2020 Season Preview: Philadelphia Union

Coming off the best season in club history, the Philadelphia Union have a tall task ahead of them... how can they keep the momentum going under Jim Curtin and Ernst Tanner? The Union won their first playoff game in 2019 and bring back the same core, but what's the ceiling for this group?

Jamiro Monteiro was brought back on a permanent basis, while Haris Medunjanin and Auston Trusty have been replaced by promising prospects from overseas. The goal for this team will be going from good to great. In order to do that, Mark McKenzie and Brenden Aaronson will need to progress while Kacper Przybylko and Kai Wagner will need to have similar or better seasons than they did in 2019.

2019 Finish

  • MLS Reg. Season: 55 points (16W-11L-7D), 3rd in East / 5th overall
  • MLS Cup Playoffs: Eliminated in Eastern Conf. Semifinal (vs. Atlanta United)
  • U.S. Open Cup: Eliminated in 4th Round (vs. D.C. United)

Star players

  • Alejandro Bedoya — The heartbeat of the Union, Bedoya had a stellar year in 2019 and will look to continue to be one of the best No. 8s in MLS.
  • Jamiro Monteiro — Monteiro's return was the most crucial part of the offseason and Union GM Ernst Tanner was able to get it done by paying a $2 million transfer fee.
  • Kacper Przybylko — Przybylko's 15 goals were one of the biggest surprises of 2019. Can he repeat that production this season?

Extratime Analysis: Philadelphia Union

Key acquisitions and departures

  • IN: Matej Oravec — Signed as the nominal replacement for Medunjanin, Oravec should provide a bit more athleticism in defensive midfield.
  • IN: Jakob Glesnes — The 25-year-old was the captain of Stromsgodset and should battle for playing time at center back.
  • OUT: Auston Trusty — One of the jewels of the Union academy, Trusty was traded to Colorado for a generous amount of allocation money.
  • OUT: Marco Fabian — The former Mexican international never really found his way in Philly, despite scoring the game-winner in the playoffs against the Red Bulls.
  • OUT: Haris Medunjanin — Now in Cincinnati, Medunjanin's loss will be felt as the Union try to bring possession through midfield.

Projected Starting XI

2020 Roster

  • Goalkeepers (3): Joe Bendik, Andre Blake, Matt Freese
  • Defenders (8): Aurelien Collin, Jack Elliott, Raymon Gaddis, Jakob Glesnes, Olivier Mbaizo, Mark McKenzie, Matt Real, Kai Wagner
  • Midfielders (10): Brenden Aaronson, Alejandro Bedoya, Warren Creavalle, Jack de Vries, Anthony Fontana, Ilsinho, Jose Andres Martinez, Jamiro Monteiro, Matej Oravec, Cole Turner
  • Forwards (4): Michee Ngalina, Kacper Przybylko, Sergio Santos, Andrew Wooten

Armchair Analyst: Strengths and weaknesses

  • Strength: Even after an offseason egress of productive veterans, Philly are at least two deep at every spot on the field and are among the most aggressive teams in the league at pushing young talent (mostly via the academy) through the system and into major roles. For the most part, the kids have delivered – even if it became clear, last year, that they’re not quite ready to compete at the very top of the league. 
  • Weakness: Regista Haris Medunjanin was the mastermind of their attacking shape, and he’s gone. Nobody can claim with any certainty that striker Kacsper Przybylko’s big year (which ended prematurely with a foot injury, though it should be noted he’s returned healthy for preseason) wasn’t a flash in the pan. And the big one: in 2019 they were +23 with Ilsinho on the field, and -15 without him. There’s no way they can replicate that first number, and there’s no way they can afford to replicate the second. 

Predictions

  • Ben Baer: 6th in East
  • Marcelo Balboa (Univision): 2nd in East
  • Calen Carr: 3rd in East
  • Charlie Davies: 4th in East
  • Matt Doyle: 7th in East
  • Kristian Jack (TSN): 2nd in East
  • Frederic Lord (TVA Sports): 4th in East
Series: