Philadelphia Union Profile
|Major Honours||MLS Supporters' Shield (1)|
Former Premier League stars Kleberson and Onyewu among those to have donned the Union jersey.
Philadelphia Union were announced as an MLS expansion team in 2008 and they debuted in 2010. They became the 16th team in the league after the city and county approved a new stadium and a near $50million urban renewal package. The team is owned and operated by the Keystone Sports and Entertainment Group, with NBA superstar Kevin Durant being a minority owner (5%) as of June 2020.
The Union's crest is a black circle surrounded by gold trim. The word Philadelphia appears in gold at the top of the circle and there are 13 gold stars at the bottom. The centre of the crest has a black shield on top of alternating gold and blue stripes. The word Union is inside the shield on top of a rattlesnake. The 13 gold stars represent the original 13 American colonies, while the rattlesnake pays homage to the 'Join or Die' political cartoon from Benjamin Franklin in 1754.
The Union's colours are navy blue and gold, which represent the primary colours of the Continental Army's uniforms in the Revolutionary War. The colours and the light blue used on the crest are also the main colours in the state flags of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware; the three states represented in the Philadelphia metropolitan area. The Union wear navy with gold trim at home, while the away kit is predominantly white.
The Union play the majority of their home games at soccer-specific Subaru Park in Chester, Pennsylvania. The stadium holds 18,500 fans and their training fields, built in 2014, are right next door. In 2016, they opened a new training facility and offices at the former home of the Chester Waterside Station. In addition to Subaru Park, the Union have also played games at Lincoln Financial Field, home of the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles.
The Union have only had three managers in their 11 seasons. Piotr Nowak managed the first 78 games while John Hackworth was in charge for the next 77. Jim Curtin has been the manager since June 10, 2014, with more than 200 games in charge.
The Union won their first major trophy in 2020, the Supporters' Shield, after their best-ever regular season. They have been runners-up in the US Open Cup three times and claimed the MLS Fair Play Award in 2014 and 2015.
The Union hire the experienced Nowak
The Union's first competitive season was in 2010 and ahead of it, they hired Piotr Nowak as their first manager. Nowak had won the MLS title as a player with Chicago Fire and another as manager of D.C. United. He also worked as an assistant manager with the US men's national team from 2007 to 2009.
In the 2010 MLS SuperDraft, the Union picked Danny Mwanga, Amobi Okugo and Jack McInerney. They also acquired Justin Mapp from Chicago in trade and picked up Sebastien Le Toux, Shea Salinas, Ale Moreno and Jordan Harvey in the Expansion Draft. They signed Danny Califf and brought in Michael Orozco on loan too.
Their first-ever game was a 2-0 loss at Seattle. A 3-2 win over D.C. United in their home opener followed as 34,870 fans at Lincoln Financial Field saw Le Toux score a hat-trick. The season was a struggle though, as Union only won twice away from home, with 12 losses from 15 games. They won eight overall and finished in seventh place in the East. Le Toux scored 14 goals while Mwanga added seven.
In the 2011 SuperDraft, the Union picked goalie Zac MacMath and brought in Colombian defender Carlos Valdes. In the summer transfer window, they brought in former teenage sensation Freddy Adu. They won 11 games over the course of the season and drew 15 to finish in third place in the East, qualifying for the MLS Cup play-offs for the first time. Le Toux scored in the first leg, but the Union lost at home to Houston Dynamo 2-1. The second leg ended in a 1-0 Dynamo win and Philadelphia were eliminated. Le Toux led the team with 11 regular-season goals, while Carlos Ruiz added six before leaving in August.
Before the 2012 season, the Union drafted Ray Gaddis and lost Mapp to expansion side Montreal. Le Toux was traded to Vancouver for allocation money, and Califf was traded to Chivas USA for Michael Lahoud. The start to the season was rough, with three straight losses and eight losses in their first 12 games. Nowak was fired in early June.
Hackworth fails to set the Union alight
After dismissing Nowak, the Union made John Hackworth their interim manager. He took over permanently on August 30, but the Union missed the play-offs with an eighth-place finish. They did make a run to the semi-finals of the US Open Cup with a win over D.C. United, but they lost 2-0 to Sporting Kansas City in the last four. The highlight of the 2012 season was Subaru Park hosting the MLS All-Star Game, which saw the MLS beat Premier League Chelsea 3-2 in front of 19,236 fans.
The Union brought Le Toux back for the 2013 season and also added Jeff Parke and Conor Casey while letting Adu leave on a free transfer. Brazilian midfielder Kleberson was signed on loan from Bahia. The Union won 12 games in 2013 but missed the play-offs by three points.
Before the 2014 season, the Union traded allocation money to pick up the first overall pick in the draft, which they used on Jamaican goalkeeper Andre Blake. They also added Maurice Edu, Austin Berry and Brazilian midfielder Fred. In April, they traded McInerney to Montreal for Andrew Wenger. After just three wins from their first 16 games, Hackworth was fired on June 10, 2014.
The Union improve under Jim Curtin
Assistant manager Jim Curtin took over as interim coach and the Union made a run to the US Open Cup final with wins over New England and FC Dallas. Edu scored in the final at home, but Philadelphia lost 3-1 to the Seattle Sounders after conceding two goals in extra time. They won seven MLS regular-season games after Curtin took over but missed out on the play-offs.
Curtin was made permanent manager in November 2014 and Union sent MacMath and Berry out on loan. They added forward C.J. Sapong from Kansas City and introduced midfielder Tranquillo Barnetta from Schalke in July 2015. They again made the US Open Cup final with wins over D.C. United, New England and Chicago. In the final at home, Le Toux scored in the 23rd minute, but Philadelphia lost 6-5 on penalty kicks after a 1-1 draw.
Philadelphia finally returned to the MLS play-offs in 2016 despite losing five of their final seven regular-season games. They entered as the sixth seed and lost 3-1 at Toronto FC in the first round. Chris Pontius, added in the off-season from D.C. United, led the team with 12 goals during the campaign. Ale Bedoya and Charlie Davies were both added in August, the former on a Designated Player contract.
Before the 2017 season, the Union added Oguchi Onyewu, Fafa Picault and Haris Medunjanin while losing Barnetta. Sapong led the team with 17 goals and Picault added seven as the Union missed the play-offs.
David Accam joined from Chicago for the 2018 season, but the Union lost USMNT players Onyewu, Edu and Davies while also seeing Pontius move to LA Galaxy. The Union snuck into the play-offs despite losing their last two regular-season games. In the MLS Cup play-offs, they lost 3-1 at New York City FC. For the third time in five years, the Union made the US Open Cup final in 2018 but again lost, this time 3-0 at Houston Dynamo.
For the 2019 season, the Union added home-grown player Brenden Aaronson, Mexican midfielder Marco Fabian and Polish forward Kacper Przybylko. Sapong was traded to Chicago, with Accam being shipped to Columbus, both for allocation money. The Union made a big move in the standings, winning 16 games to finish third in the East with 55 points. Fabian scored a 105th-minute winner in the first-round play-off game against Red Bulls, but Union then lost to Atlanta United 2-0 in the conference semi-finals. Przybylko led the team with 15 goals.
Despite being interrupted by COVID-19, the 2020 campaign was the best-ever regular season for the Union. They won 14 games at an average of 2.04 points per game and claimed their first-ever major trophy with the Supporters' Shield. They made it through the group stage in the MLS is Back Tournament and beat New England (1-0) and Sporting Kansas City (3-1) to reach the semi-finals. In the semis, they fell to eventual winners Portland Timbers 2-1. The Union won six of their last eight regular-season games to win the Supporters' Shield, but they lost their first play-off game to No. 8 seed New England 2-0.
Philadelphia Union's rivals
D.C. United are the Union's main rivals as the teams are separated by just 126 miles. Philadelphia and Washington also have big rivalries in the NFL, NHL, NBA and MLB. The Union have won more than half of their games against United in their first 11 years of existence. The Union beat United in the US Open Cup in 2012 and 2015 but lost to D.C. in 2013 and 2019. The teams have never met in the MLS Cup play-offs.
The Union also have rivalries with both New York teams, largely based on geography (90 miles), but they are not as heated as the D.C. rivalry. The Union have had minimal success against NYCFC, losing eight of the first 13 match-ups. NYCFC eliminated the Union from the 2016 MLS Cup play-offs 3-1, but the Union did beat NYCFC in the 2020 MLS is Back Tournament in group play.
Philadelphia have a record of 13 wins, 15 losses and eight draws against the Red Bulls. The teams were drawn against each other in the US Open Cup for four successive seasons between 2015 and 2018, with the Union winning three of those clashes. The Union also won the only MLS Cup play-off between the teams with a thrilling 4-3 extra-time victory in 2019's first round.
Philadelphia Union's top players
The Union's most capped player is defender Ray Gaddis, who has played in 221 games since 2012. Forward Sebastien Le Toux played in 175 games from 2010 to 2016.
Andre Blake has the most appearances for a goalkeeper with 145 starts and holds the team record with 39 clean sheets.
Le Toux is the leading goalscorer in Union history with 50 goals and 50 assists. C.J. Sapong scored 36 goals between 2015 and 2018, while Jack McInerney scored 25 times between 2010 and 2014.
The Union have had a bunch of USMNT players in their ranks, including Oguchi Onyewu, Ale Bedoya, Maurice Edu, Michael Orozco, Freddy Adu, Charlie Davies and Justin Mapp.
Among the international stars to play for the Union are Gabriel Gomez (Panama), Carlos Ruiz (Guatemala), Tranquillo Barnetta (Switzerland), Keon Daniel (Trinidad & Tobago) and Haris Medunjanin (Bosnia & Herzegovina).