Since his hiring in May of last year, Union coach Peter Nowak has methodically grafted a squad of players who have every chance of outdoing what the Sounders did in their first season in the league. Built with youth, depth and the necessary veteran presence, Philly will field a team that’s ready for anything its inaugural season can throw at them.
Here’s a quick breakdown of who we’ll see scampering across the field draped in khaki and blue, by position, and in depth chart order.
GOALKEEPERS: Chris Seitz, Brad Knighton, Brian Perk
A very talented but raw group, the shot-stoppers for the Union have the potential to really raise some eyebrows this season.Led by Seitz, the veteran of the bunch with seven career MLS appearances, it’s clear they do lack some experience. However, what they may lack in experience they make up for in ability.
DEFENDERS: Danny Califf, Shavar Thomas, Michael Orozco, Jordan Harvey, Dave Myrie
Gritty and determined, they will look to pressure the opposition with their quickness. No player stands taller than 6-foot-1, but that won’t stop them from harassing whoever gets close to the Union end. Califf is the biggest name (22 U.S. national team caps) and his work in the middle will anchor the back line. The 30-year-old is joined by fellow U.S. international Michael Orozco, who has Mexican league experience with San Luis.
MIDFIELDERS: Fred, Stefani Miglioranzi, Amobi Okugo, Toni Stahl, Roger Torres, Shea Salinas, Andrew Jacobsen, Kyle Nakazawa
Easily the deepest position on the roster, the Union’s midfield is full of versatile players who can work in different areas of the pitch, providing a variety of attacking and defensive options. Nowak will use veterans such as Fred and Miglioranzi to set the pace in the middle while spreading it out to skillful players like Torres, Salinas and Stahl in the wide areas.
FORWARDS: Alejandro Moreno, Sébastien Le Toux, Danny Mwanga, Jack McInerney, Nick Zimmerman
This could be the most talented group on the team. Plucked from last year’s expansion team, Le Toux knows all about playing in front of new soccer fans when he debuted with Seattle and played in 28 matches.
Holding up the play will be the ultimate MLS veteran: Moreno. His has 43 goals and 28 assists through his eight years in league, and will be the target man for the Union. Whoever is his forward partner will benefit from the balls that Moreno tirelessly chases down. The first overall pick in this year’s MLS SuperDraft, Mwanga, could be that beneficiary. A player who may prove to be a better finisher than the Venezuelan Moreno, Mwanga will be counted on to put a number of goals away in his first season.
From top to bottom, the lineup looks quite solid on paper. It’s never easy to put a team together from scratch, but Nowak is a master motivator and player manager. What we see on the field from the Union will surely reflect this. Eight days to go, people.