2010 Club by Club
Kansas City Wizards
New England Revolution
New York Red Bulls
Real Salt Lake
San Jose Earthquakes
The Philadelphia Union entered their first season as Major League Soccer’s 16th franchise with lofty expectations and a ton of fan support. Thirty matches later, the Union didn’t qualify for the postseason. But they definitely entertained and took a number of big steps forward.
After suffering through a number of mistaken-laden matches early in the year, Peter Nowak’s squad came together as the year progressed and finished their schedule in much better shape than they started it.
Their record of 8-15-7 was improving all the time, but the Union certainly struggled to find their feet in the early stages of their MLS existence, wining just two of their first eight games.
The highlight of the season, despite improvements on the pitch, had to be the huge fan base built up in the city. In effect, the Union put on two home openers for Philly soccer fans: the team’s first home game at Lincoln Financial Field in April, then the debut of PPL Park in June. Both were amazing experiences for the fans, who flooded both stadiums and were rewarded with big wins for Nowak’s team – 3-2 win over D.C. United at the Linc and 3-1 over Seattle in the Union’s new home venue.
Despite this there were some lows throughout the year for the Union as they found their feet in the increasingly tough MLS. One such moment occurred after the Pennsylvania outfit came off two impressive 1-1 draws against defending champions Real Salt Lake and Colorado. The Union travelled to the nation’s capital in August to take on the last-place D.C. United with optimism soaring. Nowak’s team proceeded to get overrun in a 2-0 defeat that was easily their worst performance all year as the defensive mental errors, that seemed to be the team’s calling card for much of the season, doomed them.
One thing the Union did do well in 2010 was score pretty goals. Led by French talisman Sebastien Le Toux, Philadelphia scored 35 times, often in highlight-worthy fashion. Surprisingly, the best of the year wasn’t scored by Le Toux, who led the team with 14 strikes. Shea Salinas scored a wonderful individual goal against the Houston Dynamo that was a finalist for AT&T Goal of the Year. After working the ball up the pitch, the speedy second-year midfielder beat Dynamo defender Bobby Boswell to the ball in the corner. Taking the ball up the byline, Salinas chipped goalkeeper Pat Onstad to give the Union the 1-0 lead in a match they eventually won 3-2.
With defensive troubles occurring frequently throughout the season, the Union were pleased to have goalkeeper Brad Knighton in stellar form in net. He pulled off many wonder stops, including an incredible diving save against San Jose. Seeing the ball late off a Giovanni free kick, Knighton was able to dive to his right and parry the ball over the bar to keep the score 1-0 San Jose. Those kinds of stops were a big part of the season Knighton was able to keep the starting job midway through the year.
The team’s MVP on the year was none other than Frenchman Le Toux, who was the man the offense and the entire team worked around all season. Adding 11 assists to those incredible 14 goals, Le Toux was in the running for league MVP given how well he carried his team. Given a free role in Nowak’s attacking style, Le Toux flourished into one of the league’s big-play threats and, even with the added attention he warranted as the year went on, teams weren’t able to shut him down.
With a whole new squad gelling together in the side’s inaguaral season, one player in particular stood out, Danny Mwanga. The first overall selection in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft was a revelation once he started to settle in and adjust to the speed of the league. After going scoreless through Philadelphia’s first four games, he quickly rebounded with five tallies in his next six matches. Mwanga was rewarded for his fine play by being named a finalist for the Rookie of the Year.