Despite a pair of losses for the Philadelphia Union in the 2016 preseason, there are still a few things to get excited about.
The Union fell to 0-2 in the preseason after losing to the Chicago Fire 4-2 on Thursday and the Jacksonville Armada 1-0 the previous Saturday. Over the course of these two games the Union managed to get all players on the pitch allowing both coaching staff and fans the ability to critique the team to know where they stand before the season begins.
Needless to say, the Union are still a work in progress. As seen in Thursday’s match, the Union collapsed repeatedly on defense solely off of poor passing, confirming our continued fears from last season of having defensive issues. Even though the defensive starters and substitutions were mainly young, unexperienced players, it never is a good feeling to know that you lack depth in a critical part of the field.
The Union have shown us some things to get excited about though. For one thing, Fabian Herbers, a 2016 SuperDraft pick, scored his first Union goal in the 16th minute after back-heeling a low cross from Sebastien Le Toux into the back of the net. Also the Union moved a few players around and into different positions in an attempt to increase their overall depth. For instance, Eric Ayuk, who typically plays in the midfield, came on in the second half to replace Herbers as the lone striker on top of the 4-2-3-1 formation. Brian Carroll, a defensive midfielder, also came on as a sub to replace Tranquillo Barnetta making him play a more attacking position and allowing him to get a chance on goal late in the game. As of this point, both Carroll and Ayuk should remain in their respective positions but this opens up possibilities for the future.
Also, new signing Matt Jones replaced Andre Blake in goal. Jones is currently on loan from Portugal’s Primeira Liga and is scheduled to stay for the entire 2016 season. This is good news for the Union as Blake will likely be called up to international duty with Jamaica, leaving John McCarthy and Jones as the possible replacements.
Despite the ambiguity about the current roster, we won’t be able to know what tactics will be used or which ones will be tossed until once the 2016 MLS season begins.