Another in a series reviewing the Philadelphia Union’s 2016 season.
The story so far: Former USMNT player Earnie Stewart was hired as Sporting Director immediately following the 2015 season. He has started to transform the roster.
With many new faces on Philadelphia Union. roster, it was now time to prepare for the upcoming MLS season. Preseason camp started in the last week of January in the indoor turf bubble in the University of Pennsylvania’s Penn Park in Philadelphia. After a week of training, the team flew to Florida so they could train outdoors in warmer weather and play some matches. Players that would feature for the Union’s USL club Bethlehem Steel joined in, along with a few trialists.
The U started off by flying to Jacksonville to take on NASL side Jacksonville Armada on Feb 6. It was not a strong start, as Jacksonville won 1-0.
The team then relocated to Clearwater where they established their training camp at the Joe DiMaggio Sports Complex. A couple of days later they acquired English goalkeeper Matt Jones via loan from in the Portuguese Primeira Liga side Belenenses, giving the team added depth behind Andre Blake and John McCarthy.
On Feb. 9, The Union took on the U-17 USMNT and routed them 5-0. On Feb. 11, the Union saw their action of the year against an MLS team when the Chicago Fire visted Clearwater and beat the U 4-1.
The Union then participated in the Suncoast Invitational Tournament, sponsored by NASL side Tampa Bay Rowdies. The tournament stretched from Feb. 17 through Feb. 27.
The boys in blue went undefeated in the tournament, as they tied DC United 1-1, beat the Tampa Bay Rowdies 2-0, tied New York Red Bulls 0-0, and beat Toronto FC 1-0. In the midst of the tournament, Vincent Nogueira received his green card, freeing up an international spot which allowed the team to sign Brazilian midfielder Ilsinho.
Being preseason, the matches featured plenty of substitutions, and players who would not be in the Union’s final roster. The results weren’t important, but it gave manager Jim Curtin a good look at players to determine who should be on the team as the MLS season started, and who would be loaned to Bethlehem Steel.
As the Union prepared to return home, they announced that Maurice Edu would not be available due to a stress fracture in his leg.
It was now time to start the real matches. The regular season would commence on March 6 with a match against FC Dallas in Frisco, TX.
Next: The Union show promise.