Positives galore looking at the 2013 Union schedule

Five reasons why supporters should be psyched about the slate

There is little argument that the 2013 Philadelphia Union schedule is the most favorable the club has had in its four-year existence. Just by opening the season at home on March 2 makes it a mega bonus for fans that don’t have to watch the team open an MLS campaign in the Pacific Northwest – or the Texas heartland.

In addition, starting off against a giant like Sporting Kansas City (4 p.m., 6ABC) is a big step that with a win will set this club off on the right foot and perhaps even erase (in the eyes of most Union fans, anyway) a very arduous 2012 campaign.

Given well over to 24 hours to look at the 34-match slate, www.philadelphiaunion.com picked out the top 5 positives, hoping that like us, the following has you just as excited as we are about the rundown.

Watch: Is it March Yet?

5. Travel time reduced.

The amount of trips to the other side of the country has been drastically slashed; the Union travel out west only four times this season: Colorado (March 9, 6 p.m.), Real Salt Lake (July 3, 10 p.m.), Vancouver (July 27, TBD) and a nightcap tilt on Sept. 14 against San Jose (11 p.m.). Los Angeles (May 15, 7:30 p.m.), Chivas USA (July 12, 7:30 p.m.), Seattle (May 4, 7:30 p.m.) and Dallas (June 29, 5:30 p.m.) all travel to PPL Park this season. In years past, the Union was the road dog, heading out west five times in 2012, nine times in 2011 and seven in 2010.

4. Another big year for national TV recognition

Much like 2012, providing the Union with national exposure on television has remained status quo. There are 10 regular season matches scheduled to air nationwide across three different families of networks. The majority (six) will be on the NBC Sports Network, with the remainder spread across ESPN (3) and a June 1 airing on Canadian network TSN.

This provides a perfect segue into our No. 3 reason on the countdown…

3. Rivalries are on national TV

That’s right. With the exception of an Oct. 12 match against D.C. United (7 p.m.) the other five times we play United and Red Bull New York are scheduled to be broadcast nationally, two matches back-to-back in August are scheduled for primetime . The Union kickoff the rivalry on March 30 against New York at Red Bull Arena (3:30 p.m., NBC Sports) followed by:

  • Saturday, April 21 at D.C. United, 5 p.m. (ESPN2)
  • Sunday, June 23 vs. New York, 5 p.m. (ESPN)
  • Saturday, Aug. 10 vs. D.C. United, 8 p.m. (NBC Sports)
  • Saturday, Aug. 17 at New York, 8 p.m. (NBC Sports)

2. Homecoming storylines

We got Sebastien Le Toux back.

Conor Casey is on board.

Jeff Parke is all in.

All three were acquired in the offseason and all three will see their former club (and in Le Toux’ case, clubs) for the first time since putting on a Union uniform. Le Toux will revisit Red Bull Arena and BC Place this season, Casey will get an immediate homecoming with Colorado following the season opener and Parke has Seattle visiting his new digs on May 4. All three of those are intriguing storylines that assuredly will be plastered via the mediasphere as those dates grow closer.

1. Defending MLS champs in the house.

Who knows how the Los Angeles Galaxy will look when they visit PPL Park on May 15? What we do know is that they will be without their face of the franchise in David Beckham and it’s anyone’s wager which way Galaxy veteran Landon Donovan is starting to tip, as reports continue to guess whether he’s truly considering taking a break from the beautiful game or even possibly inching towards retirement. However, the Galaxy is still looking a formidable bunch headlined by Irish striker Robbie Keane. The team also locked up former Tottenham goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini this offseason and defender Omar Gonzalez is in a great position to have another breakout season.

But regardless of how LA looks, the Galaxy will have to prove their mettle under the lights at PPL Park with game time schedule for a 7:30 p.m. kick.

Contact Kerith Gabriel at kgabriel@philadelphiaunion.com