Preseason

24 February 5:19 pm

Just four days are left on the Philadelphia Union’s preseason schedule. Tuesday the club was back on the training ground after enjoying Monday off – the team’s second while in Florida.

But indeed it was a busy day -- aren't they all? The Union officially announced the signing of 22-year-old goalkeeper John McCarthy. A Philadelphia native -- and former La Salle and North Catholic High School standout -- McCarthy joins the Union after a stellar rookie season in USL Pro with Rochester Rhinos. He was the league’s Goalkeeper and Rookie of the Year after allowing a league-best 0.72 goals per game. McCarthy had been practicing with the team since the beginning of preseason.

The team also announced some more goalkeeping news, as Andre Blake officially settled for arthroscopic surgery after a nagging left knee injury suffered during the first phase of preseason in Florida. The move is precautionary in nature, and Blake should be back on the training grounds in four to six weeks.

Elsewhere, there was plenty going on. Maurice Edu quickly flew out to Tucson, Ariz., Sunday night to take part in a league-wide event with Continental Tire. The campaign, What Cha Got, features several MLS players racing a Lamborghini. The videos will be shown prior to MLS Games of the Week on Fox Sports. The player with the best time gets a nice prize… the car.

Elsewhere Cristian Maidana and Sebastien Le Toux spent the day on the golf course. No word on the winner.

 

another day of golf with my friend @touxi84

A photo posted by Cristian Chaco Maidana (@chacomaidana) on

Some guys decided to relax a little more at the comfort of their own home, the hotel. Courtesy of Ethan White’s Tumblr takeover, Sheanon Williams and Antoine Hoppenot relaxed in the pool. Fred, always trying to catch as much sun as possible, was on the beach.

But yes, they were back on the field Tuesday. Fernando Aristeguieta continues to get acclimated with his teammates, and there’s been plenty of two-striker looks alongside C.J. Sapong to take note of. Much of the workload Tuesday was during full-length intrasquad scrimmages that were eight minutes long.

On the injury front, Vincent Nogueira is back practicing with the team. He was held out of Saturday’s game as a precaution. Everyone else with the team is healthy and practicing. Second round draft pick Eric Bird is working through a groin injury.

In case you missed it, the Union held a team BBQ at Bright House Field, the Spring Training home of the Philadelphia Phillies (it’s also right across the street from the Union’s training facility). Before the game, Edu and Andrew Wenger had a chance to meet with Cliff Lee and the baseball Carlos Ruiz. You can see the Phillies video here, and Comcast SportsNet’s report here. Talk about Brotherly Love..

Lastly, Mo has taken over MLS SnapChat today, and in typical fashion, he’s killing it. For those of you who are perhaps a bit too old for that social media, here’s one of the highlights today with Mo, Ethan, C.J. and one unassuming Florida resident while grabbing lunch at Chipotle.

Contact Union press officer Chris Winkler at cwinkler@philadelphiaunion.com.

24 February 10:39 am

The Philadelphia Union hosted a free youth soccer clinic in Clearwater, Fla on Sunday, February 22nd. Brian Carroll, Sebastien Elney and Will Campbell helped out at the clinic! 

Photo Credits: Sideline Photos, LLC

19 February 2:54 pm

This afternoon, new striker Dzenan Catic participated in a Reddit AMA for /r/mls. For those who are not familiar with Reddit, AMA stands for Ask Me Anything. From 2-3 p.m., Dzenan answered questions ranging from being a rookie to if he likes onion rings or french fries. Click here for a total recap of his AMA! You might learn a thing or two about our new striker.

 

19 February 10:31 am

Photo credit: USA TODAY Sports Images, Jonathan Dyer

17 February 4:49 pm

It’s been a busy first 24 hours for the Union back under the Florida sun. The team practiced from 5-6:30 p.m. Monday night upon arrival in the sunshine state, then had their longest session of the preseason Tuesday morning. With a 2:30 game looming Wednesday in the IMG Suncoast Pro Classic, the team had the rest of the day off.

Tuesday, though, Jim Curtin and his staff turned the intensity up. After fitness and passing, the team broke into three groups for extensive 1on1 and 2on2 drills featuring keepers. There were goals around but it was Rais Mbolhi making plenty of good saves. Here’s a small sample as he stops Zach Pfeffer twice:

 

Brick wall doing the keeping today

A video posted by Philadelphia Union (@philaunion) on

 

Much of the last hour was given to multiple three-quarters field intra-squad scrimmages. Mbolhi’s solid play continued as he kept a clean sheet for the entire duration. C.J. Sapong got on the score sheet for the orange team.

Lineups
Orange (4-2-3-1): Mbolhi; Gaddis, Vitoria, White, Williams; Edu, Nogueira; Wenger, Maidana, Le Toux, Sapong.
Grey (4-2-3-1): McCarthy; Fabinho, Marquez, Will Campbell, Lee; Lahoud, Carroll; Pfeffer, Fred, Ayuk, Casey.

Also subbing for the gray squad was Dzenan Catic, Jimmy McLaughlin and Antoine Hoppenot. Danny Cruz was back on the practice field Tuesday, but sat out the scrimmages. Academy member Sebastian Elney (along with Will Campbell) have joined the team for this session. However, Elney sat out the scrimmages.

As mentioned earlier, the IMG Suncoast Pro Classic kicks off tomorrow. Cruz and assistant coach B.J. Callaghan were on hand for the tournament’s kick-off event last night in Lakewood Ranch. Both met with local media and signed some autographs for young fans.

 

 

From yesterday, @dannycruz5 signs autographs at IMG kickoff event.

A photo posted by Philadelphia Union (@philaunion) on

That event starts tomorrow at 12 p.m. with Columbus Crew taking on London United. The Union open at 2:30 against Costa Rica U-23s, the other half of the group. London United will be replacing TP Mazembe, who could not make the trip, and will be the Union’s second game of the tournament on Saturday night.

All games at the tournament will be streamed live at IMG’s website, and will also be available later if you can’t catch them live.

Of course, there was plenty of good news Monday. The U16s scored a dramatic late goal to defeat New York Red Bulls 1-0 and advance to the Generation Adidas Cup Final Group Stage. The late goal vaulted the team past the Red Bulls in the group, claiming the second and final spot in GA Cup from the East region. This reaction is just priceless:

They’ll pick back up over Easter weekend in Dallas, Texas for the championship.

Contact Philadelphia Union press officer Chris Winkler at cwinkler@philadelphiaunion.com.

 

09 February 4:18 pm

So everyone, how was your Monday? Ours was pretty good.

Yes, 6-foot-5 center back Steven Vitoria is officially a member of your Philadelphia Union. Vitoria was born and raised in Toronto, Canada, but moved to Portugal when he was 18-years-old to advance his professional soccer career.

He’s now 28 and has been with Portuguse powerhouse Benfica for the past 18 months. He gained notoriety during the 2011-12 season when he led Estoril to a Portuguese second-division title. The following year, he helped guide the team to a fifth place finish in Primeira Liga and into Europa League Qualifying. The ensuing offseason he joined Benfica.

Along with the rest of his new teammates, Vitoria and the Union were back on the training grounds Monday morning to jump start their second week in Clearwater, Fla. Following Saturday night’s loss to Jacksonville, the team bus arrived back at hotel shortly after midnight and Jim Curtin gave his team the day off Sunday.

It was a perfect day to recharge the batteries, especially for yours truly.

But first, let’s recap some of the weekend. C.J. Sapong took over our Twitter account on the way to Jacksonville. Fans could directly reach him by using #AskCJ and, as expected, he was a beast. Really, what more would you expect from this guy? Among the litany of questions he answered, he might, just might, have a date circled on his calendar (looking at you, Sporting Kansas City).

And there was also this. We're sorry, Andre Blake.

 

I'm sure Dre will be out for revenge. Elsewhere, a couple of fun videos you may have missed over the weekend included some behind the scenes shots from Media Day. Maurice Edu is in the middle of it, as usual. Jimmy McLaughlin and Antoine Hoppenot had a pretty good time, too. And you saw a snippet of this in last week’s Daily Doop, but here’s some video of Andrew Wenger testing his hand in broadcasting with Zach Pfeffer.

Saturday, the Union lost 3-1 to Armada FC, although I’m sure you already knew that. Yes, we know all of you out there in Doop-land aren’t happy. Guess what – neither are we.

Good news: it’s one preseason game and there are still five more to get it right. The first step in that direction is tomorrow night against Tampa Bay Rowdies, tomorrow, at 6 p.m. at our Spring Training home, Joe DiMaggio Complex.

Preparation for that started today, with the longest single-training session of the preseason so far. After typical fitness and passing work, teams were split up for 4v4, 6v6 and 8v8 games for over an hour. Vitoria spent much of the day with the first team and was teamed up with Ethan White during the 8v8. There were a few other highlights including this goal from Sapong:

 

Love the finish from @bigafrika88

A video posted by Philadelphia Union (@philaunion) on

The team had a lifting session in the afternoon and will have a relatively quiet day tomorrow morning. It looks like there will be a light run in the morning, and the team will be ready to go against Tampa Bay for a 6 p.m. kickoff. Follow our live updates from Joe DiMaggio Complex.

After Tuesday wraps up, the team's first phase of Spring Training in Clearwater is just about over. The team will have two more training sessions, Wednesday and Thursday, respectively, and will fly back to Philadelphia Thursday afternoon. The guys will get the rest of the weekend off before flying back to Clearwater Monday morning.

A few more things I have to push because, frankly, I just like all of them. Have you tried our spot the ball challenge? I went 0-for-3. The answeres will be revealed tomorrow at 10 a.m. Also, a new mic'd up is out with Curtin, White and Danny Cruz. By far my favorite part is Austin Berry having a little fun with our audio guys:

 

Here's a sneak peak of the new mic'd up video during spring training. Full video will be released today.

A video posted by Philadelphia Union (@philaunion) on

Contact Philadelphia Union press officer Chris Winkler at cwinkler@philadelphiaunion.com.

05 February 7:36 pm

It's Day Four here in beautiful Clearwater, Fla., and even a hectic overnight thunderstorm didn't halt the Union's practice plans.

OK, a morning lift was the plan, anyhow.

But if you've been following along this week, you've probably noticed strength and conditioning coach Kevin Miller is usually the first name mentioned. The players might be getting sick of seeing Kevin, too. But he's the best in the business for a reason and today three separate groups had a 30-minute lifting session with the coach.

In the afternoon, the team had another rigorous two-hour session on a wet, but playable field. Much of the last hour was dedicated to rotating four-goal games, with keepers Andre Blake, John McCarthy, Brian Sylvestre and Zak Downes in net. Downes is another new trialist with the club. Don't worry Union fans, Vincent Nogueira was back on the field Thursday, joined by Brian Carroll and Michael Lahoud who have both been nursing injuries, as previously reported. Nogueira's off-day during Wednesday's scrimmage seemingly had people worried. But the move was precautionary and he was back on the field for the entire afternoon session.

The head coach Jim Curtin was busy today, too. Curtin held a 1 p.m. conference call with reporters to discuss the upcoming match against Jacksonville Armada FC. Yes, I know -- we all know -- there are other things on everyone's mind. Jim answered a few of them, as reported by Dave Zeitlin of MLSsoccer.com, including this about his look at the transfer market:

“We have clear targets, and we’re actively pursuing them. But at the same time, the guys that are here having the success they’re having is good. I want competition at every spot. I want guys to always be looking over their shoulder and know there’s someone pushing behind them.”

Elsewhere, there's plenty of news to report from us, too. The team reached an agreement with 6abc, Comcast SportsNet and The Comcast Network to broadcast all local games this year. Along with three other home games, the season opener against Colorado Rapids on March 7 will be broadcast on 6abc. CSN and TCN will split the remaining 21 locally televised games. The Union have nine on national TV.

Also, if you missed it yesterday, 10 members of the Union academy signed national letters of intent to play soccer at Division 1 colleges this upcoming season. You can see our report here.

In other news, Fred did not win the Powerball last night. He was back on the field today, but happy as ever. "Next time" he said.

 

We're ready for Day Four in @MyClearwater. @freddasilva77 is here, he did not win PowerBall.

A photo posted by Philadelphia Union (@philaunion) on

 

More from yesterday: if you caught Wednesday's Daily DOOP, I had mentioned Andrew Wenger had scored a goal during an intra-squad scrimmage. He then tried his hand at broadcasting, leading me to wonder if there's anything more he could do. Well, add editor to this list. I mistakenly credited Wenger with a goal that was actually Cristian Maidana, as Andrew pointed out to me. Thanks for reading, Andrew. Sorry, Chaco. Sorry, fans.

Elsewhere, our video team pushed out two awesome videos that you may not have seen. We go behind the scenes with Dzenan Catic on our "On the Road" series. And, Jim Curtin, Ethan White and Zach Pfeffer react to the second week of training.

Catic, the rookie, was great, but hopefully you saw C.J. Sapong getting into a freestyle post-practice. Sapong does all of the rounds for us, as you may have noticed, and tomorrow we're thrilled to have him do another. C.J. is taking over Twitter from 1:30-2:30 as the Union head for Jacksonville for their first preseason game of 2015.

We're back at it tomorrow with a morning session before a quick lunch. The team heads for Jacksonville early in the afternoon ahead of Saturday's match and will have the night off upon arrival. And if you haven't started your countdown yet, please do. You know we have.

Contact Union press officer Chris Winkler at cwinkler@philadelphiaunion.com.

04 February 7:50 pm

Wednesday offered the best weather so far since the Union have been in Clearwater, and coincidence or not, out came the goals. Just a day after C.J. Sapong said the offensive flow was coming along, a barrage of goals highlighted the afternoon’s session full-length scrimmage.

The increased length and width probably helped, too.

But Wednesday started far away from the Union’s practice facility at the Joe DiMaggio sports complex. Strength and conditioning coach Kevin Miller took the team on an 8 a.m. run along the beach outside of the Union’s hotel room.

 

Good morning from #Clearwater

A photo posted by Philadelphia Union (@philaunion) on

The team had the rest of the day off until afternoon intersquad scrimmages. After a 20-minute workout, the teams were broken into three squads and played two 30-minute matches.

First Game
Red team (4-4-2): Andre Blake; Fabinho, Ethan White, Austin Berry, Sheanon Williams; Jimmy McLaughlin, Eric Bird, Fred, Danny Cruz; C.J. Sapong, Conor Casey.
Gray team (4-2-3-1): John McCarthy; Raymond Lee, Maurice Edu, Richie Marquez, Ray Gaddis; Aodhan Quinn, Zach Pfeffer; Andrew Wenger, Cristian Maidana, Sebastien Le Toux; Dzenan Catic.

Dzenan Catic started the scoring about five minutes in off a feed from Cristian Maidana. It was a good pass from Maidana as Catic found a sliver of space inside 18, and then beat Andre Blake to his left. But the red team equalized immediately, with Sapong taking advantage of a failed clearance before finishing.

Zach Pfeffer had a strong game in the midfield and banged home a goal around the 12-minute mark (assist to Sebastien Le Toux) to put the gray team back ahead. He then added an assist late in the match to Andrew Wenger to put gray up 3-1, where it ended.

“Yea I liked [where I played today], I felt comfortable,” Pfeffer said. “Chaco [Maidana] and I had the freedom to change – I started at the 8, he was the 10 – and we were able to interchange. I thought it worked well.”

Wenger had a strong game, too, looking very much like his usual self up along the left wing. And in case you were wondering what more the former ACC Offensive, and Defensive, Player of the Year could do, how about broadcasting?

 

We have a new reporter on staff #SunSandSoccer

A photo posted by Philadelphia Union (@philaunion) on

 

Second Game
Red team (4-2-3-1): John McCarthy/Andre Blake; Fabinho, Austin Berry, Ethan White, Raymond Lee; Eric Bird, Aodhan Quinn; Jimmy McLaughlin, Cristian Maidana, Danny Cruz; Dzenan Catic.
Gray team (4-2-3-1): Brian Sylvestre; Petros Kanakoudis, Aaron Simmons, Derrick Jones, Navid Nasseri; Michael Lahoud, Brian Carroll; Yosef Samuel, Antoine Hoppenot, Eric Ayuk Mbu; Aaron Wheeler.

In between scrimmages, head coach Jim Curtin stressed the importance of defending and it showed. The fresh gray team had the run of play for much of the early portion of the match, but it went scoreless for about 25 minutes. The best scoring chance during that period came from an Aaron Wheeler header that Blake saved. It was a nice build-up play along the left side between trialist Petros Kanakoudis and academy member Yosef Samuel, with Kankoudis playing the cross in.

Danny Cruz scored the game’s lone goal thanks to a nice run without ball to latch onto a cross for a tap-in. The gray team didn’t go down without a fight though, as trialist Eric Ayuk Mbu powered a header in that forced a diving stop from trialist John McCarthy.

So yes, the goals were there, but defender Ethan White had a logical explanation. After all, it was the team’s first full-length scrimmage.

“It’s always frustrating giving up goals, especially when they’re preventable,” he said, “But when we get into bigger spaces, that means there’s more room for error. Guys are still getting to know each other – we’ll get it together.”

The injury report is the same. Both Brian Carroll and Michael Lahoud got into the final scrimmage and are on the mend. He'll be ready to go for Saturday's preseason match against Jacksonville. Other non-roster invitees not mentioned include trialists Aodhan Quinn and Navid Nasseri, who both joined the training sessions yesterday. And as we reported on Monday, academy member Derrick Jones is with the club as well as Samuel. Fellow members Sebastien Elney and Sean Wilson will join the team soon.

So Day Three from Clearwater is in the books. Curtin has liked what he’s seen so far.

“The workload has really increased, we’re getting some fitness work in,” he said. “We pushed them out here today for the first time in a 30-minute scrimmage – some guys got pushed a little more. I was happy with the chances we created – I thought we scored some good goals – but we need to work on some team defensive things, not just the back four.

“It’s still early, though,” he continued. “We have some time to get things right.”

And on the fun side, the powerball lottery is up to $317 million with another drawing tonight. Fred was kind enough to let us know why he might not be at work tomorrow. Best of luck.

Contact Union press officer Chris Winkler at cwinkler@philadelphiaunion.com.

03 February 6:52 pm

Jim Curtin and his staff doubled-up on Day Two in Clearwater, giving his team arguably the most rigorous session of the preseason in the morning before finishing with a light hour-long practice in the late afternoon.

The morning started with another long workout from strength and conditioning coach Kevin Miller. Miller’s role is as vital as ever during the early part of the preseason and it’s showing with the time dedicated to fitness. Along with YSC’s director of sports science, Garrison Draper, the Union are monitoring each players’ movement during practice by placing a chip within a practice jersey. We’ll sit down with Kevin and Garrison to break this down in the future.

On the field, though, Miller was on his ‘A’ game today, psyching out a few players while barking out directional instructions while pointing in another direction. He’ll have to apologize to some our non-English speakers.

 

Strength and Conditioning coach Kevin Miller having some fun with the guys. And Sebastien says Hi.

A video posted by Philadelphia Union (@philaunion) on

Half-field 8v8s ended the morning session and the offensive flow is certainly starting to come together. On one of the gray teams, Andrew Wenger and C.J. Sapong, in particular, looked to be gelling. Sapong, who was acquired in December, likes what he sees so far but admits it’s a work in progress.

“I think the offense has been really good – the ideas are there,” Sapong said. “People are still trying to get their legs underneath them and it’s going to take us a while to get used to each other. That will come with time, though. Right now, everybody is still trying to find their flow and to make sure that we’re peaking come March 7.”

The night session wrapped up with a few passing drills and was light in nature. Again, more cardio work with Miller in between drills. Of note, Fred was on the money for most of the drill and even curled in a nice goal from the edge of the 18.

That's it for it Day Two. Another strong, healthy day -- nothing new on the injury report. And if you haven't seen them, Ray Gaddis is looking good in his new boots.

Elsewhere, Conor Casey talked to Union beat writer Jeff McMenamin and said the playoffs are the only thing on his mind. He also added:

"We haven’t made them since I’ve been here. As a forward you always think about the points that you missed and not the ones you put in so I want to score as many goals as I possibly can. Thinking about the past two seasons, a goal here or there would’ve clinched a playoff spot for us and I’m hoping to erase those memories this year. With this group of guys, we expect to be there.”

Over at MLSsoccer.com, Eric Bird talked to Union beat writer Dave Zeitlin. His main goal, right now, is to make the team. He also talked about his preference of playing centrally in the midfield and being that key playmaker to link the defense to the offense:

“It’s a role I think I really thrive in. I like to be the guy that people look to and lean on. Being a part of [the national championship] and playing the role I did was a really cool experience.”

And Cristian Maidana took some time to talk to the Union video team and shared his thoughts on the upcoming season.

Contact Union press officer Chris Winkler at cwinkler@philadelphiaunion.com.