CHESTER, Pa. — The Philadelphia Union completed their first MLS season with a 3-1 defeat on Sunday at the hands of the Columbus Crew. After 30 games full of ups and downs and plenty of fan support, one has to say that, for an expansion club, the Union had a pretty successful campaign.
In the coming weeks, The Dues will break down the team position-by-position, assessing how each performed and how they are expected to line up next season. But for now, the season deserves a quick recap.
The Union had a strong expansion draft: Jordan Harvey and Stefani Miglioranzi were excellent acquisitions by Team Manager Peter Nowak. Harvey, one of the most consistent performers on the team, was solid throughout the season and logged the most matches (30) and minutes (2,620). Miglioranzi helped to control the middle of the field and provided an excellent link between the defense and the men up front.
No, I didn’t forget about Sebastien Le Toux. How could you? The French forward was a revelation for the Union this season and certainly should be in the running for MVP. Without his contributions – goals, assists, and a tireless work rate – the Union would have far fewer points than they ended with this year.
The Union rocked the SuperDraft: How about this for a solid core of youngsters to get experience in their first year - Danny Mwanga, seven goals and four assists; Jack McInerney, three goals in limited playing time; Kyle Nakazawa, valuable set piece contributions and savvy play; Amobi Okugo, tenacious holding play and should be the eventual successor to Miglioranzi.
Under Nowak and Coach John Hackworth’s tutelage, the quartet quickly settled into their roles with the team and will surely improve on their strong rookie seasons in year two.
Nowak is grooming a successful future coach: John Hackworth has been excellent for the Union this season, both speaking to the media and handling touchline duties for Nowak at times. The American coach has learned quite a lot from Nowak and it wouldn’t be a surprise if Hackworth has a head coach gig somewhere in the league before long.
Midseason additions worked out - for the most part: Nowak & Co. added a number of players during the course of the season, and in most cases they were effective additions for the team. Justin Mapp came in from the Chicago Fire and added a spark with his veteran play and creativity. At the back, Juan Diego Gonzalez and Cristian Arrieta did their part but were cycled out of the lineup in favor of some younger players. Sheanon Williams was the most effective of all the additions as he came in and made the right back position his.
Player of the Week: Shea Salinas
Coming on at halftime, Salinas added something extra to a team that was already down 2-0. The midfielder has been in and out of the lineup this season with injuries but should be a fixture in the team as they move forward to 2011.
Little-Noticed Observation of the Week
Despite being outplayed in their last match and not being able to take any points back to Philadelphia to close out the year, the Union did get 16 shots on the Columbus goal, nine of which hit the target. Playing some of their better soccer when trailing (remember their match at the Galaxy earlier in the year?), Philadelphia are a team that refuse to quit. That is an admirable trait, and a credit to Nowak.
Nowak-ism of the Week
Starting Chris Seitz shouldn’t come as a shock. Brad Knighton was nursing a minor injury and Nowak wanted to see what his former No. 1 goalie was capable of. Faced with a very difficult penalty early in the match, Seitz was playing catch up for the remainder of the game. Playing Seitz was a good move by Nowak to see if he should keep him around for next season, something that remains to be seen.