Three Questions for the 2017 Philadelphia Union Season

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October 16, 2016: Philadelphia Union Midfielder Chris Pontius (13) carries the ball in the first half during the game between Orlando City SC and the Philadelphia Union at Talen Energy Stadium in Chester, PA. (Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The word “question” seems to be synonymous with the situation surrounding the 2017 Philadelphia Union squad. The team hasn’t been touted as a MLS Cup contender because of the amount of questions surrounding the team for the upcoming season. Questions range from the players on the team to Earnie Stewart. Here are the three biggest questions for the Union to answer this season.

Three Questions for the 2017 Philadelphia Union Season

Who is the team’s second starting center back?

This question is now in its second season for the team. Last year the Union had great trouble in the second half of the season due to inconsistency from that position. The team gave up 1.97 goals per game the last 18 games of the season. Among the worst in the league. So addressing the defense was a priority for the Union in the offseason.

The first CB position goes to Richie Marquez. No doubt he’s a stone cold lock in that spot. The three players fighting it out for that second spot are Josh Yaro, Oguchi Onyewu and Ken Tribbett. Josh Yaro underwent shoulder surgery in February, an injury that dates back to May of last year where he injured it against Orlando City. He will be out of commission until at least June. That means the final spot belongs to either Onyewu or Tribbett.

Onyewu, 34, hasn’t played a professional game since 2014. A major concern? Could be, but he has impressed coach Jim Curtin in training that he is in line to start this Sunday in Vancouver. Onyewu was originally brought in to give the defense depth and veteran experience. Turns out he will be providing much more than that. He stepped into a starting spot.

As for Ken Tribbett, consistency was his issue. Tribbett started in games where the opposing team’s striker was bigger in size. Think former Montreal Impact striker Didier Drogba and New York Red Bulls’ Bradley Wright-Phillips. When a player was smaller and faster, like Toronto FC’s Sebastian Giovinco, Josh Yaro would get the start when he was healthy. Key word there being “healthy”. Because that was a major reason why Tribbett got as many starts as he did.

When Josh Yaro missed time from his shoulder injury and other injuries, Tribbett would start. At times he would play well, at times he looked shell shocked. The constant rotation between those two players, due to performance or injuries, prevented either player from truly getting settled in and become confident. When Yaro recovers, depending on how these next three months go, the question will be brought up again. Only time and games will tell who the real second CB is.

Will the strikers finally start scoring again?

This question sounds dumb, but it has its merit to it. Last year’s leading scorer for the team was midfielder Chris Pontius with 12 goals. The second highest was midfielder Roland Alberg with nine goals. Third highest is striker C.J Sapong with seven. That number could be good, but about five of those goals came before June last season. His last goal last season game in August 13 in New England against the Revolution. He went scoreless in the last 10 games of the season. His disappearance on the field was a big reason on why the Union didn’t quite have success.

The Union traded for striker Charlie Davies in August. In the eight games he appeared in, he only registered one shot. And it wasn’t on target. Though it partially isn’t any of his fault. He didn’t start a single game, and was subbed on mainly for the last 15 minutes of each game. He is striker depth though, which the Union needed last season. Expect him to be a super sub again this season.

English striker Jay Simpson made a move from English League Two team Leyton Orient to the Union. In the 87 games he played for Orient, he scored 33 goals. Not too shabby of a goal scoring record. His move to the MLS is a step up for him in terms of quality of play. Growing pains shouldn’t be surprising though, so fans shouldn’t be too upset if he doesn’t start producing right away. This move has a high ceiling and he could be the next Bradley Wright-Phillips.

Who should make up the five midfielders on a consistent basis?

The Union have a deep midfield corps. In a 4-2-3-1 formation, five midfielder spots are up for grabs. New signee Haris Medunjanin will take up one of the center defensive midfield positions. Likely the No. 8 role. We’re down to four.

Chris Pontius, leading scorer last year and USMNT January camp call up, locks up the left midfield position. Three slots left.

The center attacking midfield position will be for captain and USMNT player Alejandro Bedoya. Instead of taking up the second center defensive midfield position like he did last year, he will most likely move up to that No. 10 role. Now two.

The second defensive midfield position is one of them. Derrick Jones, a Union homegrown player, has been said to have been a camp standout. Scoring a game winning goal for the Union in their preseason game against the Tampa Bay Rowdies. With Warren Creavalle missing some of camp due to injury, Jones likely will start Sunday in Vancouver. The long term option however will be Maurice Edu when he returns from injury.

The right midfield position will either be Fabian Herbers or Ilsinho. The team can’t go wrong with either of them as both brings something unique to the field. Herbers has his stamina and field vision. Ilsinho has his creativity and dribbling flair. This is the one position that truly is the question mark. Whoever starts there will most likely be the one who impressed the most in camp. And Fabian Herbers has been said by Jim Curtin to be the most impressive player over the off season. He should get the start Sunday.

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