The Philadelphia Union goes into 2022 as a club with something to prove. They’ve earned a reputation as one of the new giants in MLS, but still don’t have an MLS Cup to show for it. The club stands on the precipice of being good and being great in 2022. The team finally has all the pieces it needs; it just needs to finish the puzzle. 2022 is the year that Philadelphia can become the team it’s been teasing toward since the 2020 Supporters’ Shield.
Philadelphia Union (14-8-12, 2nd in Eastern Conference, lost in Eastern Conference Final vs. NYCFC)
Head coach: Jim Curtin
Key additions: Mikael Uhre, Julian Carranza (on loan from Inter Miami), homegrown left back Anton Sorenson
Key losses: Jamiro Monteiro, Kacper Przybylko, Ilsinho and Alvas Powell
Projected Best XI: (4-4-2) Andre Blake; Kai Wagner, Jakob Glesnes, Jack Elliott, Olivier Mbaizo; Jose Martinez, Leon Flach, Alejandro Bedoya, Daniel Gazdag; Mikael Uhre, Julian Carranza
Best offseason move: Signing Mikael Uhre may prove to be one of the most important signings in the Union’s history. The Union has never had a strong No. 9 at the top of the lineup, and it was the one position that they lacked in 2021. With the departure of Kacper Przybylko, Uhre will have the opportunity to jump right in – assuming his immigration status gets sorted.
Best reason to pay attention: The Union has the potential to be a really exciting team to watch. They’re a team of hot and cold periods, and when they’re hot, Philadelphia is so fun to watch. The defense is impeccable and the offense can break down teams on the sides and down the center.
There’s also no ignoring the Union’s academy. Want to watch the next starts of Serie A or the Austrian Bundesliga? Jack McGlynn, Paxten Aaronson and Quinn Sullivan are the big three of the Union’s academy, but they have plenty of other young players on the back-burner. Jack de Vries is getting minutes while on loan in Italy and Nathan Harriel is due for more minutes back home. Keep an eye on the youth.
The one glaring weakness: The Union’s attack is very much a toss-up in 2022. Mikael Uhre is a tremendous striker, this much is true. However, he’s currently dealing with some visa issues so he’ll have to adjust to his new team and city without a preseason.
Uhre may have been the leading goalscorer in Denmark, but every player is different with every team and even top players sometimes require an adjustment period.
Behind Urhe is most likely Julian Carranza, a young DP on a season-long loan from Inter Miami. Carranza didn’t get much out of his time in Miami, and will really need to bounce back in Philly. The Union picked up an underdog in Carranza, but it’s unclear if he’ll win this fight.
Additionally, after a saga of several months, the Union lost DP Jamiro Monteiro to the San Jose Earthquakes. Monteiro had previously had personal struggles in Philadelphia, and seemed poised to leave mid-season in 2021. He eventually was able to finish out the year, but the Union weren’t able to keep him around much longer.
One fact you can use to impress your friends: Though losing Miro means they no longer have a player from Cape Verde on the team, head coach Jim Curtin’s first choice starting lineup can still boast 11 players from 10 different countries: Blake (Jamaica), Wagner (Germany), Elliott (Scotland/England), Glesnes (Norway), Mbaizo (Cameroon), Martinez (Venezuela). Bedoya (United States), Flach (Germany/United States), Gazdag (Hungary), Uhre (Denmark) and Carranza (Argentina).
The Marvel Cinematic Universe character who most personifies this team: The Union are closest to the Avengers. They don’t have the most star players in MLS (no Shaqiri or Gil) but they are still a team with players who are in at worst top-five positionally. The Union are great individually, but when they come together, they make an incredible team. Mikael Uhre is hopefully the last member of the team to assemble on the roof of Stark Tower on the field of Subaru Park.