Union coach Jim Curtin finds himself in an interesting situation. Entering their eighth Major League Soccer season, the Union have never had the depth that Curtin has at his disposal.

Of course, with the added personnel comes heightened expectations. But it's a tradeoff Curtin is more than willing to make.

"In the past few years, it has been pretty clear to pick the [starting] 11," Curtin said. "The 11 kind of picked itself. But now there are harder decisions to make at a couple of positions."

Despite an 11-14-9 record, the Union earned the sixth and final Eastern Conference playoff berth last season. It was the second postseason berth in club history and first since their second season, in 2011.

Even though the Union were eliminated by eventual Eastern Conference champion Toronto, 3-1, in last season's playoff game, the experience of returning to the postseason is another residual benefit from last season.

MLS rosters are fluid, and most teams throughout the league go through major changes each year.

The Union didn't add superstars or the type of high-salaried players that others teams - such as the Los Angeles Galaxy, New York City FC, or Toronto - have routinely done. But for the first time since Curtin was named interim coach in 2014, and arguably the first time in franchise history, the Union have true depth.

"I am excited about the guys we have. The new additions have looked great in preseason, and there is a lot to be excited about," said midfielder Alejandro Bedoya, owner of 57 caps with the U.S. national team. "Expectations are higher, and that is good."

Curtin's biggest challenge is sorting out the midfield, where there is the most depth. The toughest player to replace is Tranquillo Barnetta, who returned to his native Switzerland.

The Union signed Haris Medunjanin, a 31-year-old midfielder who has 55 caps with the Bosnian national team, and he appears to be the best offseason acquisition.

Curtin said that Medunjanin and Bedoya could be interchangeable at the No. 10 attacking spot that Barnetta played and the No. 8, which requires considerable attacking and defensive play.

Homegrown signee Derrick Jones, who will turns 20 Friday, has been impressive in preseason, and Curtin suggested he is a serious candidate to start the opener.

The Union also have Ilsinho, their most creative player with the ball but not one who will draw raves for his defense. Other top outside midfielders are Chris Pontius, who just earned his first two caps with the U.S. national team, and Fabian Herbers, who led the Union with seven assists as a rookie.

There are defensive midfielders Warren Creavalle, who started 21 games last year and is rebounding from a groin injury, and 35-year-old Brian Carroll.

Also in the midfield is Roland Alberg, who scored nine goals last year but will never be known for his defense.

The Union's fastest midfielder is newcomer Fafa Picault, who has been sidelined by a toe injury. But Curtin said Picault would be available for selection on Sunday.

And that doesn't include designated player Maurice Edu, who is returning from leg injuries that cost him all of last season. He is recovering from a broken fibula suffered Oct. 22, and a return date isn't known. Bedoya will wear the captain armband at Vancouver in Edu's absence.

There are young players such as rookie midfielders Adam Najem and Marcus Epps, who on previous Union teams might be challenging for starting spots but will have to wait their turn on this deep unit.

Up top, English striker Jay Simpson appears ready to start as the target forward. The Union also have C.J. Sapong, who was the starter there last year, and veteran Charlie Davies, owner of 17 caps for the U.S national team.

Behind Medunjanin, Simpson may be the second-most significant addition.

"I am up for the challenge and want to score as many goals as possible, and hopefully we can have a successful season," Simpson said.

Of course, some of Curtin's decisions may be played out because of injury.

For instance, the team appears a bit thin at center back. Richie Marquez returns as one starter. Oguchi Onyewu, the 34-year-old veteran who has 69 caps for the U.S. team but hasn't played a game in more than two years, is the other starter.

That leaves Ken Tribbett, who had an uneven first season with the Union, as the main backup since second-year center back Josh Yaro will miss a few months while recovering from shoulder surgery.

Second-year right back Keegan Rosenberry was an all-star in his first year, and veteran Fabinho appears to have won the left-back spot over newcomer Giliano Wijnaldum. Ray Gaddis, who has 114 career starts for the Union, could back up either outside back spot.

Of course, Curtin has the easiest decision in goal, where only injury or duty with the Jamaican national team will keep reigning MLS goalkeeper of the year Andre Blake out of the lineup.

Keep in mind that the Union aren't expected to win the Eastern Conference, and some pundits say they will struggle. As an example, Worldsoccertalk.com picked the Union to finish last in the conference.

That prediction aside, the fact that the Union have greater depth appears to indicate that achieving a winning record and another playoff spot may be realistic goals.

@sjnard