The MLS schedule-makers didn’t intentionally set the Union up to face Fafa Picault in the first game since trading him to FC Dallas. But it’s sure to be one of the biggest storylines when the Union kick off the season Saturday night at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas (6 p.m., PHL17).
Picault was a fan favorite and a cornerstone in the locker room throughout his three years in Philadelphia. He was also one of the better goal-scoring wingers in MLS.
Unfortunately, his skill set doesn’t fit in Ernst Tanner’s tactical playbook, a narrow-diamond 4-4-2 setup. All sides saw the writing on the wall, and the departure was reasonably amicable. The Union found a willing trade partner in Dallas, which offered $300,000 in allocation money and a further $75,000 for performance incentives.
The Union will be without two key players due to injuries. Left back Kai Wagner has missed most of the preseason with a leg injury, and is likely to miss next Sunday’s game at Los Angeles FC too; and forward Andrew Wooten has a quad strain.
Expect a starting lineup of goalkeeper Andre Blake; defenders Matt Real, Mark McKenzie, Jack Elliott and Ray Gaddis; midfielders Matej Oravec, Brenden Aaronson, Alejandro Bedoya and Jamiro Monteiro; and forwards Kacper Przybylko and Sergio Santos.
Dallas beat the Union in a preseason exhibition, 3-2, on Feb. 19. Both teams played most of their regulars, though there were liberal substitutions.
Union fans who follow the U.S. men’s national team will recognize Dallas playmaker Paxton Pomykal, forward Jesus Ferreira and right back Reggie Cannon, the last of whom already has 11 caps as a 21-year-old. Cannon might be Gregg Berhalter’s starter at the position when World Cup qualifying begins later this year.
In addition to the TV broadcast on PHL17, fans in the Philadelphia region can watch the game free of charge via the Union’s website. You can put your zip code in there and find out whether you’re in the viewing area. If you aren’t, streaming is available through ESPN+.