Special to BrotherlyGame.com
If there was an offseason checklist the Union wished to follow, they've done so flawlessly.
Already green, the Union went even younger by selecting a medley of teenage and 20-something talent at the SuperDraft. The club jettisoned a few anchors from its inaugural season. And Thursday, the Union added a veteran goalkeeper and sweeper.
The only thing left to do? Win.
Think about it in this regard: Other than a better regular-season record in 2011, there is no further room for improvement for the Union. Management and the technical staff have responded to almost every outside criticism, quelled every fan worry and assembled a group they think can compete for a playoff spot ... and beyond.
Let's be clear - nobody is penciling in the Union as the Eastern Conference's team to beat. But you have to like their odds this season of attaining one of Major League Soccer's 10 playoff berths.
Their first foray into MLS was met with derision from opponents and indecision by their keepers. That's the penalty you incur when you rely on a pair of stoppers with only six years of league experience between them. There's no telling how good Chris Seitz and Brad Knighton can or will be in MLS, but they were plagued from the start of the Union's season.
So how did Peter Nowak respond? He and his staff invested time and (Bimbo's) money into soliciting the services of a seasoned goalkeeper in Faryd Mondragon. Nowak also peppered his backline with a sweeper in Carlos Valdes, who will compete immediately for a starting spot.
Nowak's picks last week in the MLS SuperDraft were worthy of a collective scratching of the head. Why pluck players who can't help you now? Maybe Nowak and Co. were onto something when they took 19-year-old Zac MacMath, who is sure to glean plenty from the 39-year-old Mondragon.
As for fellow SuperDraft picks midfielder Michael Farfan and forward Levi Houapeu, you have to think they'll pick up a thing or two from strikers Danny Mwanga and Sebastien Le Toux. The latter told me last week that he'll be more than happy to lend a hand in their development.
Credit Nowak and his staff (and deep-pocketed Bimbo) for improving the Union this offseason. They did their homework, reached for the checkbook and made the club better than it was in its first season.
So what's left for the Union to strike from their checklist? Nothing ... except winning.