Like Greg Vanney’s Toronto FC, Jim Curtin’s Philadelphia Union are a team that was on the short end of history being made. Landon Donovan set the MLS career regular season goals record last season against the Union, ranked No. 12 in The View From Avalon’s Preseason Power Rankings, and Philly look to right the ship this season. The Union and Bruce Arena’s Los Angeles Galaxy meet on Jun. 20 at StubHub Center in Carson, Calif. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. PT/10:30 p.m. ET and will be televised by FOX.
Algerian goalkeeper Rais Mbolhi is projected to be the starter this season for the Union. Mbolhi started four matches last season and with Zac MacMath on the move, Mbolhi should get extensive playing time in 2015. Jamaican international Andre Blake is the backup. Blake started just one regular season contest last year for Philly but was a key contributor in the club’s U.S. Open Cup run.
Sheannon Williams and Raymon Gaddis anchor a young Union defense. Last season, Williams started 23 of 24 matches, recording three goals and four assists. Gaddis started all 34 games in the back for the Union, recording two assists and, just like Williams, is expected to retain his position as a starting left back or right back. Brazilian Fabio Alves should also be a lock to start a majority of contests, having started 19 matches last year for the Union.
Other Union defenders will either look to get into the mix or season up with the Harrisburg City Islanders, the Union’s USL affiliate. Ethan White started 12 games in 2014 but a hamstring injury cut his season short. Austin Berry only appeared in six games for Philly and could be heading to Harrisburg on loan. Speaking of loans, Canadian-born Portuguese international Steven Vitoria comes on loan from Benfica and also spent time with FC Porto as a youth player. And last season, Richie Marquez started 28 matches in the back…with Harrisburg, and 2015 should see more of the same, at the worst.
Maurice Edu, Cristian Maidana and Vincent Nogueira headline Philadelphia’s midfield. Edu—who began his playing career with Toronto FC in 2007—started 31 matches in 2014, recording three goals and two assists. Maidana, the Union’s top provider, started 23 of 26 contests last year, recording two goals and 11 assists. In 2014, Nogueira started 28 of 29 games, recording two goals and three assists. And they are accompanied by a mix of vets and youngsters.
Longtime veteran Brian Carroll is in his fifth season with the Union, having started 17 of 21 matches last year with Philly in a career dating back to 2003. Zach Pfeffer is in his fifth year with the Union, but after appearing in just five matches last season, Pfeffer could be on his way to Harrisburg on loan. Also looking at earning more time with the City Islanders is fourth-year player Jimmy McLaughlin, who appeared in one league match off the bench for the club in 2014.
Michael Lahoud will look to also push for playing time after appearing in only eight matches and starting just four last year. Brazilian Fred Da SIlva started three of 11 matches for the Union and is also capable of pushing for more first team minutes. Meanwhile, Danny Cruz is a regular on the starting XI. Cruz started 16 of 26 matches played, scoring three goals and recording two assists, and this will be his fourth year with the club.
Sebastien Le Toux, the Union’s franchise player, headlines a strong corps of forwards for the 2015 campaign. Last season, Le Toux started 23 of 29 matches, recording 12 goals and seven assists. Andrew Wenger is another regular at forward for Phladelphia, having started 19 of 28 matches, recording six goals and four assists.
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Antoine Hoppenot, Conor Casey and C.J. Sapong are expected to also contend for minutes and production for the Union. Hoppenot was used primarily as a sub last season, appearing in 13 matches last year but starting just once. Casey started 18 of 25 games in 2014, recording eight goals and two assists. Sapong is the new face among the forwards, hailing from Sporting Kansas City. Last year, Sapong started seven of 20 games in limited playing time but should be able to earn valuable minutes with the Union.