WAYNE, Pa. – One of Philadelphia Union manager John Hackworth’s biggest offseason priorities was to build his team’s depth.
With a few key injuries heading into the start of the season, that depth will be tested immediately.
Following Tuesday’s training session, Hackworth noted that, among others, 2013 starters Sheanon Williams and Conor Casey are both questionable for Saturday’s season opener against the Portland Timbers at Providence Park (10:30 pm ET; MLS Live) – with Williams more likely to suit up than Casey.
“Right now both players are not in training,” Hackworth said. “Sheanon was more precautionary than Conor was. Conor, we’re being more conservative with. Hopefully we’ll have Sheanon available for the weekend but we won’t know until [Wednesday] or even Thursday.”
Casey (calf strain) has yet to play throughout the preseason and, with the coaching staff wanting to take their time with the 32-year-old, it seems unlikely he’ll even make the trip to Portland.
Williams, meanwhile, had been entrenched as the team’s starting right back all preseason – as he has for the last three seasons – before he slipped while crossing the ball during last Wednesday’s draw with Toronto FC and strained his quad.
The injury looked like it might be more serious after Williams was forced to come out of the game, but on Tuesday, the 23-year-old hinted at a speedy recovery.
“We’re hoping it’s not too bad,” Williams said. “I did some treatment today and tried to get everything squared away.”
If Williams can’t go, Ray Gaddis will almost certainly start in his place. Gaddis has been the team’s starting left back for much of the past season but appears poised to be the team’s top fullback off the bench this year, behind Williams and left back Fábinho.
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“I worked on my left foot this whole season,” said Gaddis, a natural right back. “It’s good to know as a player that you can play both sides of the field. Not a lot of people can say that.”
Having a player of Gaddis’ caliber come off the bench will certainly bode well for the Union, especially if Williams is out for longer than expected or if other injuries pop up throughout the season.
“I feel good about our depth,” Hackworth said. “It’s better than it was last year for sure. We do have a couple of knocks right now that we’re dealing with – more so than we’ve had in the past.
“Right now with a shortened preseason, I’ve been talking to other coaches around the league and it’s been an issue for everybody. It’s going to test the depth of teams early. Certainly with us that might be the case on Saturday.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.