Author: Dave Zeitlin | Cover illustration by Duane Tomaszewski
After a long, painful drought filled with a lot of roster and coaching turnover, the Union qualified for the MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time in five years last season. But a Knockout Round exit and an eight-game winless streak to end the season has the club looking to take the next step in 2017 — and, at the very least, win their first playoff game in the franchise’s eight-year history.
Key Offseason Transactions
|KEY PLAYERS IN:||KEY PLAYERS OUT:|
|Haris Medunjanin (M)
Giliano Wijnaldum (D)
Jay Simpson (F)
Oguchi Onyewu (D)
|Tranquillo Barnetta (M)|
Player to watch: Andre Blake
A human highlight reel, Blake had a breakout year for the ages in 2016, starting in the MLS All-Star Game and earning MLS Goalkeeper of the Year plaudits in what was his first full season as a starter. The top overall pick in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft, the 26-year-old Blake certainly has the talent to play in a big European league down the road. But for now, the Union will look to ride him back into the playoffs — while enjoying some more jaw-dropping saves along the way.
How they'll play
HEAD COACH - JIM CURTIN
Curtin has almost exclusively employed a 4-2-3-1 since taking over midway through the 2014 season. He likes his teams sturdy in the back and to dictate possession in the midfield with his fullbacks flying forward to get in on the attack.
Project Starting XI
4-2-3-1, right to left: Andre Blake (GK) — Keegan Rosenberry (D), Oguchi Onyewu (D), Richie Marquez (D), Fabinho (D) — Haris Medunjanin (M), Derrick Jones (M) — Chris Pontius (M), Alejandro Bedoya (M), Fabian Herbers (M) – Jay Simpson (F)
6th in Eastern Conference. The Union improved their roster after last year’s sixth-place finish but so did a lot of other teams. If Maurice Edu can return to form after missing the entire 2016 season and partner well with last summer’s marquee acquisition — Alejandro Bedoya — in the midfield, the Union could take a big leap in 2017. But there are still enough question marks at defense and striker to think they’re not quite ready to join the league’s elite echelon of teams.