Given the new faces, a manager that will head into his first complete season with his own staff and his own players looking to please a fan base eager to see the wrongs of 2012 turned right, there are some major things to ponder as we hurl toward the 2013 MLS season, which at the time of this post is a mere 59 days away.
In no particular order, here are just a few prevailing issues to consider and use as conversation at the water cooler.
Rotation of the strikers
Fan favorite Sebastien Le Toux is in back in the fold.
Colorado all-time scoring leader Conor Casey is in the mix.
But there is also 2012 top scorer Jack McInerney, Generation adidas stud Chandler Hoffman and second half spark Antoine Hoppenot are all still chomping at the bit. Union boss John Hackworth has always stated having depth allows for formation changes depending on opponent, but how much time do the latter three get assuming the tandem of Le Toux-Casey dominate? It’s a good problem to have, but you can’t have a disgruntled Jack McInerney especially if he comes into camp looking like the dangerous threat that ended this past year with eight goals.
Where to put Amobi Okugo and Gabriel Farfan
The assumption is that a healthy Bakary Soumare and a reinvigorated Jeff Parke will battle for the center back spot alongside captain Carlos Valdes (despite reports swirling of Valdes’ Colombian loan request).
With that said, Okugo, who filled in expertly last season, will return to his role as holding midfielder. And though he’ll have to battle Michael Lahoud for that spot, it’s where Okugo feels most comfortable. As for outside full, Hackworth has said in the past his intentions of finding a suitable left fullback to move Gabriel Farfan back into the midfield. So does Ray Gaddis find a left foot? Or will Hackworth and Co. look outside the current roster to bolster that spot?
What will January look like?
This month plans to do one of three things: strengthen the roster, bring in trade bait or provide an opportunity to pick up some more “allocation money.” We are now in the open of the international transfer window, two weeks away from the MLS SuperDraft (Jan. 17) and subsequent Supplemental Draft (Jan. 24) making this is a critical month. Teams all around MLS – specifically the Eastern Conference are beefing up – just look at Sporting Kansas City’s acquisition of designated player midfielder Claudio Bieler on an already talented lineup.
And they aren’t close to being done.
Florida as a permanent preseason destination
The days of carting the team off to some exotic country, where they can’t be seen of or heard from for weeks at a time is over. The powers that be within the Union organization have finally realized you can’t prepare for a 34-game MLS regular season playing third tier clubs from Costa Rica – or alienate fans by providing virtually no news from camp.
With that said, the Union is looking to make Florida – specifically the Orlando-Deltona – region a permanent preseason destination not just for the team, but for supporters alike much like Clearwater has become for the Phillies.
In addition, the Union will face off against MLS competition this preseason, taking part in the Disney Pro Soccer Classic at Wide World of Sports in Orlando and philadelphiaunion.com will be down to provide daily updates from training along with a video wrap of the day’s events.
John Hackworth’s first full season
When John Hackworth was announced as Union manager he took over the position with a roster rife with players he didn’t select and a losing record. Although the Union had a rough 2012, Hackworth did manage to win eight games and kept the club mathematically in the playoff hunt until the last few matches of the season. Now with fat trimmed of the roster and an offseason to pick his own talent, his coaching staff and assemble his definitive club, it’ll be interesting to see the makeup of the 2013 Philadelphia Union.
Contact Kerith Gabriel at email@example.com