Going into the 2017 season, the expectations for the Philadelphia Union are pretty high. With the 2016 season ending in a one-and-done in the playoffs, the expectations will most likely be raised. In order to achieve these expectations, the Union must plug some very glaring holes in the team. I talked to the staff here at Brotherly Game to see what they thought the biggest need was, asking “Using what we definitively know about who will be back next year and who would not, list the Union's biggest needs and explain why your number one is the number one.” Here are their answers:
Colin Campbell: The biggest need is a striker. CJ Sapong stopped scoring in mid August, and the Union’s form followed CJ. He was told he needed a 15 goal season at the beginning of the year, and he came up short. The Union really do need a 15 goal striker - they haven’t had one since Sebastien Le Toux in 2011. With Tranquillo Barnetta leaving and Ilsinho and Anderson not likely to stay, the Union will have a decent salary cap to move around, and if Edu takes a pay cut they can remove the DP label, and I honestly think that they can go out and get a DP striker, which is something I’ve said they have needed since 2012.
Nick Youngstein: A center back. I think Josh Yaro should play the 6, and Ken Tribbett should stay in USL. Andre Blake is probably leaving, so he won't be back there to make up for a porous back line. Give Richie Marquez a great partner, and I think that will solve their problems.
Matt Ralph: Striker and a switch to a 4-4-2. Earlier this year I thought we needed a backup for C.J. Now I would say the opposite.
Evan Villella: Veteran center back (not from south america this time please) we have Marquez, but Yaro is raw, so is Auston Trusty who I think gets the majority of starts in BSFC. Tribbett is the new Anderson and might actually be able to rehab in Bethlehem, but we'll see.
Jared Young: Realistically Yaro is gonna play at CB. The #2 pick showed he can do enough, and you have to start him in his position. Next I assume Blake is gone and Edu is the 6. Bedoya is the CAM so the Union desperately need an 8, a goalie, a striker, and a left back. I say left back because the other positions are probably locked and it's the only spot where they can really improve the defense. I think the first three spots (G, 8, 9) are equally critical. If they don't get solid at all three they will be mediocre to bad again.
While I'm rambling, the tactics need to change too. The press was poorly run because this isn't an athletic midfield and they had a young back line. But even then, it wasn't coordinated well enough. Either run it right and run over people, or sit back and protect the defense and counter. There was a pretty clear talent gap between $20M Toronto FC and $6M Union Wednesday night. That can't be ignored. If you don't have the talent you have to play at a tactical extreme, and the Union just try to do a little of everything and end up good at nothing.
Alex Klein: A striker who can play with Sapong. I've never really been a fan of one up top for any team. A new starter next to Marquez at CB give Yaro more time to develop. A new winger since it sounds like ilshino will gone.
For me, I think the biggest need is a number 8. That’s not to say the other positions aren’t in need of an upgrade - they are. And while Alejandro Bedoya did well at the position, I feel he’ll better serve the Union either at the 10 with Fabian Herbers or Ilsinho out on the right or on the right with Roland Alberg at the 10. Someone who can act as the glue between the offense and defense and distribute the ball well will help relieve the pressure on the defense, while still providing enough of an offensive threat to allow the forwards and wings to get into a position where they can put shots on frame.
What do you think is the Union’s single biggest need going into 2017? Let us know in the comments section below!