Opinion / Roundtable / Season Previews / Union

PSP Roundtable looks into the 2024 season

Our veteran and rookie writers look into PSP’s “infamous cracked, cloudy, inaccurate crystal ball” to forecast how the Union’s season will evolve.

1. Which new signing do you think will be the most significant this season?

Tim Jones: This season? Because of the Leon Flach injury, Sanders Ngabo. Long term? if they can get it done, David Vazquez.

Kyle Grantham: Tai Baribo. I’m counting him as a new signing since we saw virtually none of him after he arrived last year. With Julian Carranza’s likely departure this summer, Tai will have to step up.
Dan Hayden: Tai has the most to prove, Joaquin Torres has an uphill battle to prove he needs playing time. (I don’t know why Jim Curtin won’t play him). Oliver Semmle will have to be better than average while Andre Blake is away with Jamacia those losses with Joe Bendik were brutal last year.

Blake Zuschnitt: I am thinking  Ngabo should get a decent amount of opportunity with the first team. With Flach’s injury, and the Union most likely prioritizing CCC over MLS early in the season, I like Ngabo’s odds of getting impactful minutes early in the MLS campaign and solidifying himself as solid and much-needed midfield depth.

George Diamond: I honestly think re-signing Kai Wagner was the most significant move the team made but the most important new player for me is Semmle. With respect to his character and career longevity, Bendik was unable to adequately cover for Blake. But I think Semmle will do just fine if/when he has to step in.

Gregory Schoen: The re-signing of an old player – Wagner. Second on the team in career assists, he led the team in Tackles Won (39) while making 28 starts (5th last year in minutes played with 2,441). He is the highest-rated defender in MLS at 7.3 according to WhoScored.com. He was also the top defender in “Goals Added” as determined by American Soccer Analysis with a score of 2.92…. calculated by how much each touch changes a team’s chances of scoring and conceding across two possessions.

Matt Custer: I expect none of the new signings to make a significant impact other than Semmle. Jim Curtin fears lineup changes and will use new players only if forced by injuries or absences. Outside of the occasional surprise of a game-winning goal by a 60th-minute sub, none of the new players will rack up enough minutes to change things for the better.

2. Among MLS play, CONCACAF Champions Cup, US Open Cup, and Leagues Cup the Union could have more competitive matches in 2024 than ever before. Which competition do you think will be most important for the Union this season?

Tim Jones: First – MLS. Second – Leagues Cup. Third –CONCACAF. Fourth – U. S. Open Cup.

Kyle Grantham: First – MLS, Second – CONCACAF, Third – Leagues, Fourth – U. S. Open Cup.

Dan Hayden: Concacaf qualifying for FIFA 2025. It’s do or die for me and should be for ownership. You want to keep that inflated valuation of the club we need to get there. After that, we can best qualify for Concacaf again in 2025. Then MLS Cup, Open Cup or C3.

Blake Zuschnitt: With the front office essentially deciding to “run it back” again this year with the old faithful, I think that any competition they are participating in at any given time will be the most important. The team is desperate for trophies. I can see Curtin putting the MLS competition on the back burner until after Leagues Cup in order to put his best XI toward securing hardware. I like their odds in CCC this season, especially with it being early in the MLS campaign, so I expect that to be the main priority to start.

George Diamond: For me, the league is still the most important in 2024. Continental competition is a great challenge, and finally advancing past the Semis would be an accomplishment in of itself but the way the playoffs have gone for us the past few years just doesn’t sit right with me. This squad deserves to lift MLS Cup and I want to see them do it this year more than ever.

Gregory Schoen: I would rank MLS Cup at the top of the list, but it is going to be tough to get out of the Eastern Conference with strong contenders in Inter Miami CF (a.k.a., South Beach Barca), FC Cincinnati, Columbus, and an improved Orlando SC. I would prioritize Leagues Cup after that. I don’t think they have a shot at CCL. The competition is too deep and too strong. Their only chance at silverware may be USOC.

3. All those games are going to provide more chances for “depth” players to showcase their abilities. What players do you expect to shine with this opportunity?

Tim Jones: I expect Quinn Sullivan and Alejandro Bedoya to become an “interchangeable pair” at right midfield. Jack McGlynn, Sanders Ngabo, and Leon Flach will become an interchangeable trio at left midfield. Jesus Bueno and Jose Martinez will become that type of pair at defensive mid. Damion Lowe is already a trio with Jakob Glesnes and Jack Elliott, and Olivier Mbaizo and Nathan Harriel are a pair at right back.

Kyle Grantham: I expect big things from Quinn Sullivan if he can finally break into the regular rotation. I expect him to see a good deal of Bedoya’s minutes as Ale transitions out of the regular lineup and into a super-sub role. Bueno should be trusted with regular starters’ minutes now as well after a stellar breakout year in 2023. The youth movement in the midfield could set the club up with a cohesive group for a while.

Dan Hayden: Olwethu Makhanya will have to be able to play 1st team minutes. Damian Lowe will miss blocks with Jamaica and we can’t have the other guys play 40+ games for a second season in a row with Glesnes coming off the sports hernia. Hopefully, Curtin can bring himself to actually rotate the squad. I’d love to see Dono & Raf prove they belong in MLS.

Blake Zuschnitt: In his second year on the team and by most accounts showing flashes this preseason, I expect Joaquin Torres to get more opportunity and make the most of it. In my estimation, Curtin mostly had him playing in Daniel Gazdag’s role, but if he’s able to get more opportunity as one of the two strikers in the 4-4-2, I think his skill set can really shine closer to the opponent’s goal.

George Diamond: I’m feeling a good year for Chris Donovan. We saw flashes of what he can provide last year and I’m excited to see him continue to grow and develop in the league. Aside from Champions League play early in the season, he scored in every competition the club played in. His pace is electric and his positioning is good- he simply lacked the finishing touch. I anticipate more goals from him this year, especially if Baribo is unable to make an impact. Love the Torres shout by the way.

Gregory Schoen: I agree with George Diamond. I really liked what I saw out of Chris Donovan in limited minutes. However, I am expecting Quinn Sullivan to have a big season. At 18 years of age, I feel he has a major upside. He was aggressive on and off the ball last season. While he only scored twice in 690 minutes played, his shot accuracy (shot on target compared to total shots) was a team leading 50%. Compare that with Jack McGlynn who had twice as many shots with only 17.9% shots on target and the same number of goals. His xG was 1.5 – the best among Union subs. While he was fifth on the team in passing accuracy, his xA was only 0.6. So, there is room for improvement in the area of assists and the quality of his passing. If given the opportunity, which is always a struggle under Jim Curtin, he could have a breakout season.

4. Are there positions where you think the Union don’t have sufficient depth to get through the year?

Tim Jones: Yes. Attacking mid and left back.

Kyle Grantham: The same holes they’ve always had — left back, goalkeeper, striker. There is no competent depth behind Kai, and that’s terrifying considering the Union couldn’t have had a strong belief he was returning until maybe a week before he signed that contract. There was and is no backup plan there. Everyone behind Andre is untested at the MLS level and we saw how scary Joe Bendik was when Andre was hurt or with Jamaica last year. With Carranza expected to leave, Uhre struggling against tight line defense, Donovan wildly inconsistent and Baribo untested I don’t know how anyone could feel confident about the lack of attacking acquisitions.

Dan Hayden: DM for sure. Martinez’s backup is Bueno who is slated to be starting on the outside of the diamond. We simply don’t have enough bodies in the midfield, especially with Flach out for an open-ended pectoral injury. Bedoya CAN NOT start more than sporadically.

Blake Zuschnitt: To me, the midfield depth is not sufficient at all. When there are international windows when Daniel Gazdag, Jose Martinez and Jesus Bueno are called into the Venezuelan squad, the lack of depth in midfield is vulnerable to exposure. With McGlynn potentially gone this summer, and only nine healthy bodies to field four physically demanding positions in multiple competitions early in the season, I would be surprised if they don’t look to bring in another body or two to combat the lack of depth in the middle of the park.

George Diamond: Yes. In short, we have quality at midfield but are lacking numbers, especially with Flach’s injury. Forward depth has the bodies but potentially lacks the quality, especially if Carranza leaves. Left D is hilariously thin but we have the best wingback in the league and name an MLS club that is deep at full-back anyway. I tend to think the starting forwards are the best strikers the Union has had. Between Baribo, Donovan, Anderson or even Sullivan someone will prove to be a good 3rd option. I think you have to be most concerned about how the midfield will hold up through what could be another 60-game season. What are the odds Richard Odada returns from loan? Next to nothing right?

Gregory Schoen: The Union are woefully inadequate at attacking midfield. This team could have bolstered its depth at the number 10 role during the off-season through free agency or via trade or transfer. Instead, it will rely heavily once again on the Daniel Gazdag. The Hungarian international should be peaking at 26 years old. Last season he led the team in assists (11) and tied for the team lead in goals with 14. Still, there wasn’t the flow through the midfield last season as there was in 2022. A lot is being asked of Gazdag to anchor the Union offense. Jim Curtin and Ernst Tanner should be praying that Gazdag stays as healthy as he has over the last couple of seasons because there is not much depth at his position. Given the congestion of fixtures on the Union schedule, they are going to need either McGlynn or Sullivan to step up their game and take a more senior role.

5. Bold prediction time- where do you see the Union finishing in MLS, CCCup, USOC, and Leagues Cup?

Tim Jones: MLS – playoffs, but no home-field advantage. CCCup – exit in the quarterfinals. USOC – one win. Leagues Cup – make the knockouts but fail to qualify for 2025 CCCup.

Kyle Grantham: MLS – Late season slide to the 4th seed, lose in the 2nd round. CONCACAF – exit in the semifinals. USOC – exit in the semifinals. Leagues Cup – lose semifinal and lose 3rd place game.

Dan Hayden: C3 win, miss the supporter shield, MLS Cup Final loss, Leagues Cup Win, early exit for Open Cup (mostly because I’m sure I’ll have some sort of cardiac event if they lose that in a shootout again).

Blake Zuschnitt: MLS – ECF exit after finishing 5th in supporters shield, CCC – Lose in final, USOC – round of 16 exit, Leagues Cup – lose in Final.

George Diamond: At least Conf-Finals in MLS. Semi-Final loss in CCL. They’ll win whichever round they enter in the Open Cup but lose the next round. Quarter-Finals in Leagues Cup.

Gregory Schoen: I am not very optimistic about the team this season. It seems predestined that Inter Miami CF will claim both the Supporter’s Shield and MLS Cup. With a tough FC Cincinnati, defending champions Columbus, and an improved Orlando squad –  the Union will finish no better than fifth in the Eastern Conference. They will make it through the first round of the MLS Cup playoffs but bow out in the Second Round. They will make it out of the group stage (finishing second) in CCL but lose in the round of 16.  they will fail in the quarter-finals of Leagues Cup. I think the best chance of silverware is via USOC. Realistically, though, they will fall in the semi-finals.

And a final wild prediction from your humble co-managing editor:

Matt Custer: Based upon the inaccuracy of all prior trade rumors, no current Union player will go to Europe this year.  There is a reason they are playing for the Union and not somewhere else.


  1. “If a team is not getting better, it’s getting worse.” (Joe Paterno I think.)
    The Union did not get better this offseason.

      • not 1 new proven player at MLS level or better added to team. The new back up goalie is the only improvement I am counting on to help when Blake he is gone.

        Desperately need a clone of Ilson JR. Torres is not that guy.

        Dont ever see Donavan getting much better. I am sure he is a hard worker.

        Baribo must step up or Sullivan has to learn a new position,

        They need to figure this out NOW ! Not mid season.
        Disappointed in off season moves. If the Union dont make a last second acquisition I only see this team barely squeaking into the playoffs.

  2. Vince Devine says:

    Let Gregory Schoen know Quinn Sullivan will be 20 next month.

  3. OneManWolfpack says:

    I’m taking the optimistic route and saying this team will win a trophy this year. One of these competitions will finally be ours. I do sincerely hope they add some kind of attacking talent, especially now since the Torres loan has happened… not that he would’ve played much anyway. But maybe, just maybe, that money can be spent somewhere?

  4. “South Beach Barca” love it. Yes, Inter-Messi winning would be Garber/Apples dream so maybe it is predestined. Horrible showing in their preseason world tour does provide hope for us though!

    The big question for me is whether Jim can get over his fear of rotation as several writers alluded to above.

    Looking forward to next week, Tuesday on the couch and Saturday at the Soob!!

  5. I think in several cases, the Union’s placing will be more based on how Inter Messi does than how the Union do. If all of the top players for Ft. Lauderdale play to their best, the Union could have a better season than 2022 and still not win anything. On the other hand, if this is the retirement league I think it is, there probably won’t even be playoffs for South Florida.
    The Union have a tough draw in the Round of 16 in CCC with Pachuca. If they get by that round, then they should make the semis before another tough round.
    For Leagues Cup, they should make it out of the group stage but then picking how far they go will depend a lot on the KO draw. Unless there is some reseeding, the East will be tougher since both teams with byes (America and Columbus) would have to fit in there. Also, did anyone notice that even though Messi is the third lowest seed in MLS, they got into a group with two teams from Mexico meaning they’ll probably get two home games in the group stage.
    For US Open Cup, they’ve had brutal draws the last two years having to go far outside the region (Orlando and Minnesota) on short rest. On the other hand, they haven’t won a US Open Cup game since the 2018 semifinals.
    Ultimately, I think their best bet is to focus on the regular season and aim for the Supporters Shield. To do that, they need to focus on winning and avoiding draws. Remember as we learned in 2022, two losses and one win is better than three draws.

  6. I’m relieved Torres is gone, even though it leaves Union short in that position. He never showed even the hint of anything last year. Maybe they can fill his $309,000 (!) salary hole with someone who can actually contribute.

  7. It ain’t gonna be Torres. Just got loaned out.

  8. Most important thing to watch for me this season is going to be Carranza. If he wants to go to a top club in Europe he’s going to need to up his game. IF he can do that, he’ll have suitors in the summer and Union will probably feel like they need to sell him mid-season rather than wait for another sleepy winter market. This has the potential to really make things interesting for the Union right in the middle of Leagues Cup.

  9. Markus Anderson will surprise a lot of fans this season, and is the likely reason they loaned Torres out.

    • In Curtis’s press conference on February 13, he spoke highly of Anderson. In hindsight, his praise for Anderson foreshadowed the Torres loan.

  10. Gotta strongly disagree with Greg’s last point about Miami. That team isn’t winning the shield. They might make a run in MLS cup because they are an elite side in a knockout competition, but that team is not going to be the best team week in and out in the MLS. I mean heck, look at how poor that defense was with Kamal Miller and they traded him to get cap compliant last week.

    On paper it seems like IMCF is destined to run the league, but I don’t think that’s a reality. Look at how poor they were in the league last year even with Messi.

  11. paulcontinuum2022 says:

    Let’s try this again.

    MLS website full preview of the Union season with predictions from 17 of its writers/contributors
    1st- 1
    3rd – 2
    4th – 4
    5th – 4
    6th – 2
    7th – 3
    8th -1

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