Archive | January, 2011

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Remember CBA talks ’10? Union’s 2011 preseason much smoother so far

Posted on 31 January 2011 by Breton Bonnette

Photo Credit: Terry McLaughlin, ASN Philly '10

The Union have announced four preseason games during their first leg of the preseason, a two-week stay in sunny Orlando, Florida.  See below for details or head to PhiladelphiaUnion.com.

Impressively, the Union and Bimbo Bakeries have also announced a discounted rate to the team’s hotel the Westin Lake Mary outside of Orlando. Not too bad for those looking for a decent vacation and a quick fix of Union preseason goodness.

Take a look back, one year ago. The Union were gearing up to head down to North Carolina for the first leg of their preseason with almost everyone – fans, coaches, players, and owners included – worried that a Collective Bargaining Agreement would not get done in time for the season to start. The Union now have a sponsor quite possibly footing the bill for a yearly trip (until 2014) to train in Orlando, a little experience, and no labor talks to fret over.

Any Union fans heading to Orlando to catch a glimpse of Seba, Califf, and company in action? We’d love to hear about it! Your plans, game recaps, pictures, etc. 

Philadelphia Union’s Preseason Game Calendar in Orlando:

Opponent                                     Venue                               Date/KO Time

U-17 US Men National Team           Lake Sylvan Park               Feb. 6 / 11:00 a.m.
University of South Florida                Lake Sylvan Park               Feb. 10 / 3:30 p.m.
University of Central Florida              UCF                                 Feb. 13 / 10:00 a.m.
Orlando City S.C.                            Florida Citrus Bowl             Feb. 19 / 7:00 p.m.

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Revolution fans anxiously await news

Posted on 31 January 2011 by Hank Alexandre

While the transfer season in Europe is coming to a close, New England Revolution fans are “patiently” awaiting news from the Revolution front office.

The Revolution are coming off of their worst season in recent memory letting in a league high 50 goals, while scoring an all time team low of 32.  Team ownership and management recognized the failed expectations of the club at the end of the season, and assured fans that they will be making the necessary moves to bring the team back into contender status.  And while the Revs have made significant improvements addressing the back line by adding Didier Domi and Ryan Cochrane, and signing 2nd year player to Seth Sinovic to a new contract, the team has yet to address the lack of scoring prowess so blatantly evident in the team for the last three seasons.

Fan expectations were raised last week when Brian Bilello, the Revolution’s Chief Operating Officer, stated via a post on Twitter that there should be some news on a pair of signings “in a week or so”.  Since then, the Revolution fans have been chomping at the bit in anticipation of whom the players might be, with speculation that one of the signings may be the teams first Designated Player coming over from Europe.

However, as the Revolution’s pre-season starts today in Foxboro, the team’s front office is remaining unsurprisingly tight-lipped about any possibility as to whom the signings may be, or if they are in fact coming.

Meanwhile, speculation on the part of the Revolution fans, once rampant, is growing faint as marquee players such as Robbie Keane, who had been linked with MLS newcomers Vancouver Whitecaps, are being snapped up by European teams also actively looking for scoring talent.  Keane, who was sent to West Ham United on loan for the rest of the season this past Sunday, had looked a likely target as he had fallen out of favor with his current club, and was looking for regular playing time.  Keane also had been urged by the Republic of Ireland’s national team manager, Giovanni Trapattoni, to look to MLS as an option if he could not find first team football in Europe.

But without Keane in the picture, Revolution fans are left to wonder who the signings will be, and if they will be the attacking players the team so desperately needs.  Names like Nuno Gomes and Alex (deSousa) will remain in the list of potential signings some fans would like to see, however the likelihood that the team will go after a big name at this stage looks unlikely.

Revolution fans can only wait and see what news, if any, will be forthcoming from Foxboro.

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News from the Training Ground: Interview with Rookie Michael Farfan

Posted on 29 January 2011 by stoma

As the first leg of training got underway, a week of warm-up before the public and media at YSC in Wayne, PA before the intensity kicks into high gear when the Union travel to Orlando next week, we got a chance to speak with Michael Farfan, the team’s 2nd round pick in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft.  The 22 year-old discussed making the adjustment from college to the pros, his hopes for his rookie season and beyond, and the possibility of playing for the Philadelphia Union with his twin brother, Gabriel.

Following Gabriel’s departure from Cal State Fullerton, where the two were teammates from 2006-2008, Michael moved on to the University of North Carolina, where he earned NSCAA First Team All-American honors in 2009 and 2010.  Here’s our conversation with the rookie many believe could make the biggest impact for the Union in the midst of his first MLS training camp.

Q: The talk we’ve heard amongst our readers almost since the moment you were drafted was that you have a chance to be a real 2nd round steal.  In your contact with clubs leading into the draft, did you have any idea where you could go?

A: Not really, I didn’t really know.  I had talked to a few clubs, just interviews, but a lot of players did those, so it wasn’t like anyplace was a sure thing.  I really didn’t know where I was going to go.  With trades and all those kinds of things, you really have no idea.

Q: Were you surprised that you fell to the 2nd round, especially as a two-time First Team All-American at North Carolina?

A: No, not too much.  I didn’t think I had performed as well as I could have at the combines, so I felt that hurt me a little bit.  But, I just came into the draft open-minded and hoping to end up in a good spot.  I’m really glad I ended up in Philadelphia.

Q: Will having teams pass on you in the draft provide extra motivation, to prove them wrong?

A: Obviously, everyone’s goal is to do as best as possible and show their ability.  So, yeah, I’d love to show my potential and my ability.

Q:  In the first few days of training, which of the current Union players do you most look forward to working with and learning from?  Is it any different as a midfielder, leaning on other midfielders with the team more so than other positions?

A: I’m looking forward to working with everyone.  Everyone has something different to offer.  It’s fun to get to know new players, get to know their tendencies and abilities.  As a midfielder, it’s always fun to work with other midfielders.

Q:  Is there anyone in particular who has emerged or is established as the most outspoken on the training ground or in the locker room?

A: There are a couple of guys who like to joke around.  Everyone’s a little bit different, but I would say that everyone is pretty close and everyone is up for a laugh.

Q:  Talk a little about the transition from college to the pros, even at a traditionally high-level program like North Carolina, in terms of the speed of the game and the level of play you’ve seen coming in as a rookie.

A: I think the level of play is definitely higher.  Everything is held to a higher standard.  Just the professionalism of everyone, training and working their hardest.  It’s about making sure you get better every day because now it’s a career, not just, I guess, a hobby.  It’s fun to experience this and to work with such great players has been an amazing experience.

Q:  You talked about it in terms of a career and not just a hobby.  When do you think it clicked for you that soccer was something you wanted to pursue as a career and keep going forward with it?

A: I’ve always had the dream of becoming a professional.  Over the years, you just work hard towards it, and [at some point] I realized that I had a chance to succeed in my dreams.  Then you just keep working harder and harder until you finally achieve it and, once you achieve it, you work hard to stay up there.

Q:  Your twin brother, Gabriel, left college for the pros a couple of years earlier than you; has he been able to provide any advice or insight as you begin your pro career?

A: Yeah, he played in Mexico [with Club America] for the past two years, so he knows what it’s like.  He’s shared his experiences, told me what to expect and given me little tips here and there.  It’s nice to have someone with experience help me through it.

Q:  A lot of folks have noticed Gabriel in camp at the public workouts the team has been having this week.  Have you two talked about what it would be like to play on the same team again, this time as professionals?

A: Obviously, it would be amazing.  There’s nothing better than having family close to you, and having him on the same team would be one of the most awesome things someone could ask for.  We’ll just wait and see, but hopefully things work out.

Q: Last season, Peter Nowak found midfielders he was comfortable with and, for the most part, stuck with them.  In the first few days of training, have you gotten a feel for the technical staff’s style and what kind of chances you will have to make an immediate impact?

A: We haven’t trained 11 v. 11 too many times yet.  I think I’ll get a better feel for everything once we get down to Orlando and get into the training camp there.

Q:  Your style at North Carolina was as a player who liked to hold the ball and create. Do you think you will be given that opportunity as a rookie in the MLS?

A: Who knows? You never know. Every coach is different and different coaches expect different things out of you or see different things in you.  So, I’m not too sure; only time will tell.

Q:  How can you use your strengths to contribute in other areas?

A: I think I’m a versatile player.  I can play on the left or right, which can help a lot.  I’m pretty much up for anything: wherever the team needs me, I’m going to work hard.

Q:  What do you feel you will need to improve upon in your game to contribute to the team?

A: I think just adapting to the high level of play, but I think that will come with time.  Working with my heading ability, I think that’s one of the biggest individual things I need to work on.

Q: How different do you think it is for guys coming up with you as opposed to players in years past in terms of the perception of the MLS as a viable option to start your career or even to spend your entire career playing in?

A: Every year, the league has gotten better and better.  I feel like this isn’t a place that people look down on anymore.  It’s a place where people are happy to start their careers as well as finish them.  It’s definitely a great thing what the US and MLS have done

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POLL: Knighton waived, is it a good move?

Posted on 26 January 2011 by Breton Bonnette

Photo credit, Terry McLaughlin, ASN Philly

Another move from the Philadelphia Union technical staff that came to no surprise for some but certainly baffled others. The answer to why Brad Knighton had not reported to training camp, which started Monday, was now clear. The owner of the Union’s first ever clean sheet is not in Piotr Nowak’s cards as the turnover of last season’s goalkeeping core is now complete. Brian Perk waived mid to late last season, Chris Seitz lost in the first ever Re-Entry Draft, and now Brad Knighton. Enter Faryd Mondragon, 39-year old Bundesliga vet, and his newly appointed protege, rookie Zac MacMath.

A 25-year old keeper making peanuts in Major League Soccer and with a little bit of first-team experience should have no trouble finding a job. In fact, there is word he already has interest. The attention, however, now turns to whether or not Mondragon and MacMath can carry the load this season. With a 30-player roster, many wonder why he couldn’t have been placated and kept on the roster. Did he want out?

As for further paring of last year’s roster, another training camp absentee is Eduardo “Chacho” Coudet. The journeyman has reportedly been garnering interest in his home country of Argentina and there’s a good chance we won’t see him returning to the Zolos for 2011.

The former Union players list is starting to get relatively long…(see our Profiles section).

Union fans, as always, please share your thoughts below!

[polldaddy poll=4450404]

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Photos from the First Open Training Session of 2011

Posted on 24 January 2011 by tmclaughlin

 

The temperatures outside might not be getting above the 20 degree mark today, but the Union were certainly heating up the indoor arena at YSC Sports in Wayne, PA.  Today marked the first of the pre-season open training sessions that will run from 11AM – 1PM all week long.  Both the veteran players and the new talent looked really good as they took the indoor pitch.  The players were scrimmaging, passing and tackling like this was a Monday practice in June.  Good news for all you Union Supporters who are craving the start of the 2011 MLS Season, because the players certainly looked like they were ready to get back out on the pitch at PPL Park!

Just in case you haven’t started your countdown yet, there are only 54 days until the Union travel to Houston to take on the Dynamo at Robertson Stadium, and less than 3 months until the first home match of 2011 in Chester!

ASN Philly photographer Terry McLaughlin made the trip out to bring you some photos of the boys.

no images were found

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Union to Train in Orlando

Posted on 21 January 2011 by stoma

The Philadelphia Union announced today that the club would be spending the first leg of their preseason training in Orlando, Florida each year, beginning this year and running through 2014.  The deal marks an early benefit of the Bimbo Bakeries USA sponsorship announced 10 days ago, as the company will be the presenting sponsor of the Orlando camp in each of the four years.

This year, the club will warm up in game conditions by facing off against USL PRO’s newest addition, Orlando City S.C. at the Citrus Bowl at 7 p.m. on Saturday, February 19, 2011.

In all, the Union will spend a full 3 weeks training in Florida (January 31-February 20) before returning to finalize preparations for the regular season, which kicks off in Houston on March 19.

In the coming week, come see the Union train for yourself, as practices from January 24-28 (11 a.m.-1 p.m. each day) are open to the public at the YSC Sports facility in Wayne, Pennsylvania.

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New Signings Introduced: “I Don’t Think We’re Done”

Posted on 20 January 2011 by stoma

Photo from PhiladelphiaUnion.com

As Philadelphia Union CEO & Operating Partner Nick Sakiewicz sat with Manager Peter Nowak to formally announce the signings of two Colombian internationals, goalkeeper Faryd Mondragón and central defender Carlos Valdés, he also noted that, although “it seems like we’ve been making announcements every day for the last seven or eight days, I don’t think we’re done.”  Nowak added that the club is still looking to improve the roster, noting that the roster would likely be finalized within “a couple of weeks.”

However, today was about Mondragón and Valdés.  The two new additions, who will go a long ways towards bolstering a shaky defense, the team hopes, were introduced to approximately 100 Sons of Ben and other team fans as well as the assembled media today at noon in Fado Irish Pub in Center City Philadelphia.  After an inaugural season in which the team conceded 49 goals, which tied for 2nd highest in the league, solidifying the back line and installing a reliable keeper were high priorities.  Nowak acknowledged this, saying that “we don’t hide from our problems” and indicating that shoring up the defense was an obvious issue for the club to address during the offseason.

Mondragón, the starting keeper for Colombia when they visited PPL Park to play an international friendly against the U.S. Men’s National Team, remembered the visit to Philadelphia and Chester fondly, stating that “no one has to tell me about the atmosphere at PPL Park or the supporters, the Sons of Ben, because I lived it.”  He also noted that it would be a welcome change to have the crowd in his favor on a consistent basis and looked forward to having visiting opponents “really know they are on the road.”  In addition to a long and storied career with the Colombian national team, which included being the backup for the 1994 World Cup held in the U.S. and starting all 3 games for his nation in the 1998 World Cup, Faryd enjoyed success for the gem of the Turkish league, Galatasaray, as well as his most recent prior club, FC Koln in the German Bundesliga.

Valdés, also a native of Cali, Colombia, comes directly from Independiente Santa Fe of the Colombian league, where he has become known as a rising star at the central defensive position.  Along with Danny Califf, Michael Orozco Fiscal and fellow Colombian Juan Diego Gonzalez, Valdés will form a strong corps of central defenders that will allow Nowak and the rest of the coaching staff flexibility at the back.  In addition, Nowak hopes that the presence of several viable options will breed competition that will push each to an even higher level.  “We [the coaches] have a very easy job,” said Nowak, “we just have to pick who is playing the best.”

These signings indicate quick and early success for the newest addition to the Union’s technical staff, Diego Gutiérrez.  Gutiérrez was hired late last year as the Head of Scouting and Player Development.   He began his playing career within the Independiente Santa Fe ranks, much like Valdés, but spent his days as a professional in the MLS, playing for the Chicago Fire (as Nowak’s teammate) and the Kansas City Wizards.  Gutiérrez’ Colombian connections have paid early returns and supporters of the Union hope to see continued success in luring players from all around the world to come to Philadelphia.  If, as Sakiewicz intimated, there are more player signings to come in the following weeks, and if they are of the caliber of Mondragón and Valdés, the work of Gutiérrez and the entire technical staff this offseason will have been a smashing success.

For now, the long grind of the preseason has begun, with almost two months remaining before the Union’s first match of the season, March 19 in Houston.  Nowak invites all fans to come out to the YSC Sports facility in Wayne, Pennsylvania to watch the team go through its preseason workouts, which will be open to the public.

UPDATE: The team has confirmed that practices from Monday, January 24-Friday, January 28 from 11 am-1 pm each day will be open to the public.

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Two new Colombians for the Union’s defense

Posted on 20 January 2011 by Breton Bonnette

The Union, on paper, have strengthened their defensive set-up with the addition of Colombians Faryd Mondragón and Carlos Valdés. Pending complications receiving their P-1 Visas and International Transfer Certificates, both should be ready to go once preseason starts. No word on compensation, contract length, or salaries as of yet.  

Mondragón, a goalkeeper of world-class pedigree, moves after several successful seasons in the German Bundesliga with FC Koln. Before that, the 39 year old won two Turkish Championships with giants Galatasaray and was a fixture in net for them for roughly 7 seasons largely considered the best goalkeeper in Turkey over that span. Even at his age, the Cali, Colombia native provides World Cup experience (1998 in France) and years under his belt in some of the world’s most prestigious leagues (Turkey, Germany, Spain, France). The vet should give that sense of stability that was missing last season in the net while allowing for back-ups Zac MacMath and Brad Knighton to progress naturally over the next couple years.

Valdés is also a Cali native almost 15 years Mondragón’s junior and a defender on the rise in the Colombian ranks. He only recently received his first senior national team cap but has been a defensive stalwart for Club Independiente de Santa Fe for several seasons now. Decent in the air, Valdés will also provide a target along with Califf and Orozco Fiscal on set pieces. A central defender (but can feature on the right if need be), the 25 year old looks to fight Gonzalez for a starting position next to Califf in the middle which would inevitably push Orozco Fiscal out to the wing.

Remember to head on over to FADO in Center City at 11:30AM to help welcome these guys to the Union family. ASN Philly’s Sam Toma will be over there and should return with some good quotes and reactions on the Union’s newest additions.

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Player Profile: Faryd Mondragon

Posted on 20 January 2011 by Breton Bonnette

Full Name: Faryd Camilo Mondragón Ali

Position: Goalkeeper

Number: 1

Born: June 21, 1971

Birthplace: Cali, Colombia

Height : 6’3″

Weight: 203

Previous Teams: FC Koln, Galatasaray, Metz, Independiente

Status: Senior International

Salary: N/A

How acquired (Union): Signed on January 20, 2011 after several seasons in the German Bundesliga with FC Koln.

International Career: Earned 50 caps with the Colombia’s Men’s National Team

Stats

2007-2010 with FC Koln: 94 appearances

2001-2007 with Galatasaray: 185 appearances

Many teams before that including Independiente, Metz, Deportivo Cali, and Real Zaragoza.

Did you know?

Mondragon featured for Colombia in the 1998 World Cup in France, playing well even though the Colombians fell out in the first round.

Scored one goal in his professional career so far, A penalty kick for Argentine club Independiente in the 1997-1998 season.

Made 41 appearances in both the Champions League and UEFA (now Europa League) Cup for Turkish giants Galatasaray.  

Born to Colombian parents of Lebanese ancestry.

Mondragon started the first USMNT international friendly to be played at PPL Park, a 0-0 tie between Colombia and the United States.

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Player Profile: Carlos Valdes

Posted on 20 January 2011 by Breton Bonnette

Full Name: Carlos Enrique Valdés Parra

Position: Defender

Number: 5

Born: May 22, 1985

Birthplace: Cali, Colombia

Height : 6’0″

Weight: 176

Previous Teams: Club Independiente Santa Fe, America de Cali

Status: Senior International

Salary: N/A

How acquired (Union): Signed for the Union on January 20, 2011 from Club Santa Fe in Colombia.

International Career: Scored 1 goal in 4 caps so far for the Colombian national team.

Stats

2009-2010 with Club Santa Fe: 54 appearances, 1 goal

2006-2009 with America de Cali: 97 appearances, 4 goals

Did you know?

Debuted November 18, 2010 with the Colombian national team in a friendly vs. Peru that ended 1-1, Valdes started.

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