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Preconceptions busted: The Union reevaluated

We thought the center backs and goalkeeper would be Philadelphia Union’s rock, but three games into the season, they scare us to death.

So what else were we wrong about? What should we reexamine, now that we actually have an on-field product to evaluate? What misconceptions did we have about the Union, due to the team having held training camp with as much secrecy as Dick Cheney’s government?

Let me count the ways.

(Yes, three games into the season, against two of the league’s worst teams, we’ve decided we know it all already. Yep. You got it. Right. Shaddup. It’s Monday.)

The Union midfield doesn’t suck. In fact, it’s pretty good.

Coming into the season, we really had no idea who would step up in midfield. Fred was the only assured starter. But now, Roger Torres looks like a star in the making, with great vision, jitterbug feet, and a knack for playing drama queen when he gets tackled. (Sounds like Allen Iverson in some ways, no?) Fred is steady and deft with the ball, doesn’t turn the ball over, and moves the attack. Stefani Miglioranzi hasn’t made a single obvious mistake in three games, and Andrew Jacobson looks like he could be a keeper too.

A 4-4-2 formation with central midfielders Jacobson and Miglioranzi in holding mid roles and no true wingers, isn’t what many expected, but it’s looked good for two straight games. The depth remains questionable after Shea Salinas: A bunch of rookie draft picks who haven’t shown anything yet, but you can’t complain about the starters.

Center backs cost us two games. This is a strength?

Well, if they stop making silly fouls, it might be. For a center back, fouls are part of the job. Just no flying elbows or shoulder blocks. You can’t have your starting center backs getting red cards two out three games and expect to be anything but a last place team. Right now, the center back three – lumping Chris Seitz in there too – are suddenly a major question mark. Orozco and Califf obviously have the talent, but Shavar Thomas looked so outmatched against Toronto that it’s hard to believe he was a regular starter on a good defense last year. If the red card festival continues (courtesy of Califf and Toni Stahl thus far), it’s going to be a long, frustrating season.

“Chris Seitz may be the best American goalkeeping prospect since Brad Guzan.” Uh, really?

Yep, that was the word coming into the season. And maybe he still is. Guzan didn’t start off that well either, but he eventually became a dominant goalkeeper in Major League Soccer. Maybe Seitz will follow the same path. (Yes, he too can warm the bench for a mid-table EPL club.) The Union made Seitz the first player they acquired after the expansion draft and the first they ever traded to get. Manager Peter Nowak knew him from the 2008 Olympics and clearly liked what he saw. Seitz is 23 years old, which is basically a baby in goalie years, and he definitely deserves more time to show what he can do. But so far, he hasn’t shown one speck of evidence to justify the Union’s pursuit of him. Three games ain’t much, but his play so far could make someone puke on an 11-year-old — accidentally, of course.

The Union will fill out the 24-man roster with (fill in the blank).

A 24-man roster? They still only have 21 guys on the official roster! This is the sort of thing you would never see in any other major American team sport, and yet here the Union are, leaving roster spots wide open. Sure, J.T. Noone remains on trial. (And maybe he’ll just stay there, forever.) But we thought they’d have 24 guys by now.

Some of it probably has to do with the new collective bargaining agreement and guaranteed contracts. We also know the Union are considering adding other players, such as former D.C. United striker Luciano Emilio, midfielder Danny Szetela, and former Arsenal star Robert Pires, who could move over from Villareal after Spain’s season wraps up.

But it does seem like it’d be good to have enough guys, even when some are injured, for 11 on 11 in practice, don’t you think?

Peter Nowak knows something we don’t. Sneaky.

Philadelphia won’t be Seattle, blah blah, not as good a soccer market, blah blah.

34,820. Nuff said. Should’ve built a bigger house in Chester.

Best part: The first home game in Chester? Seattle Sounders. Looking forward to seeing how Union fans greet Freddie Ljungberg.

(Photo: Nicolae Stoian)

One Comment

  1. Peter Idler says:

    I hope the architects are figuring out how to expand the new stadium. This is a market which should have had a team from the league’s inception.

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