Union Season Preview
By Justin Diaz
Before I start my preview for the Union's second season, I need to give a brief commentary. Last year Major League Soccer presented the Philadelphia fan base a rare opportunity. For the majority of us, we grew up watching the Eagles, Flyers, Sixers, and Phils. We're die-hard fans. We don't know why, but we just are because that's the way it always has been and that's the way it always will be. We got a new opportunity last year, however. The Union became the MLS' latest expansion franchise, and the most passionate sports city in the world became host to the most popular sport in the world. The Union did not come without their doubters. People said Philly's too much of a blue-collar town and a slow, patient sport like soccer wouldn't work here. People said we'd especially abandon the team after their inevitable slow start; expansion franchises notoriously struggle early on. The doubters could not have been more wrong. The Union sold out every single game, even when we fell into the Eastern Conference cellar. The Union are already beloved here and they will certainly be a Philly stronghold for years to come.
Now that I've given us credit as fans, it's time to look at the team we are going to support this year. We have plenty to be excited about going into this season; a playoff trip is well within reach if the following five things go the Union's way:
1. Let Le Toux Lead the Way There's a reason the Sons of Ben chant Sebastien Le Toux's name on a weekly basis. The man is an All-Star after his first year as a starter, was a blatant snub for the league's MVP (apparently leading the league with 25 points, ahead of second-best Landon Donovan, isn't enough), and plays a Philly kind of game. Beyond the simple love affair that comes with hard-nosed play, this guy is an all-world talent. In MLS, players are either great goal-scorers or great passers. Rarely does somebody combine both aspects, and yet Le Toux does just that. Last season, he was the only player to be in the top five in both goals and assists, proving he has a powerful strike and a soft touch. If the Union are going to make a mark this season, Le Toux has to be the guy to guide the team.
2. Mwanga's Maturation Le Toux didn't enter the season as the Union's most popular player. The Union took Danny Mwanga first overall in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft, and immediately the fans in attendance at the event, held right here in Philly, began chanting his name. In his first season, Mwanga was nothing special, but showed flashes of brilliance, scoring seven goals and adding four assists. His natural talent is plainly evident, and in his sophomore campaign, look for the Congolese striker to continue his ascension and become one of the MLS' elite weapons.
3. Get a Goalie Last year the Union had tribulation at the keeper spot that rivaled that of the infamous Flyers' goaltender sagas. Chris Seitz came into the season with a ton of promise, but let in weak goal after weak goal. Brad Knighton managed to record two shutouts - two more than Seitz - but spent most of the season as Seitz's backup, with the reasoning becoming more and more clear as he earned more starts. Neither of them are back this year. Faryd Mondragon, a 39 year-old veteran with fifty caps for the Colombian national team, and Zac MacMath, a 19 year-old rookie who garnered All-American recognition last year at Maryland, will battle for the starting job, and the keeper situation already looks much better than it did entering the inaugural season.
4. McInerney's.... Maturation Yes, this point is somewhat redundant, but with a young team it is vital the younger players with the potential for excellence realize it. McInerney was just 17 years old when the Union took him with the 7th overall pick in the 2010 SuperDraft. McInerney only made seventeen appearances last season, but showed flashes of brilliance, netting three goals in just 350 minutes of playing time, including a game-winner against Chivas, one of the Mexican Premier Division's finest clubs. This is not the biggest reason for optimism, however; McInerney has 12 goals in 16 games playing in the United States' national team's U-17 and U-20 teams, showing that he projects as an all-world talent down the road that can help the Union now.
5. Defensive Development The keeper can only do so much; the defense must be in place around him for him to be successful. Last season, the Union's defense would be excellent for 80-85 minutes and then have a collapse that would result in heartbreak. I recall in particular a match with San Jose last season; the Union dominated the game throughout but, because of defensive lapses in extra time of both halves, lost 2-1. As my buddy Alex, who will play collegiately at High Point University next year, noted, consistent effort is difficult but necessary in such a long season. If Piotr Nowak can inspire that effort in the Union this year, we can expect the same, entertaining style of soccer we got last season, but with a lot more success.
Philadelphia Union Overcome First SeasonBy Kevin KThe Philadelphia Union officially ended their first ever season by finishing 7th in the Eastern Conference (second to last) but overcame struggles along the way. Philadelphia is a town where people said "soccer had no chance of succeeding". The Union are proving them wrong. Yes the Union ended with an under .500 record, but it was only year one for them. At home the Union had six wins, three losses, and six draws, which is very impressive and shows the true home field advantage Philly brings.On the road, however, the Union ended with 12 losses, which was the worst of any MLS team. However, the Union's first eight out of ten games were played on the road, something that NO OTHER team faced in 2010. A normal schedule in 2011 may make a huge difference in record for the Union.Stars are born:
The Union built soccer stars in this city, as Sebastian Le Toux and Danny Mwanga have become two of the biggest starts in MLS. Mwanga, who was snubbed of the Rookie of the Year title. Mwanga said he is not disappointed in the snub, but looking forward to improving in 2011. Mwanga played 24 games, scoring 7 goals and 4 assists on the season.Sebastian Le Toux by far became the star of the young MLS team. Le Toux played in 28 of the 30 games for the Union, scoring 14 goals on the season (that averages 1 goal every 2 games)
. Of his 90 shots, 48 were on goal. No other player in MLS put more of his shots on target. Le Toux also lead the Union in assists with 11 on the year.The Union also liked to "leave it late" this season. They scored a total of 12 goals in the final 15 minutes of play this year, drawing up some amazing come backs. Philadelphia CAN succeed as a Soccer Town:
The success of the Philadelphia Union has given Philadelphia an opportunity to be in the running for a future World Cup. Philadelphia has more than 102,400 signatures to sit atop the leaderboard and holds a more than 20,000-signature lead in the competition against 17 other finalist U.S. cities.SIGN THE PETITION NOW!http://www.thegameisinphiladelphia.com/
Home Field Advantage
By Kevin K
Union fans packed PPL Park on Sunday not knowing what to expect from this team against Seattle Sounders FC. But it was the Sounders who didn't know what hit them.
The Union dominated for the first 25 minutes behind their home crowd but were left scoreless in the first half, as Seattle took the lead just before the half with the first goal ever scored in PPL Park history scored by Pat Noonan.
The equalizer came in the 55thminute on a Le Toux penalty kick. The Union's leading scorer stepped up to the spot and scored in the upper right corner to tie the score at 1-1.
In the 60th Minute the Sounders had a penalty shot of their own, but it was set aside by Seitz with a thunderous applause by the Union fans.
In the 79th Minute Union fans went wild as Fred put the game winner in the net. PPL Park then exploded.
Kenny Mwanga continues to be a fan favorite as he extends the Union lead and puts the Union up 3-1 in the 85th minute.
The game was over. The Sold Out Crowd for the Opening of PPL Park went crazy.
This lead me thinking, maybe Soccer can succeed in Philadelphia? Right now it definitely is. The Union continues to impress at home. There are many great moments left to come at PPL Park.
The next chance will come July 10 against the San Jose Earthquakes.
“The stadium is fantastic, and I think we’ll be energized all season playing here,” Califf said. “It was the perfect start and we need to keep it going. I think the excitement leading up to this debut of the stadium was right on. It was a great place. Most importantly, we got the first win. I think we’ll have a whole lot more down the road.”
quotes from PhiladelphiaUnion.com
or follow them on Twitter: @Union2010
Union Lose, but Represent
By Kevin K
The Philadelphia Union went against the Chicago Fire in Chicago last night. If you haven't heard, apparently Chicago banned the color orange in the city .... the Union didn't get the news.
In the pre-game the Philadelphia Union wore Flyers shirts to represent Philadelphia strongly in Chicago, to bad their representation went better then their game.
The Union didn't have a shot on goal in the first half, and finally got a couple shots in the second half.
The Union were down 2-0 in the second half, until stoppage time where Mwanaga scores again for the Union.
Mwanga is getting up to Le Toux level of popularity for Union fans with his constant effort and goal scoring ability.
The Union fell to the Fire 2-1, but looked good in the pre-game with those Flyers shirts!
since I did not watch the game, only followed in through my iPod and Twitter, I thought no one is going to bring you a better story then the Union's Website.
Philadelphia Union won their first road game in club history on Saturday night, topping the Houston Dynamo 3-2 on a second straight stoppage-time goal from rookie Danny Mwanga. After going into halftime up 1-0, Houston took the lead with two goals in a 10-minute span. The Union didn’t quit, leveling the score at 2-2 in the 69th minute before taking the lead in the waning moments. “I think for the team, it means the work paid off," said manager Peter Nowak. "It was a tough environment we played in, and a victory like that over the Houston Dynamo is very good because it’s very difficult to play here. We came back to score a goal in injury time, and it’s very special. "I feel like this is a work in progress. This is still a very young group who wants to work and win games, and for me it’s a work in progress. We are eight weeks in the season, and we have 22 games in front of us.” While neither team created many chances in the first 30 minutes, Houston nearly struck first off of a Brad Davis free kick from a dangerous position to the left of the penalty area, but Eddie Robinson’s header was just wide.
The Union got on the board first in the 39th minute on a spectacular individual display by Shea Salinas, who made his first start of the season as a midfielder. Salinas won the ball from Bobby Boswell in the right corner and dribbled along the endline towards goal. When Pat Onstad came out, Salinas flicked the ball far post with his right foot into the left corner of the net for a 1-0 Union lead.
Houston struck back shortly after the break in the 52nd minute. Davis sent a curling free kick into the box from a dangerous position and World Cup snub Brian Ching rose up and headed it into the top of the net to tie the score at 1-1.
Chris Seitz momentarily kept the score level, stoning Danny Cruz's angled shot from 10 yards out to keep the score tied at 1-1.
The Dynamo took the lead in the 59th minute off another set piece following a Stefani Miglioranzi yellow card. Davis sent another perfectly placed ball far post and an onrushing Robinson powerfully headed the ball past Seitz for a 2-1 Houston lead.
The scoring continued in the second half, with Sebastien Le Toux tying it up at 2-2 in the 69th minute. Roger Torres chipped to Danny Mwanga in the box after a give-and-go and the rookie found Le Toux wide open at the top of the area. Le Toux picked his spot carefully and knocked a ball that deflected off a Houston defender into the left corner of the net.
With time running out, the Union took a 3-2 lead on a dramatic stoppage-time goal from Mwanga, his second in as many matches. Alejandro Moreno sent Le Toux down the right touchline and the Frenchman turned toward goal, running at Onstad and sliding a cross on the ground to Mwanga, who knocked the ball into the back of the net from seven yards out.
“It was a great feeling," Mwanga said about his game-winning goal." I came in last game and was able to score a goal, and that was definitely a great effort. As a forward, you know you need to bring something to the table to help your team, and I was able to score that goal (tonight) and help my teammates, and I am very excited for it. “We came out pretty hard, and we knew that Houston was a very good team, especially at home. We knew it would be a hard game. So we came out to try and play hard and help each other and not give up until the referee blew the whistle. We all stuck together and stayed focused for the whole game, and I’m very happy we came away with a win.” The win enables Philadelphia to build on the momentum created last match against Dallas. With another two away games ahead, including a match against the Chicago Fire next Saturday, the Union secured three much-needed points before the opening of PPL Park on June 27th.
Season Tickets Sold Out
By Kevin K
The Philadelphia Union have yet to play one game in PPL Park, but fans don't care, their full season tickets are now sold out for the first year of the Union's existence.
The team cut the sale of season tickets to 12,000 seats of the 18,500 seat PPL Park.
Because PPL Park was still being built, the first two games of the season for the Union was at Lincoln Financial field, where the Union are still undefeated.
Single game seats are set to be sold on June 7.
The Union will play Seattle Sounders FC for the first game at PPL Park on June 27.
Notes: Rookie Danny Mwanga earned the MLS Goal of the Week this week through fan voting. His goal came during stoppage time of the Unions draw against Dallas FC.
Home Field Advantage
By Kevin K
The Philadelphia Union remain undefeated at home with a 1-1 Draw today vs FC Dallas.
Dallas took a 1-0 lead over the Union, as the Union was outplaying Dallas the entire game.
There were more then 25,000 Philadelphia Union fans who took over Lincoln Financial field to cheer on a team with only 1 win on the season.
With one minute left in extra time Danny Mwanga scored his first goal of his career to tie the game at 1-1 ..... and that was the final.
The Union continue to play strong in Philadelphia as Union fans keep coming out to support this new MLS team in Philly.
Keep it up Union !
Union are now 1-5-1.
Note: Sebastian Le Toux returned to the Union's starting lineup today after two straight games off.