Union pre-season update

The Philadelphia Union’s pre-season is underway.

The off-season was mostly uneventful for the Union. They let go of Oguchi Onyewu, Maurice Edu and Chris Pontius. They signed a couple of players who spent 2017 playing in the USL for Bethlehem Steel: forward Cory Burke (from the Jamaican national team) and defender Matt Real (who signed as a Homegrown Player). Eric Ayuk returned from his loan to Swedish club Jönköpings Södra IF. And just before pre-season started, the front office made its biggest splash of the off-season when they acquired winger David Accam from the Chicago Fire.

The Union officially kicked off the preseason when the team gathered for their annual physicals in Philadelphia on January 23, followed by week of local training. The full pre-season roster can be seen here. They then escaped the Pennsylvania cold for the warmer climate of Clearwater, Florida.

Their first look against outside competition came on February 3, when they lost to New York Red Bull by a score of 4-3 in a strange scrimmage made up of three 45-minute periods. On February 6, they defeated the University of South Florida team 5-1 in a normal 90-minute scrimmage. Two days later, they took on the Chicago Fire in scrimmage that resulted in a 0-0 draw.

The Union came back to Philadelphia for a few days after that scrimmage, then turned right back around to return to Clearwater on February 12, where they will stay until February 25. During this time, the club is participating in the Suncoast Invitational, a tournament sponsored by the Tampa Bay Rowdies of the USL. The other teams in the tournament in addition to the Rowdies are DC United, NYC FC and the Montreal Impact.

The Boys in Blue played their first “real” pre-season match on Saturday against DC United, and lost 2-1. The Union fell behind in the 15th minute when former Portland Timber Darren Mattocks headed in a cross from Zoltan Stieber. The Union came to life after that, but couldn’t find the equalizer in the first half. Their best chance was when C.J. Sapong was awarded a penalty shot after being fouled in the box, but DCU goalkeeper Steve Clark managed to get a touch on the ball, forcing it to hit off the crossbar.

Manager Jim Curtin replaced most of the starting XI in the 62nd minute, giving the team fresh legs going into the last half hour. The Union kept the pressure on DCU and finally scored the tying goal in the 88th minute when an Adam Najem cross found Burke, who headed it in.

This is the Union we’re talking about, so of course they couldn’t finish the match and earn the draw. One minute later, Richie Marquez turned the ball over to Luciano Acosta, who only had the goalkeeper to beat and scored the goal. That’s so Union.

It is pre-season though, so it’s the individual performances that matter, not the results. Unfortunately, I was unable to watch the stream live due to other commitments, and the Tampa Bay Rowdies haven’t uploaded the replay to their YouTube channel, so I cannot provide any insight on that. I can say that Marquez didn’t do himself any favors by giving up that winning goal.

The Union’s next match will be on Wednesday, February 21 at 7 PM against the Montreal Impact. The match will be streamed live on the Tampa Bay Rowdies YouTube channel.

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