By AVI CREDITOR
Major League Soccer's newest franchise will open the season Thursday night against the team to most recently hold that distinction. The temptation to compare the Union to Seattle Sounders F.C. during the season opener will be mighty, but unfair.
After Seattle's conquests in its expansion year, expectations will be high for this club to replicate that success. Make no mistake about it, Philadelphia and Seattle are made in different molds. This will be a team that the city and the Sons of Ben will embrace: a hard-working, grind-it-out squad that will rely on its strength (defense) as opposed to an attack-minded team with a bevy of high-priced offensive players.
Coach Peter Nowak has five able-bodied defenders to protect whichever first-year starter is in goal, whether it is Chris Seitz or Brad Knighton. The quintet of Danny Califf, Shavar Thomas, Michael Orozco, Jordan Harvey and Dave Myrie will be counted on for strong performances in order to get the Union off and running in year one.
Here is a look at the 2010 Philadelphia Union:
2010 PHILADELPHIA UNION
Players to Watch – Sebastian Le Toux, Alejandro Moreno, Fred, Chris Seitz, Danny Mwanga, Toni Stahl
——————–Alejandro Moreno————–Danny Mwanga————
-Sebastian Le Toux—Stefani Miglioranzi—Toni Stahl——–Shea Salinas-
————–Michael Orozco——–Shavar Thomas———-Danny Califf—–
Biggest Question -Will the Union sign a Designated Player?
This team lacks explosiveness, and goals may be hard to come by as the season unfolds. While Nowak & Co. have done a nice job assembling a roster of hard-working and eager players, both young and old, there is a glaring need for a player with some star quality.
X Factor – Fred
Acquired in the deal that sent the top allocation spot to D.C. United, the Brazilian midfielder is in need of a career rejuvenation. He disappointed at the end of his tenure with D.C, and a change of scenery and new coach could jump-start the 30-year-old.
Fred is going to be responsible for creating much of the Union's attack, and he must be in form for the goals to start flowing for Philadelphia. He will miss Thursday's season opener while serving a one-game suspension for a red card he received in his final match with D.C.
Outlook – A Nowak-coached team always has a chance, but the expectation that this is the "next Seattle" should be tempered a bit. The Union will win its share of games, and opening PPL Park will be an inspiration, but the team is a star player or two away from making a run to the postseason.