Monday, November 2, 2015

Season in Review: Philadelphia Union

Record: 10-17-7, 37 pts, 9th Place Eastern Conference
Goals For: 42
Goals Against: 55

Team Leaders

Goals: C.J. Sapong - 9
Assists: Cristian Maidana - 15
Shutouts: Brian Sylvestre - 5
All-Stars: None

Year in Review

The Union won just once in their first 11 matches in 2015 (1-7-3) and were never able to recover from their slow start. Still, posting a nearly .500 record over the final 2/3 of the season (9-10-4) and advancing to the U.S. Open Cup Finals for a second consecutive season leaves fans reasons to be optimistic moving forward. Andre Blake emerged out of the wreckage that was Philadelphia's goalkeeping situation and the 24 year-old Jamaican will likely hold down the position for the Union for years to come. C.J. Sapong (26) resurrected his declining career with his best MLS season despite an early injury and gave the Union attack some youth as Conor Casey (34) and Sébastien Le Toux (31) were the club's top two scorers in 2014. Cristian Maidana was second in MLS with 15 assists and the addition of Swiss International Tranquillo Barnetta added stability to the midfield. But the defense lacked consistency and their -13 goal differential was the second worst in the league behind only the Chicago Fire. On offense, promising loanee Fernando Aristeguieta contributed only 14 starts and scored just twice after April 5th, and the Union never won more than two in a row at any point during the season.

What's Next?

Cristian Maidana definitely earned his designated player paycheck, but neither Maurice Edu nor Aristeguieta delivered memorable performances in 2015. Aristeguieta's loan is up and assuming he returns to Nantes (France), that will free up a designated player spot on the Union roster. The emergence of Blake finally solves Philadelphia's goalkeeping issues and allows them to focus their attention elsewhere going into 2016. The backline wouldn't be a bad place to start, but a strike partner for Sapong wouldn't be a bad thought either. The midfield with Maidana and Barnetta is surrounded with young talent in Andrew Wenger (24), Eric Ayuk (18), Zach Pfeffer (20), and if Edu can somehow get pushed out of central defense, he'll shore that group up even further. If the Union play like the team that ended the season instead of the one that started it, they should be in the mix in the East next year, but they'll need better performances than they got from a lot of the supporting cast this year.

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