by OSC Special Edition
February 28, 2017 - Major League Soccer (MLS)
In 2016, the Philadelphia Union was a relatively young team that showed great potential. However, in some instances, some naivety reared its ugly head, resulting in the club finishing sixth on the Eastern Conference table.
Despite the fact that they did not have the best of seasons last year, they still managed to make it to the playoffs, but the collapse witnessed in the late-season was a huge concern. The offseason came and went and there is now a renewed optimism in the team. This is not only because of the extra year of maturity, but also from integral acquisitions the club has brought in to bolster the squad.
The first half of the season last year went well just like the Union had anticipated. They even climbed to the top position of the Eastern Conference after a victory on June 22, 2016 against Chicago Fire. However, that resilience faded away in the last few months of the regular season due to defensive woes and an inconsistent attack. This predestined Philadelphia Union to a slide (4-10-4) during the second half of the season that nearly wrecked their chances of landing a playoff spot. Sadly, the team lost their game in the knockout round to Toronto FC.
Philadelphia Union has a clear initiative as they move forward and its coaching staff, Stewart and Jim Curtin as the head coach, are well aware of the club\'s goals. The Union made key acquisitions and brought in great players to fill in the voids that greatly resulted in last season\'s defeats.
The club has signed Haris Medunjanin, a Bosnian defensive midfielder who doubles up as an excellent passer. Most pundits believe that he will help Philadelphia Union improve their ball possession ability. By acquiring Medunjanin, the Union seems replaced the void left by Nogueira (second half of 2016).
Other notable acquisitions for Philadelphia Union include Oguchi Onyewu, a veteran defender, who has already impressed coaches and brings a lot of experience to the defensive line. Jay Simpson and Fafa Picault are other new players who are expected to reinforce the Union\'s attack.
Simpson will be competing for the main/lead striker role while Picault will bring the element of speed. Pundits had earlier pointed out the need for this element in the Union. Giliano Wijnaldum, a Dutch fullback is expected to compete against Fabinho for a starting position at left back, while rookies Marcus Epps and Adam Najem could get more playing minutes if they continue to shine.
Philadelphia Union has, without a doubt, greatly improved on paper, but the actual test of their increased talent will be put to the test in the new season.
The Union has ensured it has depth and quality in every midfield position and this will improve further with the return of Maurice Edu (injury). Pundits believe that the pressure will be on C.J. Sapong, who had been under a dry-spell in front of goal since the second half of the season. Vegas Odds favor the Philadelphia Union 33-1 to win the 2017 MLS Cup.