Exactly two weeks from today the Philadelphia Union will begin their 2012 MLS campaign. On Monday, March 12th they face the Portland Timbers at Jeld-Wen Field. Last year, in only their second year in MLS, the Union finished 3rd in the Eastern Conference and clinched a playoff berth, losing to MLS Cup finalists Houston in the first round. They had the best defense in the Eastern Conference with a 1.06 goals against average, and allowing a mere 3 shots a game on average; A far cry from their first year, where they had a 1.63 goals against average. Now entering their third season, the Union look to build on their success from their first two seasons, hopefully making a deep run into the playoffs. However, a crazy offseason may derail the Union’s progress.
The Union had a bit of a facelift over the offseason, losing their top scorer, Sebastien Le Toux, and their star goalkeeper Fayrd Mondragon. While the departure of Mondragon was unfortunate, it was understandable because he was close to retirement and wished to finish out his career with the team he started with back home in Colombia. Young Zac MacMath will now be the starting keeper for the U with only 8 MLS starts under his belt. The Union faithful were far from understanding when Peter Nowak and Co. sent Le Toux packing to Vancouver. The Le Toux trade was one of, if not the, the biggest stories in the MLS offseason. The fans were heartbroken, as was Le Toux. He was a fan favorite, and had a hand in 45 out of the 79 goals the Union scored in the first two seasons. But the Union made several additions to the squad as well, especially at the striker position, where Le Toux played. Lionard Pajoy, the top scorer in Colombia, Chandler Hoffman, a prolific finisher out of UCLA, Josue Martinez, a young Costa Rican international with blazing speed, Porifo Lopez, a left back from Costa Rica where he is coming off a championship season, as well as several others. And don’t forget Danny Mwanga, The Union’s first ever draft pick in 2010. And now that Le Toux is gone the Union are expecting a big year from the Congolese striker, who has scored only 12 goals for the Union in the past two seasons.
The Union are currently in Costa Rica for nine days to prepare for the upcoming season. Fresh off a 13 day camp in Orlando, the Union are in their final preparations before the season begins. This upcoming season will answer a lot of questions the fans have been asking, including:
Will Freddy Adu turn that potential into production?
Who will fill the void left by Le Toux?
Will MacMath be ready for a grueling MLS season in goal with such little experience?
Will Peter Nowak pick a starting XI and stick with it?
Come on the U!