In anticipation for the home opener, we're bringing you photos of the Union in action, but there's a trick. We've hidden the ball. Now it's up to you to spot where it is. Each photo has a poll where you can record your answer. You can also tweet your answer to @philaunion #SpotTheBall. There will be a new set of photos each day for the entire week!
The correct answers will be revealed tomorrow at 10:00 a.m.
Photo credit: Sideline Photos, Greg Carroccio (photos from 2014)
So everyone, how was your Monday? Ours was pretty good.
— Philadelphia Union (@PhilaUnion) February 9, 2015
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.
— Philadelphia Union (@PhilaUnion) February 6, 2015
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:
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:
Contact Philadelphia Union press officer Chris Winkler at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Below is a look at some of the recent and upcoming events on the Foundation calendar. To learn more or to get involved, contact the Philadelphia Union Foundation at email@example.com
Or visit our website, philadelphiaunion.com/foundation.
MLS WORKS & PUF Community Service Project @ Philabundance: January 14th
MLS W.O.R.K.S., CR reps from every club, Union, PUF, MLS Draftees and Zach Pfeffer joined to sort and pack over 4,000 lbs of food to be distributed to 400 shelters in 9 different counties. Furthermore, MLS W.O.R.K.S. and PUF gave Philabundance a donation that will provide food for 10,000 families. For more information on Philabundance visit: http://www.philabundance.org/. Check out the article here.
Philadelphia Union Foundation at the NSCAA Convention: January 14 – 18th
PUF in conjunction with NSCAA Foundation sponsored 6 coach scholarships to the NSCAA Convention that took place in Philly this year. These 6 coaches were able to grow their knowledge and networking of the sport. The PUF recognized the group at the PUF presentation at the convention, where PUF mission, goals, and current successes were presented.
MLK Day of Service: January 19th
Union representatives met at Chester high School for a Martin Luther King Jr. remembrance day, “Pieces of Peace”.
Shining Stars Award – March of Dimes: January 21st
CSN recognizes Union’s Ray Gaddis as a mentor to Shining Star Amelia Kepple. Ray and Amelia became friends over the past year and were able to spend time together at PPL Park. Ray, along with other athletes from the Philadelphia Professional Sport Teams were honored at the March of Dimes award banquet.
For more on Shining Stars and March of Dimes, please visit: http://www.csnphilly.com/page/shining-star
Simon’s Soiree: February 7th
The PUF will attend Simon’s Soiree in continued support of “Simon’s Fund”. PUF will work with this organization in continuing to spread awareness of heart conditions and the importance of heart screenings.
For more info visit: http://www.simonsfund.org/
Chester Football Program Dinner: February 28th
Rick Jacobs, Executive Director of the PUF will be the guest speaker at the Chester-Wide Football Program Dinner. The Foundation’s mission aims to provide opportunities to youth in the community. PUF feels that using sport as a conduit for change is a powerful approach. The Foundation is happy to collaborate with the Chester Football Program in order to bring awareness and initiative to the area’s youth sports programs.
Cocktails & Cleats: March 11th
The PUF brings you the 3rd annual Cocktails & cleats Celebration presented by Cozen O’Connor. Sign up now for a night filled with fun: silent and live auctions, plated dinner, open bar, complimentary valet parking, a chance to meet the Philadelphia Union team.
To register visit: http://www.philadelphiaunion.com/foundation
Give the Gift of Soccer – Chester City United: April 6th – June 6th
Chester City United will kick off in April of this year for a two season, 3 day a week, after school soccer program. But, we need your help! Give the Gift of Soccer - $30 will pay for the registration for one young soccer player to participate in this program. The program includes a t-shirt and other fun soccer gear!
To donate visit: http://www.philadelphiaunion.com/content/give-gift-soccer
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.
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.
— Philadelphia Union (@PhilaUnion) February 5, 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.
— Philadelphia Union (@PhilaUnion) February 6, 2015
Contact Union press officer Chris Winkler at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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.
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?
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 email@example.com.
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.
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.
— ray gaddis (@raygaddis) February 3, 2015
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Not that this team doesn't love Philly, but Monday's jaunt to Tampa was just what the doctor ordered. The Union left a cold, sleet-soaked PPL Park in the early hours of Monday morning and landed in 70-and-sunny Tampa, Fla. by early afternoon.
But don't mistake this for a vacation. By the time the team unloaded their bags and ate lunch, it was time to hit the pitch for their first training session during the second phase of preseason. After all, the Union's first preseason game -- against Armada FC -- is in just five days.
It started with an extended workout with strength and conditioning coach Kevin Miller. As head coach Jim Curtin alluded to, it was important to knock the jetlag out of everyone's legs. The team then broke into some small-sided games before basically going full-pitch in 10v10s. As Curtin has done for most of camp, players were split into three rotating teams with the outsiders working further with Miller. The defense is still controlling the run of play, but Curtin was encouraged with what he saw today, calling it a "good first day" as he addressed the team after practice. C.J. Sapong and Danny Cruz narrowly missed goals in the eight-minute sessions.
In particular, Richie Marquez looked pretty good anchoring a back-four for two separate squads. With 26 available players, Marquez doubled up and played all three scrimmages.
Rais Mbolhi is not in camp yet, but will be returning Sunday after his Algerian side was eliminated from the 2015 African Cup of Nations yesterday. The Fennecs lost 3-1 to Ivory Coast in the quarterfinals.
Academy-wise, Derrick Jones and Yosef Samuel are in camp and are training with the team in Clearwater. Sebastien Elney and Sean Wilson will join the group after their national team commitment comes to an end. Speaking of, both Elney and Wilson started today for them USMNT U18s, which drew 1-1 with Club Tijuana.
— U.S. Soccer YNT (@ussoccer_ynt) February 2, 2015
For the injuries, Brian Carroll and Michael Lahoud continue to sit out scrimmages, but are participating in all other team activities. Carroll is still rounding back into shape after a common winter cold forced him to miss most of the time at YSC. You can be sure the warmer climate is a welcome sight. Lahoud, meanwhile, is dealing with a minor right hand injury that shouldn't keep him out for much longer.
Finally, it was Carroll who claimed the best Super Bowl prediction; he had the Patriots winning 27-23. Elsewhere, Austin Berry joked about how good he felt about his 3-0 final after a scoreless first quarter, but the real winner Sunday was Boston-native Sheanon Williams.
Best Super Bowl ever
— Sheanon Williams (@sheanonwilliams) February 2, 2015
The team is back training tomorrow at 10 a.m. It looks like the first 11v11 scrimmage will be held on Wednesday. Got a question for us? Leave it in the comment section.
Contact Union press officer Chris Winkler at email@example.com
Week One of preseason is in the books as the Union wrapped up its first phase of training with the annual open practice on Friday at YSC Sports. After having the bitterly cold weekend off, the team departs for sunny Tampa, Fla. Monday morning so long as the snow holds off.
But what a week it was. Initial thoughts: this team is fit. Credit the dedication of some players who basically adopted YSC as a second home during the offseason. But the same can be said for those who left Philly during the offseason. As Jim Curtin noted in a recent interview with Delaware County Daily Times writer Matthew De George, a shorter offseason helps:
“It used to be when I played you’d be off for almost four months and, I’ll say, you’d have a lot more fun. It’s become much more of a year-round, full-time thing, and I can tell by the way (the players) came in that they’re really dialed in.”
Like everyone else, it was our first look at quite a few players, including second round pick Dzenan Catic. The NAIA Player of the Year has certainly looked the part so far, showing off his prowess in front of the net. Catic has caught the eye of just about everyone including Union beat writers Kevin Kinkead and De George.
Dzenan Catic https://t.co/y6xc71WyJT
— Kevin Kinkead (@KevinKCBS3) January 28, 2015
These are 7-on-7 half-field drills, but Dzenan Catic has scored 5 or 6 times in the 40 minutes I've been watching. He just knows where to be
— Matthew De George (@sportsdoctormd) January 30, 2015
Midweek, Catic joined Greg Orlandini and Eli Pearlman-Storch on the KYW Philly Soccer Show. If you haven’t heard it, you can listen here.
Moving on, Wednesday night included a Meet the Team event at Fado’s in Center City. All team members attended the renowned soccer bar, giving the top 150 Union Rewards Program winners a chance to meet their favorite players.
— Union Fan Services (@UnionFanService) January 29, 2015
Thursday was Media Day, allowing all Union players and coaches to meet with local broadcast rights’ holders. It’s also a big day for the Union video department, which shoots pretty much everything that fans see on the big screen during the year. Maurice Edu and Antoine Hoppenot got in on the fun.
The fun ramped up Friday with the annual open practice. A large crowd filled into YSC to catch the Union’s final session up north, and just about every fan in attendance got a hand shake from Curtin. Jim made the rounds after practice, but also gave a few young fans the memory of a lifetime beforehand. Yes, Union twitter, Jim Curtin is the man.
— Philadelphia Union (@PhilaUnion) January 30, 2015
Oh, and Ray Gaddis is too.
— ray gaddis (@raygaddis) January 30, 2015
And, yes today is the Super Bowl. The guys do have the day off and you better believe there’s some rooting interest out there. Diehard San Francisco 49ers fan Richie Marquez is, let’s just say, not rooting for the Seahawks. Boston native Sheanon Williams might just have a rooting interest, too. We made the rounds and got quite a few to go on record with their Super Bowl prediction. Final tally: a tie, 9-9.
|Maurice Edu||Seahawks||By at least 10|
There are a couple of other big games Sunday to note. Another chapter of the Old Firm rivalry was written Sunday morning, with Celtic beating Rangers 2-0. Maurice Edu, the former Rangers player, was on set with Fox Sports 1 to analyze the game. As usual, Mo killed it. Also coming up at 2:30 Eastern, Rais Mbolhi and Algeria take on Ivory Coast in the 2015 African Cup of Nations quarterfinals. The winner will play the Democratic Republic of Congo on Wednesday, Feb. 4.
Lastly, there’s just so much this week, but be sure to check out first week reactions from Edu, Catic, C.J. Sapong and Sebastien Le Toux. Also, a look at the first week of preseason Through Ben’s Bifocals.
Contact Philadelphia Union press officer Chris Winkler at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A little snow wasn’t going to get in the way for the Union on Tuesday, as the team hit the training facility at YSC for the fifth day in a row. While much of the northeast was under intense snow fall, only a few flurries hit the Philly area, allowing the Union to further prepare for the 2015 season.
But the sentiment amongst the players was simple: Monday can’t get here soon enough. The team is just six days away from flying down to Clearwater, Fla. for Spring Training, but who’s counting?
Snow days? pic.twitter.com/1dU8dYiFym
— Ethan White (@EthanWhite15) January 27, 2015
But until then, there’s plenty of work to be done. That continued Tuesday, the second day of an increased workload for Jim Curtin’s squad, which was again tested physically for the bulk of the 90-minute practice. It included 9v9 matches and a rotating group set aside for fitness with strength and conditioning coach Kevin Miller. Still, the players look as fit as can be despite being so early in the preseason, as highlighted by Union beat writer Matt De George.
Far away from the snow in Malabo, the capital city of Equatorial Guinea, Union goalkeeper Rais Mbolhi led Algeria to a 2-0 win over Senegal in Group C of the 2015 African Cup of Nations. The win gave Algeria six points in group stage, which advanced the Fennecs into the quarterfinals. They'll play the winner of a gridlocked Group D on Sunday, Feb. 1, which will be determined tomorrow.
As Curtin admitted after practice, it was a surprise to actually get into the facility Tuesday given the prior weather forecasts. The team took full advantage of it.
Also taking advantage of the practice was fourth round SuperDraft pick Raymond Lee, who showed some aerial prowess during this drill:
Absent from practice Tuesday were academy members Sebastian Elney and Sean Wilson. Currently playing for the U18s, they were called up to the U.S. Men’s National Team by head coach Javier Perez and will miss the rest of the week. The team will play in the 2015 Copa Chivas Tournament in Guadalajara, Mexico from Jan. 30 to Feb. 7 if they can reach the final.
Also, in case you missed it yesterday, Sheanon Williams took some time after practice to talk with Union beat writer Dave Zeitlin. He wants to win, no questions asked.
With no further weather advisories this week, the team will go on as scheduled tomorrow and Thursday at YSC. Fans interested in dropping in on the action can attend Friday for the annual open practice, held from 12-2 p.m.
Contact Philadelphia Union writer Chris Winkler at email@example.com
There were a lot of new faces (and new hairstyles, but we’ll get into that) when the Union kicked off preseason Monday morning at YSC Sports in Wayne.
Actually, preseason started late last week with players reporting for physicals and strength training sessions, but ball work featuring short sided drills, mini 7v7 matches and more was on display.
This year’s preseason roster features 35 players, but three weren’t at today’s practice as goalkeeper Rais Mbolhi, midfielder Brian Carroll and defender Carlos Valdes were absent from today’s proceedings.
Mbolhi is the obvious one as he’s been with the Algerian national team for weeks helping that nation chase an Africa Cup of Nations title. Speaking of which, Mbolhi and the Fennecs (Foxes) sit on three points with one more group match against Senegal this Tuesday.
For Carroll, it was personal reasons but the elephant in the room was the whereabouts of Valdes given the swirling rumors of a desire to leave the club. Valdes did appear later in the day at training but in street clothes to meet with team officials, one of which was technical director Chris Albright.
Following those discussions, Albright did confirm that there is an “negotiation ongoing” for the FIFA World Cup veteran. MLSSoccer.com writer Dave Zeitlin explains the situation perfectly which you can check out here.
The other 32 players in attendance today looked sharp in ball work and what we think fans coming out to Friday’s open practice (12-2 p.m.) will see is that every player is extremely fit. No one came into camp sluggish which certainly will make things interesting as the thinning of the herd happens before Monday’s flight to warmer temperatures in Clearwater, Fla.
Union midfielder Danny Cruz said as much today in an interview with media members:
“Everyone has bought in [to what head coach Jim Curtin] wants from us,” Cruz said. “So everyone even the guys on trial came in really fit and ready. It’s going to be a big preseason for us, and things are hopefully going to go in the right direction; we know what we need to do and it’s obviously playoffs or bust for us this season.”
— Philadelphia Union (@PhilaUnion) January 26, 2015
If you haven’t seen the complete list of players in camp, you can check that out here.
So earlier we mentioned hairstyles as we figured you may not recognize some of the players right now. So the rundown of new-do’s is as follows:
- Union goalkeeper Andre Blake is working the low fade
- Forward Antoine Hoppenot looks as though he’s taking tips from D.C. midfielder Chris Rolfe
But our personal favorite was captured by Delco Daily Times reporter Matt DeGeorge:
Austin Berry sporting the "high school basketball" look pic.twitter.com/FIaYZf8eae
— Matthew De George (@sportsdoctormd) January 26, 2015
Last but not least…
Given the impending “Snowmageddon” set to befall the Greater Philadelphia Region, Tuesday’s training session could be canceled at YSC Sports…however the snow did bring about this pretty sweet offer for fans (click the graphic to learn more):
And if there is a cancellation of training for Tuesday, Union defender Ray Gaddis has the right idea of what to do given the long months or rigorous training ahead before the March 7 opener against Colorado at PPL Park (4 p.m. ticket link?)
This weather out here today is so disrespectful. But it's okay I am going to be inside all day with bae. Which is Netflix.
— ray gaddis (@raygaddis) January 26, 2015
Contact Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel at firstname.lastname@example.org