To the dismay of Philadelphia Union fans, there were not too many takeaways from media day at Talen Energy Stadium on Thursday. Union Head Coach Jim Curtin and Sporting Director Earnie Stewart were very careful about what they said in regards to upcoming transfers. One thing is for certain, Jim and Earnie can both agree that they are not a complete team. When asked if the team would adjust their playing style based on the personnel they had or if players would have to adjust to a new style, Stewart was adamant that "With the system we wan to play and the core values we have, we had to make sure we got back to that. The choices that we've made already with players that have left are based on that. We are going to play the system that is for the Philadelphia Union in what we expect for our players and make that very clear and make sure they understand their roles that they have. They have to adapt to that."
Jim Curtin was blunt when asked about the first week of the preseason, saying "I’d say the effort from the group has been high, we have a young group that would like to make a big statement throughout the preseason. I’ve been very happy with the older players, we’ve been pushing them very hard in the opening to set a tone. It’s going to be a difficult preseason because we know going in March 6th against FC Dallas." He continued, "We have to be able to outrun teams. It’s a goal that we’ve set for ourselves. You know, the opening stages and it’s early, day five. They’ve done a great job putting work in, the mentality has been great. We’ve had some good performances from some individuals, a lot of young guys pushing the older guys. You can see the older guys looking over their shoulders going, ‘Alright, who is this kid.’ So its healthy competition and it’s something that Earnie (Stewart) said before in the offseason, to get two guys in each position to pushing each other and we’ve done that so far and its early. I'm not nieve, I know its going to take some time. We're going to have to test ourselves against MLS competition to really know but it’s a good starting point."
When asked if the starting XI was in camp or not, Curtin shrugged it off, saying that the Union are "actively pursuing players. Again, every team is pursuing players. We're happy with our starting points but you always have to be looking to upgrade. Its a team that I believe can be a playoff team; that is our goal, we have to get in the playoffs... I would be happy to pick a starting XI (with the players the Union has now) but we are not a complete roster."
While many fans would agree with Curtin's sentiment that the Union's roster is incomplete, Earnie Stewart is comfortable with the roster, stating that "its not about filling every spot, we have to make sure that we have a competitive group together where our goal is to have two good players in every single position. Having said that, we will not be able to fill every single roster spot. Its not so much the numbers game when you have to fill those, as long as there is quality and they make sure they raise the level of all the other players, those are the choices we will make. Obviously there is a minimum and there's a maximum; there is a minimum of players we will make sure we get in. We are not looking to just fill roster spots."
Another big talking point at media day was Maurice Edu. Edu had surgery back in mid October of 2015 and has not yet participated in the team's workouts. He has been recovering with the added performance division. On the addition of the division of training, Curtin explained "its one thing we’ve added this year, our performance department, it’s a huge division. Now we have a lot more hands and a lot more staff, its just a lot more bodies so we’re just monitoring everything the players are doing right now." Curtin also revealed where Edu would play this year: Edu will finally be in the midfield where he played in his Stoke City and Rangers FC days. "He’s the leader of the club. He’s played where the team needs which in the past few years has been center back. There was nothing we could do about that, but right now we see him as a number six (defensive midfielder). There’s a lot of different variables that go into it - you have to take all the context of the players around him, the changes that have happened now, his skill set, what we needed at that time of the season."
Among other things, we also learned on Media Day that the center back pairing will likely be Anderson Conceicao and Richie Marquez, though Josh Yaro has proven himself to be impressive in the preseason camp. We also learned that rookie Fabian Herbers plays best in a central attacking midfield position.