The leading goal-scorer for the Philadelphia Union last season was Sebastien Le Toux. His 11 goals are more than twice as many as any returning player for the Union scored.
The leader in assists for the Union last season was Le Toux. His nine assists are more than twice as many as any returning player for the Union.
The leader in … well, you get the picture.
The Union finished third in the Eastern Conference and reached the playoffs last season, but you can’t blame the fans at PPL Park if they need a program to identify the players this season. Le Toux was sold to Vancouver, goalie Faryd Mondragon was released so he can finish his career in his native Colombia, midfielder Veljko Paunovic retired, and midfielder Justin Mapp was claimed by Montreal in the expansion draft.
Can the Union return to the playoffs without their stars from last season? That’s the big question as the Union begin their season Monday night (9:30 p.m.) at Portland.
Other big question marks for the Union occur at both ends of the field. Who will score the goals and who will prevent them?
Zac MacMath, in his second season with the Union, will be in charge of preventing goals. MacMath, 20, received a baptism by fire last season when he started seven games due to Mondragon’s finger injury and subsequent surgery. This season the starting job is his from the start of the season.
MacMath should benefit from the Union’s talented veteran defense. Danny Califf and Carlos Valdes control the center on defense. Sheanon Williams, who is developing into a star, and Porfirio Lopez line up at right and left back, respectively. Veteran Chris Albright could also see time along the back line.
The midfield also appears strong. Brian Carroll is a tough defender at midfield. Big things are also expected of Gabriel Gomez, one of the three international players added by the Union. Michael Farfan mans the left midfield; Freddy Adu will try to create offense from the right side.
With Le Toux gone, the ability of Adu and Farfan to move the ball forward and generate offense will be extremely important for the Union. Four of their top five goal scorers (Le Toux, Carlos Ruiz, Mapp, Paunovic) are gone. The only remaining member of the top five scorers is Danny Mwanga (5 goals, 4 assists).
Lionard Pajoy will be counted upon to bolster the offense in his first season with the Union. Pajoy and Mwanga will be supplemented by Jack McInerney, Josue Martinez and Chandler Hoffman, the 13th overall draft pick from UCLA. With the exception of Pajoy, this is a very young and inexperienced forward line. How well they produce could determine the Union’s fortunes.
As if the Union needed another factor to complicate their adjustment to all the new players, their continuity could be interrupted by the Olympics. The Union may have several Olympians, including Adu, Williams and possibly even MacMath. Losing two or three players during the season could damage the Union’s playoff hopes.
The Union will also need to improve their 4-7-6 road record. They can’t count on losing just one game at home, as they did last year (7-1-9).
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