Yesterday the SBNation MLS preview came out and the Philadelphia Union were predicted to finish 7th in the east. The staff put together their heads to compare with the national perspective. We're a little more optimistic. Here's what was said about the keys to the season and where the Union will finish this year.
Our season hinges on.... The defense
Why this year won't be like last year: The team is deeper and more talented
Key player: Haris. If he can fill the massive void left by Nogueira and provide the link between the back line and front line that was missing late last year this will be an improved team.
Predicted finish: Third place
Wild prediction: Ilsinho will have a career year.
Our season hinges on...The quality of play at Right Center Back.
Why this year won't be like last year: Because we have actual #6s who hopefully won't leave mid-season, and Bedoya can fully acclimate.
Key player: Onyewu/Yaro. If Ken Tribbett sees significant time in league matches, Union are f*&ked sideways.
Predicted finish: 5th in the East, behind both NY teams and the 2 Canadian teams.
Wild prediction: Roland Alberg will break Sebastien Le Toux's team record for single-season goals scored.
Our season hinges on...Jay Simpson developing into a reliable MLS Striker
Why this year won't be like last year: We have more depth across the board which should prevent late-season swoons in form.
Key player: Alejandro Bedoya -- The biggest arrival of last season now has a full season to showcase his talents. With Medunjanin he should be able to pull the strings in a Union midfield that can keep possession with the best in the league.
Predicted finish: 4th in the Eastern Conference
Wild prediction: The team will have a better away record than at home (maybe they won't play Bedoya-Medunjanin at 6 and 8 and home that would be nice)
Our season hinges on...Consistency. If we don't fall apart again like last year, this is a team that can get hot and go on a Timbers-esque run.
Why this year won't be like last year: Depth. We have at least two guys that can go at every position and one or two injuries shouldn't derail the team. We also won't have to worry about a "one or the other" situation regarding the MLS/USOC
Key player: CJ. The pressure on him is either going to turn him into a diamond (think first month last year) or a trade piece. Simpson has been banging them in this preseason and can usurp CJ.
Predicted finish: 4th.
Wild prediction: Derrick Jones takes both Brian Carroll and Warren Creavalle's spot.
Our season hinges on...Finding a reliable goal scorer at the striker position.
Why this year won't be like last year: The Union are at least two deep in every position, one person goes on a cold streak there is someone right behind them ready to take their spot.
Key player: I think instead of a player that is key to the season, I think how well Jim Curtin coaches is key to the season. I put a good deal of the blame on the second half slump on Curtin. I always felt that there was never a plan B with them last year. With all the talent Curtin has at his disposal they need to be at least in the 4th seed for the playoffs, or the regular season will be a bust. And depending on their playoff results Curtin could be on the hot seat.
Predicted finish: 3rd, NYRB and Toronto finish ahead of them.
Wild prediction: Andre Blake transfers to Liverpool over the summer, but is loaned back to the Union for the rest of the season.
Our season hinges on...Defense, which hinges on Curtin prioritizing it.
Why this year won't be like last year: I'm not convinced it won't be similar.
Key player: Bedoya because he's the million dollar man and underwhelmed last year. He's supposed to be good enough to carry this team on his shoulders to a playoff spot.
Predicted finish: 7th. People seem to be missing that the league added a lot of quality this offseason, albeit not big names. Meanwhile the Union starting XL is roughly the same after swapping for Nogs and Barnetta. They really just added depth in my opinion, which will help but isn't a huge upgrade.
Wild prediction: Union sign a big center back in the summer. Yaro only plays a few minutes. Onyewu can't go a full season.
Our season hinges on...Ability to adjust (tactics, personnel, etc) in the face of adversity.
Why this year won't be like last year: See number 1.
Key player: Medunjanin' ability to replicate performances of Vincent Nogueira will limit the pressure on the back line.
Predicted finish: 5th seed in playoffs, better showing than last year but still bounced out in first round.
Wild prediction: Ilsinho wins MLS MVP with Giovinco like numbers offensively.
Our season hinges on...The back line and Jay Simpson.
Why this year won't be like last year: This year will be just like last year.
Key player: Whether he's at the #8 or #10 this season, Bedoya has to be outstanding for this team to succeed.
Predicted finish: 6th place.
Wild prediction: Mo Edu starts fewer than five times.
Why this year won't be like last year: It'll probably be like last year maybe without the hot start and atrocious finish but more balanced.
Key player: Whomever plays the 6/8 will be the key. last season we saw what how dysfunctional the Union were once they lost their main cog in the middle, Nogueira. If they cannot get similar play out of the Haris, Edu or etc., this season will look more like the second half versus the first half.
Predicted finish: 5th or 6th
Wild prediction: The union make it to the USOC finals again and actually win it.
For those of you keeping track our collective prediction is that the Union finish 5th in the east. Please document your own prediction in the comments and vote in the poll below! Go U!