Over the next two weeks, MLSsoccer.com will preview each of the 19 teams in Major League Soccer, beginning with the clubs that brought up the bottom of the table in 2012 and ending with the Supporters' Shield-winning San Jose Earthquakes. This is part two of two previewing Philadelphia's 2013 season. You can find Part 1 here.
2012 record: 10-18-6 (36 points); 37 GF / 45 GA (-8 GD)
Depth Chart: 1. Zac MacMath, 2. Chris Konopka
Strengths: Despite struggling at times in his first full season as a starter in 2012, MacMath still has the tools to be one of the best young goalkeepers in the league. And for the first time, the 21-year-old went into an offseason knowing he’s the No. 1 ’keeper, which he says has helped a lot with the mental side of the game. If he improves on dealing with balls in the air, he could be poised for a breakout year.
Weaknesses: At 6-foot-5, Konopka has great size and is certainly a capable backup. But the fact is he doesn’t have very much game experience, having made only one appearance for the Union and two total in MLS.
Wild card: Chase Harrison, the club’s second-string ’keeper last season, didn’t have his option renewed and was left exposed in the Re-Entry Draft. But Harrison has been training with the Union throughout the preseason and appears to be in line to rejoin the team as the third-stringer – and perhaps even challenge Konopka for the backup spot.
Depth Chart: RB: 1. Sheanon Williams, 2. Raymon Gaddis; CB: 1. Bakary Soumare-Jeff Parke, 2. Amobi Okugo-Chris Albright; LB: 1. Gabriel Farfan, 2. Raymon Gaddis
Strengths: Between newcomer Parke, a healthier Soumare and the ever-improving Okugo (not to mention Albright, one of the team’s veteran leaders), the Union boast a solid crop of centerbacks, even with the departure of 2012 captain and MLS All-Star Carlos Valdés. And Williams and Gaddis are both talented right backs who love to get in on the attack.
Weaknesses: Gabriel Farfan, a natural midfielder, has made great strides on defense and will be the team’s opening day starter at left back. But the Union have had trouble finding a well-established left back ever since trading away Jordan Harvey in the middle of the 2011 season.
Wild card: If it turns out Gaddis is too valuable on the bench, perhaps Hackworth could start both him and Williams at the fullback spots and push Gabe Farfan into the midfield, next to his twin brother Mike. Who’s up for a Farfan-to-Farfan connection in the attack?
Depth Chart: LM: 1. Keon Daniel, 2. Gabriel Farfan; CM (holding): 1. Brian Carroll, 2. Amobi Okugo, 3. Michael Lahoud, 4. Greg Jordan; CM (attacking): 1. Michael Farfan, 2. Roger Torres, 3. Cristhian Hernandez; RM: 1. Danny Cruz, 2. Jimmy McLaughlin
Strengths: The Union are loaded in the middle of the pitch with captain Carroll and rising star Okugo as their top defensive midfielders and Mike Farfan and Torres as their premier playmakers.
Weaknesses: The team has few true wingers, which is one reason why Hackworth may opt to go with the 4-3-3 you see above. Should he employ a 4-4-2, Cruz and Daniel are two solid options to start on the right and left sides of the midfield, respectively. But after that, the team is pretty thin.
Wild card: Torres has enjoyed such a good preseason that Hackworth may look to find a way to get him into the starting lineup. And if that happens, could Torres possibly be the string-pulling CAM, while Mike Farfan gets pushed out wide? It seems unlikely since Hackworth wants to give him the keys to the car, but Farfan has done well in the past on the wing.
Depth Chart: 1. Sébastien Le Toux, 2. Conor Casey, 3. Jack McInerney, 4. Antoine Hoppenot, 5. Chandler Hoffman, 6. Aaron Wheeler
Strengths: Between Le Toux, McInerney and Hoppenot, the Union won’t have to worry about a lack of speed and hustle among their forwards. And they finally have a veteran target man in Casey, who, if healthy, is a proven goalscorer in this league.
Weaknesses: Finishing was one of the team’s main weaknesses last year, as the Union scored just 37 times in 34 league games. Hackworth tried to address that problem by acquiring Le Toux and Casey, but those two players combined for only seven goals last season. Obviously, that total needs to improve.
Wild card: One of the big questions in Union camp is whether or not Hackworth will start McInerney, who led the team with eight goals last season. If not, it will be interesting to see how he divvies up the playing time off the bench between McInerney and Hoppenot, who was the team’s top offensive sub last year.
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at email@example.com.