PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Union are nearly halfway through their first MLS season. It may seem like forever ago that the hungry soccer fans in the area were drooling for a chance to see the Union play one match, but with 14 under their belt, it’s safe to say they are now an established club.
Therefore, a general grading of what we’ve witnessed from the expansion club is appropriate. We all know they only have 14 points in as many matches, but is that a fair estimation of how they actually played?
As someone who has covered Philadelphia pretty closely from the start, I emphatically say no. Team Manager Peter Nowak has crafted together a tight-knit squad that can really play and have pushed teams to the limit on numerous occasions.
To keep things simple, I’ll break things down by position and highlight who has done well, who needs improvement and will throw in the star performer in each area.
Grade: B - ; Top Man: Chris Seitz.
Seitz has been the guy all season for the Union. The 23-year-old shot-stopper has started every league matches this season and, as to be expected from a young keeper, he has had his worries between the pipes at times. However, as the season has gone on, he appears to be getting stronger.
A supremely talented player, Seitz has also saved his team on numerous occasions this year and has shown flashes of the unbeatable veteran presence that he and the rest of his team hopes he can transform into in the years to come.
Backing up Seitz has been two other talented keepers, Brad Knighton and Brian Perk, both of whom have seen limited action, but looked quite good when they were in there.
Grade: B - ; Top Man: Cristian Arrieta.
Anchored by their captain, Danny Califf, the Union defense has been similar to the goalies this season. A bit sloppy and disjointed in the early part of the year, they have come together as a unit and played much better in the middle part of the season.
The addition of Cristian Arrieta was a massive one for Nowak, as the Italian-American has really settled things down and his cool touch has gotten the team out of many jams. Playing in the middle or on the right, the 30-year-old has impressed every time he’s been on the pitch.
Jordan Harvey and Michael Orozco Fiscal have rounded out the back four and the pair has really kept things together in the first half.
Grade: C+; Top Man: Fred.
Performances have varied in the middle of the park for the Union. Guys like Fred and Stefani Miglioranzi have added a solid veteran presence to a side that surely needs it, given the number of young guys on the roster.
Philadelphia’s strength this season has been their fluid passing game and their two Brazilians have been a major reason for that. Having Sebastien Le Toux drop in from his forward spot certainly helped.
Some of the younger guys like Roger Torres, Amobi Okugo and Kyle Nakazawa have been in and out of the line-up as they slowly become accustomed to life in the pros.
Grade: A - ; Top Man: Sebastien Le Toux.
Nothing against the other areas of the field, but the men up top for Philadelphia have really been putting in the work. Led by the fantastic Le Toux, who has had his hand in basically every goal the team has ever scored, the forwards have looked lethal as any set in the league.
Joining the Frenchman in the scoring often column is this year’s first overall pick in the SuperDraft, Danny Mwanga. The rookie started slow but has come on as of late and every shot he takes seems to either threaten the goal or end up inside it.
Last but not least in this talented group is Venezuelan workhorse Alejandro Moreno. Without his unheralded contributions, the Union would hardly be where they are today.
The Union have looked much better than their record may show. With 16 matches remaining – the bulk of those at home – and Nowak providing the steadying presence from the bench, we could see much more from Philadelphia as the second half of their inaugural season gets underway.