Whether you’re the defending MLS Cup champions or the club which finished last, change is inevitable.
The Los Angeles Galaxy won another title and made changes to their roster. Toronto FC, which won just five matches last season, made a plethora of changes.
Every club in the league reshuffled and retooled following last season.
The Philadelphia Union were no different.
Following a 10-18-6 season, the Union began revamping their roster.
They welcomed back forward Sebastien Le Toux and added the likes of forward Conor Casey and defender Jeff Parke. They said goodbye to defender and captain Carlos Valdes and will likely do the same to midfielder Freddy Adu.
That’s just the beginning.
The MLS SuperDraft provided Northeastern’s Don Anding with the No. 26 overall pick.
Other changes could be on the way in a very fluid league.
For now, the Union realized they needed to improve their club.
“I think we made a lot of good changes and obviously I was very excited to come back here,” Le Toux said. “This is a club that made the playoffs two years ago. Last year was tough and everything went the wrong way. There were no breaks. I like the changes made for this season and I’m very excited about the potential of this club.
“I think it’s a matter of us coming together in preseason, getting a good feel for each other, and continuing to get better. I like the chemistry we have and I think there’s no better place to play than with the Union at PPL Park. The fans are the greatest.”
One of the biggest improvements came up front with the addition of Le Toux and Casey.
The Union scored just 37 goals and allowed 45 in 34 league matches last season. Scoring was a daily challenge.
Le Toux has 31 career MLS goals, 25 in two previous seasons with the Union.
“I am here to provide scoring and help the club in that way,” Le Toux said. “We talked about that. It’s not a secret. I think we made sweeping changes that will allow us to improve offensively. I’m excited to see the plan executed.”
Manager John Hackworth took over for Peter Nowak on an interim basis in June and then was rewarded with the full-time job in August.
Since then, Hackworth has put his stamp on the club.
Hackworth brought in those key veterans to mesh with rising stars such as forward Jack McInerney, midfielder Michael Farfan and defenders Sheanon Williams and Amobi Okugo.
Hackworth emphasizes an attacking, physical style and that’s exactly what he’s looking for in 2013.
“From the very first game, we want to be a team that has a distinct style and plays an attacking brand of soccer,” Hackworth said. “It’s no secret we were disappointed with the results last year and we don’t think those are acceptable in our organization. We’re doing everything we can to make sure there’s a vast improvement this year.”
The goal of reaching the playoffs for the second time in four years begins Saturday against Sporting Kansas City.
It won’t be easy.
The MLS season is much more of a marathon than a sprint and the players realize that fact.
They believe in this year’s version and they’re determined to get back to the postseason.
“I think the playoffs should be a goal,” Williams said. “You want to be in the postseason competing with the best. It’s a long season to get there. You have tough stretches, tough road trips, injuries to deal with. We had a ton of adversity last year and so many injuries. I think the guys who are returning learned so much. I know I did.
“I think with the changes we made, we have a very good club. It starts against Sporting Kansas City and we’ll take it one match at a time. I like this club and I like the changes the organization made. We’ll have to do it on the field. I think we all know that.”
The players came back fit, rested and ready.
And they’re prepared to erase last season and begin 2013 anew.
“I think all our young players like myself felt like we improved so much by the end of the season,” said defender Ray Gaddis. “Nobody likes to lose and not get results. I think we all learned and we were all ready to come back as soon as possible to begin a new season. I’m going to take all the lessons I learned last season and apply them this season. I can’t wait for the season to start.”
All the changes made in the offseason will start to be applied beginning Saturday at raucous PPL Park.
In a marathon season, there will be ups and downs. For the Union, they’re hoping to have many more ups and reach the playoffs.
“I think it’s a great goal to have,” Le Toux said. “We have a long way to go and a lot of work ahead of us. At the end of the regular season, we want to still be one of the clubs playing.”