Chester, PA (Sports Network) - Golf most likely isn't a forte of those in
the Philadelphia Union front office, but the term "mulligan" should definitely
be in their vocabulary for this season.
Last season was a major step backward which saw the club start 2-7-2 and fire
then-manager Peter Nowak in June. Assistant coach John Hackworth took over and
gave the side some stability, but Philadelphia finished 10-18-6.
Thankfully for Union supporters and players alike, 2012 is in the rearview
mirror and the 43-year-old Hackworth spent his first offseason in charge
making significant upgrades to the team.
Fan favorite Sebastien Le Toux, who was unceremoniously traded to the
Vancouver Whitecaps by Nowak, was brought back by Hackworth in a trade from
Red Bull New York. Le Toux scored 25 goals and added 20 assists for the Union
from 2010-2011 while quickly endearing himself to the notoriously tough
Philadelphia fan base.
Along with Le Toux, Philadelphia added some much-needed size in front of goal
by selecting former Colorado Rapids man Conor Casey in the second stage of the
MLS re-entry draft. Casey was let go by Colorado after 2012, but over six
seasons with the Rapids, he became the all-time leading scorer in club history
with 50 goals. He also led the team to the 2010 MLS Cup title.
With Casey and Le Toux in the fold, young goal poacher Jack McInerney's role
could be in question. McInerney had a breakout year in 2012 once Hackworth was
appointed. He became the team's target forward and scored an impressive eight
goals and posted a franchise-record four-game goal-scoring streak.
Philadelphia scored just 37 goals in 34 matches last season, but with
McInerney, Le Toux and Casey handling offensive duties this season, the number
in the "goals for" column of the standings should rise significantly.
Defensively, the Union will have a different look as captain Carlos Valdes was
loaned to Colombian side Santa Fe, but Valdes' loss shouldn't hurt too much as
former MLS Defender of the Year finalist Bakary Soumare and hometown man Jeff
Parke, who arrived in a trade with Seattle Sounders, will be paired together
in central defense.
Right back Sheanon Williams is a rising star, but left back Gabriel Farfan is
playing out of position and could be a weak spot along the Union backline.
In the midfield, the keys to the car belong to Michael Farfan, who showed he
could direct traffic in the middle of the park by making the MLS All-Star team
in 2012. Brian Carroll returns to the holding places in midfield and was named
captain for his veteran leadership.
"It's an honor to officially wear the armband," Carroll said. "I'll just try
to do the best job that I can, it's not going to mean that I am going to
change completely who I am just because I am officially the captain."
One interesting storyline heading into the 2013 campaign is that of Freddy
Adu. Adu played in 24 matches last season, scoring five goals, but was
frequently subbed out in the second half and made it known to Hackworth that
he wasn't happy being pulled before the final whistle.
However, Adu has the highest salary on the team and refused to take a pay cut
when approached by the club, meaning he likely won't be on the roster when the
season begins in March.
2012 IN REVIEW: Things started very poorly for Philadelphia, but once
Hackworth took over, morale, as well as form, began to improve. Unfortunately,
it was too little too late and the Union finished well out of a playoff spot
with 36 points, good for eighth place in the Eastern Conference.
ACQUISITIONS: Sebastien Le Toux (F), Conor Casey (F), Jeff Parke (D), Kyle
Mendoza (M), Darmani Richards (F).
LOSSES: Freddy Adu (F/M), Carlos Valdes (D), Gabriel Gomez (M), Porfirio Lopez
(D), Zach Pfeffer (F), Josue Martinez (F).
OUTLOOK: With franchise player Le Toux back, and Casey providing a physical
presence in front of goal, the offensive output should increase, but Hackworth
must encourage his troops to shoot more than they did last season. If things
go well, The Union should make a run at a playoff spot, but Soumare, who
played just one match in 2012 due to lingering knee problems, has to remain
healthy along the backline in place of Valdes, otherwise defense could be a
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