Here’s a look at the Union’s roster for this year, broken down by each key position on the field. Players are listed in approximate order of where they stand on the depth chart.
Last season brought a career-best 16 goals and a return to the U.S. national team. Now, the pressure is on for him to deliver even more. That’s as it should be for a player at soccer’s highest-profile position, and he knows it.
While the focus has been on Sapong and Simpson, Burke has quietly risen up the ranks. He scored 13 goals in two seasons for the Bethlehem Steel, the Union’s minor-league USL affiliate, and became a Jamaican national team regular.
— USL (@USL) September 27, 2017
The Czech national team veteran is a big-ticket signing at a position that demands one. His addition is the difference between contending for a playoff berth and being left behind for another year.
Stuck down the depth chart, perhaps unfairly. He has the skill to play, but Fontana has a higher ceiling and Dockal has a higher pedigree.
With Accam slotted to start on the left, Picault is likely to start on the right. He isn’t as good of a scorer, but he’s just as fast and savvy. The tandem’s ability to stretch defenses will be a matchup nightmare.
Another speed merchant, he showed promise in last year’s rookie campaign with two goals in 19 games. He’ll come off the bench, and could do so often.
His decision to stay with the Union — and take a big pay cut — was a surprise, and maybe not a good one. But with Dockal and Accam in the fold, the 32-year-old Brazilian won’t be relied on as much.
Injuries derailed the Germany native’s 2017 season, but his 2016 debut hasn’t been forgotten. He’d love to repeat the form that delivered three goals and seven assists that year.
After spending last season on loan to a club in Sweden, the 21-year-old Cameroon native is back in Chester. He’s likely to be a reserve at best.
He’s the captain on the field, and a great teacher off it — especially when it comes to the Union’s academy prospects. He’ll look even better this year with a true playmaker alongside him. That will free the U.S. national team veteran to make the hustle plays he relishes.
Few players in Union history have been better at defense-splitting passes and free kicks. Bet on the Bosnian veteran to get along with Accam very well. And as with Bedoya, Dockal will make Medunjanin better by giving defenders someone else to focus on.
He’s Bedoya’s understudy, and potentially not just with the Union. The 20-year-old Ghana native got a star turn with U.S. youth national teams last year. He’s arguably good enough to be a starter, but the big names ahead of him are there on merit. So expect him to be a regular sub.
The MLS veteran is a defensive specialist who has the experience and smarts to help close out games when needed in a pinch.
He defines “loyal servant,” and is likely to stay in Philadelphia with his family after retiring. But the 32-year-old Brazilian won’t be a starting-caliber player forever. He has the role to start the season in part out of necessity.
The Drexel Hill native has been bred to be the starting left back at 18 years old, but he hasn’t won the job yet. That’s in part because his preseason was hampered by injuries. He acknowledges he still has work to do.
From U.S. youth national teams to the Bethlehem Steel to the Union, the 19-year-old Media native is poised for a breakthrough. He has the size, speed and talent to start now and be a stalwart of the back line. Now he just has to seize the moment.
He was a revelation as a rookie after making the Union as a fourth-round draft pick from West Virginia University. The Union hope the England native will avoid a sophomore slump.
Two years ago, the Ghana native was a can’t-miss prospect. He has sunk down the depth chart since, though his speed is still a big asset. He’ll likely be one of the first calls off the bench.
The Division III college product has built a solid MLS career, but he probably won’t play much this season. Yaro is faster, Elliott has better feet, and Trusty has a much higher ceiling.
A Union academy product with U.S. youth national team experience. Expect the 18-year-old Delaware native to spend much of the year with Bethlehem.
After an outstanding rookie season, he plateaued as a sophomore – and maybe got a bit too self-confident along the way. There’s little doubt that he’ll rise again, but just how far could depend more on his head than his feet.
Gaddis is another loyal servant with tremendous influence off the field, including the Union’s community service efforts. But that doesn’t change his lack of contribution to building attacks, a necessary trait for wide players.
He is the undisputed No. 1 for the Union and Jamaica’s national team. Now 27, he is entering the prime years of his career. His offseason contract extension means the Union have a big window to gain from his services, and to sell him for big money to Europe.
A consummate backup, the Cinnaminson-born La Salle product is happy to play for his hometown team.
McGuire is likely to spend most of the year in the minor leagues, unless Blake or McCarthy gets hurt.