The season is finally upon us and we are all excited for the Hoops to put their first victim to the sword. The Union are the perfect victim, or are they?
When I saw who we play on opening day I had grand images of an annihilation to get the season started off right. From the litany of goalkeeping acquisitions to their consistent form at the bottom of the East, the Union have been a joke in the MLS for a while. However, things seem to be on the mend for the Union this season. CEO Nick Sakiewicz received the sack after last season to the applause of Union fans. He has been replaced by sporting director Earnie Stewart formerly of AZ Alkmaar in the Dutch Eredivisie. The club seems to be headed a new direction and their signings reflect that.
Smart Offseason Acquisitions
The Union have made some great signings this offseason and look to really be building on a solid core. They picked up three players in the first round of the draft; Joshua Yaro and Keegan Rosenberry two highly touted defenders and Fabian Herbers a forward. The Union have acquired veteran Chris Pontius from DC United as well as splurging to get a new Designated Player in Roland Alberg. The Union also recently signed the exciting Brazilian playmaker Ilsinho, who has had a good preseason. This Union side reminds me a little of Dallas after Hyndman left, Solid pieces returning to a reimagined squad.
Philadelphia's lineup is hard to guess at with so many exciting newcomers. An injury to Maurice Edu will probably leave him out for Sunday. The Union will likely stick to their 4-2-3-1 especially on the road.
GK: Andre Blake; RB: Raymon Gaddis; CB: Richie Marquez, Anderson; LB: Fabinho; DM: Brian Carroll, Vincent Nogueira; RM: Chris Pontius; CAM: Roland Alberg; LM: Tranquillo Barnetta; F: C.J. Sapong
Fabian Castillo and Michael Barrios vs. Raymon Gaddis and Fabinho. Gaddis and Fabinho had a mixed season in 2015 and were blown apart on several occasions. Defense was a huge issue for the Union last year, especially defending crosses. Castillo and Barrios ability to play balls from the wings will have a massive impact on this one. Expect a lot of play down the wings as Barrios and Castillo look to exploit last season's weakness.
Keys to Three Points
A Proven Finisher. Has Dallas found its number 9 in Maximiliano Urruti? He has had a sensational preseason and I expect him to get the start in this game. Barrios and Castillo will be putting balls into the box all night and Urruti's ability to put them away will be crucial.
Stifling Creativity. With a ton of new midfield acquisitions, the Union are actually threatening in the middle of the park... at least on paper. Acosta and Ulloa's ability to stifle the creativity of Pontius, Alberg and Barnetta and open up play for Diaz will be big if Dallas expects to keep a clean sheet.
Fresh Face, Fresh Start. Finally, let's welcome back last season's revelation in goal Jesse Gonzalez. Jesse was an awesome surprise last year. This season he will get to start from day one between the posts. Gonzalez ability to wrangle the defense and make saves will be an important part of this season. I am very excited to see the 20 year old get a full season as a starter.
The Philadelphia Union look new and improved this season. That said, the team has many new additions that will take time to get adjusted to the league. The defense is young and error prone and the midfield will miss Edu's presence. The Union may be great in a few years, but in this game I expect them to struggle.
My Prediction: 3-1 FC Dallas.