Central Defensive Midfielders
1) Maurice Edu
It's a pretty easy case for Edu to be the to be the top central defensive midfielder (CDM) on the Philadelphia Union's roster. The Union's top-rated regular according to whoscored.com, Mo will most likely find himself the lone CDM in 2015, due to the departure of fellow CDM Amobi Okugo to Orlando City SC. Also with a new contract as a Designated Player, the only way Edu doesn't play is if he's injured, suspended, or on national team duty.
2) Michael Lahoud
Lahoud will most likely play the role of Edu's understudy, getting the lion's share of the minutes that Edu won't play at CDM. The Sierra Leone international is a serviceable veteran player who can sub in at a few different positions in the midfield as well as on defense. He'll miss a couple of games to international duty, so if he can't go there's always...
3) Brian Carroll
A bit of a surprise to see back in a Union kit, Carroll may not be the defensive rock he was a couple of years ago but can still contribute. The man has a wealth of experience at CDM and is one of those "character guys" that coaches love. The only question is that at almost 34, can he still compete with guys ten years his junior? Expect him to see limited minutes in 2015 barring something catastrophic.
1) Vincent Nogueira
In my opinion, Nogueira was the Union's best player last year by far. His passing was something truly to behold, and while it seemed like he flagged a bit toward the end of 2014, bear in mind he hadn't had a break since the summer of 2013. Now that he's had some rest and a full season with the Union, I'm excited to see how he and new arrival Fernando Aristeguieta mesh. If those guys get on the same page early, we could be witnessing one of the most dangerous links in MLS.
2) Zach Pfeffer
One of the most curious revelations of preseason was when manager Jim Curtin said that Pfeffer was challenging Cristian Maidana for the number 10 spot. While Chaco will probably retain his spot, look for Pfeffer to get more playing time this year not only backing up Maidana at the central attacking midfield (CAM) position, but at a more traditional central midfield position as well. Pfeffer's patience with getting first-team playing time may soon be paying dividends not only for him but for the Union as well.
3) Michael Lahoud
Lahoud's versatility and experience gives him a slight edge here, although he may be needed more often at the CDM role than the regular central midfielder position.
4) Jimmy McLaughlin
Young McLaughlin has often found himself in the shadow of Pfeffer. Both were signed as Homegrown Players, yet while Pfeffer was getting the attention McLaughlin was quietly honing his game. He's looked good in preseason, and he may get minutes in the US Open Cup and some mop-up time late in regular season games.
Player/coach Fred will most likely be more of a coach than a player this year, due to the decent amount of talent at the midfield position. He may still get some minutes, especially if Lahoud and McLaughlin fail to impress over the course of the season.