Gaddis preseason 2015
Don Montague

Friendly fire: Insight into the teams, times and special events around Union Spring Training

It’s conceivable that the preseason lineup of foes the Union have ahead of the 2015 Major League Soccer season is probably the most favorable yet.

There are no trips to Greece, Mexico or Costa Rica to play obscure clubs.

Or it’s not another year of playing Eastern Conference rivals at Disney World. This season, the Union will play quality talent from all divisions and levels of soccer both domestic and abroad.

In fact, the club isn’t scheduled to face an MLS opponent until the final match of the season.

Thursday kicked off the unofficial official start of the 2015 campaign as player reported for physicals. Now, a group of guys will look to impress before a trip to Florida and the first test against outside competition on Feb. 7.

Jacksonville Armada

When: Saturday, Feb. 7 (5 p.m. ET)

Where: Everbank Stadium, Jacksonville, Fla.

Tickets: Click here

The skinny: The latest arrival on the North American Soccer League (NASL) scene, the Armada will host the Union for its first ever game of any kind. Locally owned and operated, the club’s president is a former NFL executive for the Jaguars and even ran a Scottish football team, the xx in NFL Europe. Jacksonville’s colors are similar to that of the Union, in that they both sport blue and gold as its primary colors. It’s tough to say how battle tested this club will be given this will be its first ever game for the Armada, but if its anything like their buildup to the game, then it should be one heck of a ticket.

Tampa Bay Rowdies

When: Tuesday, Feb. 10 (6 p.m., ET)

Where: TBD

Tickets: None

The skinny: Billed as more of a scrimmage than an official preseason fan match, the Union follows up its first preseason competition of the season with an exhibition against another NASL team in the Rowdies. Tampa Bay however is a storied club in the NASL ranks, one that predates the revived version of today’s league. This group is legit headlined by U.S. Soccer coaching aficionado Thomas Rongen. In the offseason, the club made a few additions to its roster; most notably former Toronto FC defender and former MLS SuperDraft first round draft pick Gale Agbossumonde.  Additionally, Tampa Bay features former Penn State forward Corey Hertzog, who many felt was a strong fit for the Union at one point. Also another pseudo-Union connection could be fellow forward Georgi Hristov, who spent much of the 2012 preseason in camp with the Union in Deltona, Fla.

Costa Rica U23 national team

When: Wednesday, Feb. 18 (2:30 p.m., ET)

Where: IMG Academy, Bradenton, Fla.

Tickets: Click here

The skinny: The Union open up the first of three preseason matches at the famed IMG Academy against Costa Rican hopefuls for the 2016 Olympic Summer Games in Brazil. The Costa Rican senior national team turned heads with its improbable run in last summer’s FIFA World Cup and this collective will look to do the same in Rio. Of course, the last time Costa Rica qualified for the Olympic Games was 2004. Believe it or not, there is another Union connection as former forward Josue Martinez was once on this roster and is still listed as one of three players over the age of 23 the Olympic Committee grants national teams to have on individual rosters.

TP Mazembe

When: Saturday, Feb. 21 (7:30 p.m., ET)

Where: IMG Academy, Bradenton, Fla.

Tickets: Click here

The skinny: Game No. 2 of IMG Academy’s Suncoast Pro Classic features the Union playing against a team that turned heads in 2010 when it had an improbable run to the final of the FIFA Club World Cup. That year, TP Mazembe, an African Premier League club from the Congo knocked off CONCACAF representative in Mexico’s Pachuca, 1-0 and knocked off famed Brazilian side Internacional before coming up short to eventual winner in UEFA powerhouse Inter Milan. Mazembe will be the featured opponent kicking off the Union’s annual preseason fan trip.  

Columbus Crew SC

When: Wednesday, Feb. 25(5 p.m., ET)

Where: IMG Academy, Bradenton, Fla.

Tickets: Click here

The skinny: Can’t think of a better tune-up for the MLS season than one against an MLS opponent. The Union gets that in its final scheduled preseason match in the newly rebranded Columbus Crew SC. This game, albeit a friendly, serves as a bit of redemption from a 2-1 loss to end the 2014 MLS season for the Union in Columbus. The Union will see the Crew twice this season during the regular season first up an away match on April 25 (7:30 p.m.) and then not again until Sept. 12 in a 7 p.m. match here at PPL Park.

The graphic below explains all of the other Union-centric fan events scheduled to take place during the Union Spring Training fan trip. So click on it today to learn more!

Contact Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel at kgabriel@philadelphiaunion.com

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