin’s first, it was a bit surprising how well he did sliding into a struggling team in the middle of last year, but with the jitters of his first job behind him, now is the time for Curtin to complete a full season with a squad that’s truly his. A Philadelphia native, the 35-year-old Curtin is one of a few ex-MLS players proving the transition from playing to coaching isn’t all that daunting after all.
Outlook for 2015
There’s a ton of optimism surrounding Philadelphia’s 2015 season, and rightly so. Curtin has essentially taken a team that missed the playoffs by seven points and added gobs of talent while not sacrificing much. Aristeguieta and Sapong will lead the attack, and with Le Toux and promising talent Andrew Wenger providing both goalscoring ability and creativity, the threat up front is solid. The defense conceded 51 times in 34 games last year, a number which must improve, but with Vitoria in the back line allowing Edu to move up, there’s now a solid link from back to front that should improve cohesiveness. This team is firmly on the bubble, and they know it, but they have a solid chance to make the playoffs for the first time in 2011 if they can put together a convincing, consistent season. A lot has to go right for them to snag a playoff spot, but they now have the talent to make that a realistic possibility.