Philadelphia are a team that often frustrate, and that was certainly true last season. An intriguing winter spent rebuilding their roster -- headlined by an excellent MLS Superdraft class -- has Union fans licking their chops about their chances this season.
Will coming into the season with such a young squad go easily? No, probably not. But they've got the potential to be all kinds of fun, and after several seasons of being more frustrating than fun, Union fans will be eager to see how things turn out. Will they make the playoffs? Let's not get ahead of ourselves. But they'll cause more than a few teams to have some sleepless nights, and that's enough of a step forward to give hope for the next few years.
2015 record 10-17-7, 9th place in Eastern Conference
2015 Playoffs Did not qualify
Key additions Chris Pontius, Keegan Rosenberry, Roland Alberg, Ilsinho
Key losses Cristian Maidana, Andrew Wenger, Danny Cruz, Ethan White, Conor Casey, Zac MacMath, Zach Pfeffer, Steven Vitoria
Projected Starting XI (4-2-3-1) Andre Blake; Fabinho, Anderson Conceicao, Ken Tribbett, Keegan Rosenberry; Brian Carroll, Vincent Nogueira; Tranquillo Barnetta, Roland Alberg, Ilsinho; CJ Sapong
Because you want to get in on the ground floor and say "I supported this team when they were terrible" when they turn it around and start winning. We've already got some of the most diehard supporters in the league, who have been through a lot and have stuck it out, so it won't be too lonely either.
New Director of Soccer Earnie Stewart has an institutional vision for the Union - one that he used to great success at AZ Alkmaar in the Dutch Eredivisie. The roster has undergone a revamp, getting rid of dead weight like loanee busts Fernando Aristeguieta and Steven Vitoria and bringing in high draft picks like defenders Joshua Yaro and Keegan Rosenberry and a guy in Roland Alberg with a European pedigree, who has impressed in the Netherlands and is now trying to prove himself abroad.
The Union opened 2015 with five games without a win and claimed just six points in their first 11. Predictably, it doomed their season. It almost goes without saying that they can't afford another start anything like that. And it's not just math, as fan support has recently started to wane as losing seasons have started to pile up. This team needs a strong start just to buy some time.
Eric Ayuk could use the Philadelphia Union to put his name into the conversation for the Cameroon National Team. He will face some stiff competition for minutes in Philadelphia with the likes of Chris Pontius and Sebastien Le Toux, however if he stays sharp with Bethlehem Steel FC and gets a break at the MLS level, the 19-year-old winger could make a case for himself to get a shot at making the Indomitable Lions. Sure, on its face that may seem like a stretch, but Ayuk actually declined a call-up to Cameroon's U-23 team last year and isn't as far away as it may seem.