The Union's annual tradition of opening one of their early training sessions to fans resumed at YSC Sports near King of Prussia on Wednesday morning.
I was there with my three-month-old so I was slightly distracted but here are some things I observed through the glare of the Plexiglass.
- Brazilian center back Anderson Conceição was literally a man among boys at one point playing in a game with several Academy players and other young players. He was the only one born in the '80s on the field. It showed too whenever he touched the ball. From what he showed in training, he appears to be just the kind of calm and poised veteran the Union's back line sorely lacked last year.
- The Union Academy was well represented with goalkeeper Andrew Verdi, midfielder Anthony Fontana, defender Matthew Real, defender Mark McKenzie, midfielder Byron Josue Monge, midfielder Alexander Soto and one other I missed. Real and Soto impressed me the most.
- I liked what I saw from all three first round draft picks: Joshua Yaro, Keegan Rosenberry and Fabian Herbers. All three made crisp passes, touches and finishes in a short-sided match. Rosenberry took one ball off his chest beautifully and tapped it to a teammate for a goal.
- Leo Fernandes looked like a different player out there than I remember from 2014. Same skill set, but a lot more confidence. His season at New York Cosmos can be credited for some of the swagger. Him being one of only nine players who were on the team when he last played in 2015 might have helped too. He's what passes for a veteran on this team now.
- My favorite part of the open practice is when the players come out and greet the fans. It's not like they wait for people to come up to them either. Keegan Rosenberry was walking around introducing himself to people, Jim Curtin was patting fans on the back and Brian Carroll signed a bunch of shoes.
- One young fan surprised Rosenberry when she pulled out a glossy photo of Rosenberry and Yaro from the MLS SuperDraft for him to sign.
- Another young fan I was standing next to for a while seemed to know more about the offseason personnel changes than me. Since it was a school day, I want to believe that he's homeschooled and that part of his lesson for the day was scouting the new players.
- The staff outside YSC were so on script that when I tried to make a joke about my son trying out for the U1 team, I got the canned "just go inside those doors and someone in there will direct you" response.
- It was nice seeing Academy, first team and Bethlehem Steel present and future players on the field together. It didn't seem as harsh or competitive as in past years when trialists and unsigned draft picks were competing for only a couple remaining spots on the first team roster.
- Brian Carroll is the oldest player on the team at 34, but in person he looks like he still gets carded to buy alcohol.
- John McCarthy was one of two La Salle alumni on the field today. Bethlehem Steel defender Ryan Richter was also there. Drexel alum Ken Tribbett, a trialist who played for Harrisburg City Islanders last year, was also there.
- Chris Albright wasn't blowing smoke when he called Raymond Lee a "promising young player" after he was waived by the Union in August. He's back in camp, competing for a spot at Bethlehem.
- In addition to Yaro and Rosenberry, the Georgetown Hoyas were also represented by trialist Ian Christianson, a midfielder who played with Whitecaps FC 2 last season.
- Who's the guy with the dreadlocks? It's not Keon Daniel.
- Usually when I go to YSC, I am reminded of how old and terrible at soccer I am. Today, I was thanked more times than I can count by coaches and players. It was a good feeling and a great reminder of why I support this club.