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Let the Season begin! Union take on Saprissa in the CCC.

We knew this was going to be a quick offseason, but time sure did fly. In less then 48 hours, the Philadelphia Union will start their CONCACAF Champions Cup run. Just days later, they kick off their MLS Campaign against Chicago.

I wanted to look at the 2021 Saprissa match, primarily the difference between the Union over the last three years. To start, the lineup made me chuckle a bit.

Kacper (who scored the only goal of the match) and Anthony Fontana sat up top. They had Jamiro Monteiro behind them in the 10 spot. For the rest of the diamond, Flach and Bedoya were on the sides, while Martinez sat at the 6. Finally, the back four was Kai, Elliott, Glesnes, and Olivier, with Andre in net.

Obviously, you're going to be seeing a very different lineup this time around. The big 3 will sit at the top of the formation, and I'm looking forward to seeing Uhre after Jim praised his fitness during camp. Next, I am hopeful that Jack McGlynn and Jesus Bueno are on either side of the diamond. Last year, these two young players improved their game and made legit claims for starting roles for this upcoming season. Also, Bedoya only joined the preseason camp after his signing, so I'm not sure if he would be placed into a starting role this soon. I know Curtin will look to CCL experience where he can, and we know Alejandro can lead this club in any environment.

For the back line, I expect to see Nathan Harriel in Olivier's place. Although I have enjoyed Mbaizo's time with the Union, and he does have some great ability on the ball, I believe Harriel has earned this spot. Last year, Nathan showed that he's a stout defender, but he also became a legitimate threat on set pieces. With the Union not having a deadly scoring threat in their lineup, the more bodies that can score the ball the better.

Finally, we look at the reserves. In the 2021 away match, Curtin brought in Matt Real for Leon Flach, while Quinn Sullivan replaced Kacper. This time around, I expect Tai Baribo to come in as a relief for Uhre. Although Tai is not a new addition to the roster, his inexperience thus far with the Union makes him an interesting player to watch. I knew Tai didn't get a ton of action last year, but according to, the Israeli national only logged 151 minutes with the Union. With a full offseason under his belt, this could be a break out year for the 26 year old attacker.

Besides Bedoya, the rest of the depth becomes a bit of an issue in the midfield. We know Flach is dealing with an injury, and considering Donovan and Anderson's presence in the Forward position, I expect Quinn to be the next man up in the midfield. We've seen Curtin shift him back and forth between multiple positions, but it does seem that the right side of the diamond is where Sullivan's role will be moving forward. We know Sullivan is unafraid to let a shot rip at net, and he's shown some passing ability with his crosses. Similar to what we saw from Harriel, McGlynn, and Bueno last year, Quinn could be the next young player to become a consistent staple in the rotation. Finally, players like Berdecio and Rafanello will be interesting ones to monitor as the start of the season kicks off. Will they be used primarily with Union II, or will Curtin try to find ways to rotate more of his youth into the lineup each week.

For me, the Union have to open the year and set the tone for the season. Unlike the 2022 squad, the 2023 team lacked that killer instinct, and we struggled to find a match where the Union convincingly won a game against a good opponent. The Boys in Blue will be in a hostile environment on Tuesday night. I can't think of a better way to send a message than to come out swinging in their opening match of the CCC.

As of now, the Union are road dogs for the first leg. They sit at +175 on the moneyline, with Saprissa at +130. The draw is at +240 (all of these found on FanDuel).

Mike Barrera (Mbarrera1323 on TikTok and Twitter).

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