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Philadelphia Union opens training camp with familiar questions

The Union held their first full training session under the bubble at Penn Park on Tuesday

Philadelphia Union players at their first full day of training for the 2019 season on January 22, 2019
Matt Ralph

Preparation for the Philadelphia Union’s 10th season kicked off under the bubble at Dunnin-Cohen Champions Field on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania Tuesday morning with familiar questions about open roster spots.

Ten players from last year’s roster have departed and so far just two players (Sergio Santos and Aurelien Collin) have been brought in from outside the organization along with two homegrown players (Brenden Aaronson and Matthew Freese) being added to the roster.

A replacement for Borek Dockal, who led MLS in assists last season after arriving late in preseason on a year-long loan from the Chinese Super League, is the most glaring need.

“We are of course in discussions and we have defined our targets, but sometimes it’s not always going that soft and smooth and you need to start from scratch again,” Sporting Director Ernst Tanner said after the session on Tuesday. “I think we are in really good discussions now and hopefully we can present somebody by the time we go to Clearwater. Like I said, it’s going to take some time.”

Collin’s signing, announced on Tuesday morning, brings the first team roster to 23, five short of the number the Union carried last season. Brazilian goalkeeper Luis Miguel Coronel’s signing hasn’t been made official yet but he would make 24.

Yomi Scintu, a 21-year-old forward from Germany is also on the preseason roster and was joined in training Tuesday by Steel FC rostered players Michee Ngalina, Faris, Selmir Miscic and Zach Zandi. Ben Ofeimu and Tomas Romero were the only unsigned academy players that participated in the training session.

“Today was a good first day where you have a good blend of academy kids, you have Bethlehem Steel guys that are out here, you have a trialist or two and you also have some veterans who are out here ready to go,” head coach Jim Curtin said after the session. “Everybody is at a different spot right now but like every other team in MLS we have ambitions to try and win MLS Cup. That’s what it’s about for our club.”

Defenders Mark McKenzie and Auston Trusty were absent as both are still with the United States senior national team. The homegrown duo was on the 23-man traveling roster announced by U.S. Soccer on Tuesday for upcoming friendlies against Panama and Costa Rica.

The topic of McKenzie’s status for the U20 World Cup in late May came up in media interviews with both Curtin and Tanner. While Curtin said it’s a bridge they’ll cross “when we really come to it,” Tanner left open the possibility that the team might not release him if they decide the games he can start in MLS for the Union are more critical for his development than an international tournament at the youth level.

Union left back Matthew Real is also expected to be part of the U.S. squad while Anthony Fontana was part of the team in the group stages of the U20 CONCACAF Championship the U.S. won for the second straight time.

The Union will be training at Penn Park through Saturday before leaving Monday for Clearwater, Florida.