For much of the Philadelphia Union’s existence, there has been little discussion over who their best XI consisted of, largely because of their lack of depth. They have traditionally had an average starting XI with a large drop off in quality to their substitutes.
This is not the case this year. There is an actual debate about who the best XI on the Philadelphia Union is, and it is a good debate. When Earnie Stewart was brought over to be the Union’s sporting director in the offseason, he made it a goal of his to be two deep at every single position, and for the most part, he has done that.
Stewart has completely revamped the Philadelphia Union and that has been seen through their first two games and the lineups that were sent out. Against FC Dallas, three of their four starting defenders had no MLS experience. Only Fabinho played a part with the team last year.
So for the first time in the Philadelphia Union’s history, there is healthy competition for starting spots throughout their team. The team is much improved on paper than past seasons, and for Union fans, this brings a lot of hope this season.
What Is The Philadelphia Union’s Best XI?
So what does a fully healthy starting XI look like for the Philadelphia Union? The two obvious positions to fill would be Andre Blake in goal and CJ Sapong up top. Who fills in between, though, may seem a little more difficult.
The full backs seem pretty set with Fabinho out left and Keegan Rosenberry, who appears to have taken the spot from Raymon Gaddis and has played well in the first two games, on the right. Richie Marquez should occupy one of the centerback positions as his presence was definitely felt against the Columbus Crew. Ken Tribbett has gotten the start in both games so far and has held his own so it would make sense to keep him next to Marquez although Anderson and Joshua Yaro could very conceivably take that spot from Tribbett.
Brian Carroll has begun as the Union’s defensive midfielder in the first two games and with Maurice Edu out for at least three months, he may be the starter for quite a while. For the higher pressing game the Union have begun to play, Warren Creavalle may be the better option with more pace to him. He also played very well in clogging up the midfield alongside Carroll against Columbus. Vincent Nogueira will surely be slotted next to the defensive midfielder when he is fully healthy again as he is arguably the Union’s best player.
Tranquillo Barnetta will most likely be starting centrally when he is fully fit again which would push Ilsinho out to the right. After his two goals over the weekend, Chris Pontius will likely stay the starting left wing/left midfielder with Sapong up top.
That leaves the question of where new signing Roland Alberg finds himself. He has come off the bench in both of the games so far and looked well in his limited time. He can play centrally but also out on the wing. With Barnetta and Ilsinho both 30 years old and Pontius who has struggled with injuries throughout his career, Alberg will definitely get his fair share of chances through squad rotation, while he looks for a chance to solidify a starting spot.
This is definitely a good problem to have for the Union with the likes of Raymon Gaddis and Sebastien Le Toux and even Roland Alberg all on the bench. Going forward, this is what the Union's best XI might look like, minus Maurice Edu who will be out for the next couple of months at least.