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Philadelphia Union–2010 season predictions–roundtable (of sorts)

This is the first of a two part series.

Below, new contributor Brian and I try our hand at predicting how the Philadelphia Union’s first season will go. Who will shine? Who will be a dud? Will the Union escape the expansion side curse like Seattle did?

Two is pretty small for a roundtable, so if you agree/disagree feel free to weigh-in in the comments.

What will be the Union’s greatest strength?

Brian: I’m going to say goalkeeping, with defense right behind. I think Chris Seitz is really a franchise goaltender, and Brad Knighton makes for a pretty fantastic back-up. Having shaky goaltending puts such doubt in a team, so I think Nowak did a really smart job to solidify the position from day one.

Kevin: I’m going to agree with Brian here, and just lump goalkeeping and defense together. I’ve already mentioned I think the defense could be one of the best in MLS this season, but what makes things even better is the team’s defensive midfielders. Miglioranzi is solid, as is Stahl. Salinas, if he starts, is an engine and tracks back well. So, I have little doubt that the back line will be hard to get through this year. The question will be—how much will the offense turn the ball over? How much possession will the other team have? Even the best defense can only do so much if the ball never leaves their half.

Greatest Weakness?

Brian: A lot of people would say strikers, but I think Moreno is an experienced, quality finisher, and the rookies Mwanga and McInerney have such raw talent that I think they won’t be the main problem. I am much more worried about creativity and distribution in the midfield. The Union is going to lean heavily on two veteran Brazilians: Stefani Miglioranzi and Fred. They’ve yet to prove in their careers yet that they can lead and organize their sides, so they are either going to have to step up or hold the fort until the kids like Okugo, Torres, and Nakazawa are ready to lead.

Kevin: On this one I disagree with Brian. Strikers will be a huge problem unless McInerney turns into some kind of wonder kid—which he won’t. The talent is there (as it is with Mwanga), but not enough to overcome the lack of experience.

The question is: why didn’t Nowak try to recruit strikers more aggressively? Could the answer be: the Union already has a big signing lined up, who’s just waiting for the European season to finish?

Team MVP

Brian: I’m going to say Shavar Thomas is going to prove himself the true defensive leader of this team and be the lockdown defender. Shavar was the guy who elicited the most sadness from his departing side during the expansion draft, and I think he’s going to make Chivas miss him even more with his performance this year.

Kevin: Interesting choice, Brian and I hope you’re right. But I’m going to go with the easy choice: Chris Seitz. You’re absolutely right that he’s franchise keeper, and with Brad Knighton and Brian Perk breathing down his neck, he’ll have an extra bit of motivation this season. For a new team, the goalkeeper is huge.

What will be the team’s biggest disappointment?

Brian: Hate to say it, but I see Alejandro Moreno not scoring at the rate we would all hope. He scored 9 in ’08 and 4 in ’09, and I’m betting him on being closer to last year’s form. I’m sure he’ll play the whole year if he stays healthy, but on this developing team I wouldn’t be too surprised if we’re yelling for Mwanga and/or McInerney to start over Moreno halfway through the year.

Kevin: This is really hard to call. I agree that Moreno will not be enough to depend on up front. But I think the bigger disappointment may be something that we (mostly) all already suspect—the Union will not be that good this year. It’s what you know will happen with an expansion side, but that doesn’t wean we don’t hope the Union will be different. And that’s why we’ll be disappointed at the end of the season.

Who will be rookie of the year?

Brian: Tough call with such a strong rookie class. I’m going to cheat a little bit and say that Mwanga will win Rookie of the Year, as forwards usually seem to benefit in these sorts of things, but I think Okugo will have the highest quality season. Realistically though, I look for Okugo, Mwanga, McInerney and Stahl to all contribute greatly this season.

Kevin: Stahl. He might not be a franchise or even standout player, but he will provide a level of stability that you usually don’t get in a rookie. That’s huge for an expansion side.

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  1. OrionPax
    March 28, 2010 at 7:33 am

    Brian, you might want to rethink your Team MVP. So far, he hasn’t even played yet. Ouch!

  1. March 25, 2010 at 3:56 pm

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