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Finally: Soccer is back in Philadelphia. 
The Union open the 2019 season at home on March 2 against Toronto FC as they look to jump out to a hot start in what will likely be a crowded Eastern Conference playoff race. And if you are a Union fan, there are quite a few reasons to believe this is a season that could be special. 
First, there is the new philosophy and the tactics drawn from it. While there has been a huge focus on how different they may appear from last season, it's important to recognize how many of the principles of 2018 will be built on. The high pressure, front-foot style that focuses on disrupting opponent buildups remains, but the way it is enacted will be tweaked. The focus on defensive compactness is also still a part of Philly's plans, but expect them to double-down on it, especially in the center. And an emphasis on winning the transition game will, once again, be prominent in how the Union attack each match. 
The 4-4-2 shape that the Union have used throughout preseason allows them to approach these goals in a new way. Instead of preparing to stretch the field after creating a turnover so the wide players can isolate defenders, the 4-4-2 should allow Philly to push quickly into transitions before the opponent is organized. Additionally, it helps Jim Curtin's side quickly become compact after turnovers to prevent the other side from slicing them apart in transition moments. 
Second, there is the new personnel. Marco Fabián is an incredibly special player who can provide both a goal and assist threat from the center of the pitch. By using him as an attacking fulcrum, the Union should be able to create space for their other dangerous attackers. Importantly, this space will be ahead of the ball and, ideally, in channels or the center. Fabián won't have to do everything alone, though. Supported by Ale Bedoya, Ilsinho, Derrick Jones, and new homegrown signing Brenden Aaronson, he'll be looking to punch the ball forward to ten-goal scorers Fafa Picault, Cory Burke, and exciting new striker Sergio Santos. 
Santos, who Jim Curtin said this week has been clocked in at speeds at or greater than Fafa Picault, provides a lot of raw talent with a high ceiling, One of his best attributes in preseason and training though, is his defensive workrate. Santos and Burke chasing down defenders? That's something no other team wants to see. 
And third, there is the belief. In the season opening press conference, Jim Curtin talked about sitting with Ernst Tanner following the end of the 2018 season. They did not look at positives. They looked ahead. 
They looked at what they had, and what they wanted to be. 
Then they looked at what they needed to get there. 
Then they went out and did it. 
And now Toronto FC has to come into Philly and face this new-look side. 
TFC still has Jozy Altidore, if he's healthy enough to play. 
They still have Jonathan Osorio, Marky Delgado, and Michael Bradley, and that's a strong midfield. 
And all over the pitch they have experience winning. 
Will that be enough for the Canadians when Andre Blake, Ale Bedoya, Marco Fabián, and the rest of the Union step out into a raucous Talen Energy Stadium on March 2nd at 1 p.m