As we do every year to start a new Union season, here’s a player-by-player look at the team’s roster. The list at each position is in order of what looks to be the depth chart heading into the campaign, which starts Saturday at Subaru Park against Minnesota United (1 p.m., PHL17).


Andre Blake

Of course we start here, with one of the best goalkeepers in MLS and all of Concacaf. The start of a Union season allows Blake to cast off some of the sting from Jamaica’s collapse in World Cup qualifying, and recapture the magic that helped spark the Union’s playoff run last fall.

» READ MORE: Andre Blake fought through a tough 2021 on and off the field

Matt Freese

He’ll play some, but how much could end up framed as how little — and it’s not his fault. There’s no Gold Cup this year, just a few Nations League games in June. And this year’s MLS schedule has far fewer midweek games than past campaigns have had. So Blake shouldn’t have to miss many Union games, which means Freese will have fewer opportunities to start.

Joe Bendik

It’s a testament to his work ethic and willingness to teach the Union’s young prospects that he’s back for another year as the No. 3 netminder.


Jack Elliott

Why start with him instead of the next name on this list? Because Elliott is a bigger part of this team’s soul, as one of its longest-serving players. His positioning is great, he’s supremely level-headed, and he knows how far this team has come in his time here. He has earned the right to have his name on the backs of more fans’ jerseys.

» READ MORE: Union’s Jack Elliott gets well-deserved contract extension through 2024

Jakob Glesnes

You don’t have to be on the receiving end of one of his thunderous long-range shots to know he’s a great player. But the other reason he ranks second here is that both he and Findlay can be high-pressers who retreat quickly and cover a lot of ground. Elliott is the one who stays back, and the Union don’t have a second one of him who is of starting caliber.

» READ MORE: Jakob Glesnes’ epic playoff goal against the Red Bulls set off one of the Union’s all-time celebrations

Stuart Findlay

If last season’s playoff run converted many to new soccer fans, this winter made some newfound observers of the global transfer rumor mill. And if any of them were surprised that the British tabloids’ chatter about Findlay leaving the Union came to nothing, they shouldn’t have been.

Was there a possibility he’d go? Sure. There always is. But don’t believe anyone’s going until they’re holding up their new team’s jersey. Findlay said last December that he’d be happy to stay, and in the end, he did.

Now let’s see if he gets the playing time he deserves. Manager Jim Curtin’s willingness to rotate his centerbacks in 2020 was a big reason why his team had the late-season stamina to seal the Supporters’ Shield.

» READ MORE: Stuart Findlay reflects on his first year with the Union and a soccer atmosphere to rival the best he’s seen

Brandan Craig

The 17-year-old is a major prospect, with interest on the record from England’s Liverpool and the U.S. under-20 national team.

Left backs

Kai Wagner

He’s the best in MLS at the rarest position in which to find true talent. Enjoy him for as long as he’s here, because the time will come when a buyer offers a big enough check that the Union let him go back to Europe.

» READ MORE: Kai Wagner is ‘happy’ to stay with the Union after another winter of wanting a move to Europe

Anton Sorenson

When the time comes to sell Wagner, there will be two reasons why it happens: the aforementioned big check, and Sorenson’s development. He’s had the Union academy’s attention ever since he arrived two years ago, and has Curtin’s attention now.

As Curtin said last December: “When you talk about talent and engine to get up and down, he certainly has that … What we’ll work with, with Anton, is doing it every day — what does it really mean to be a professional. Because once you get to this level, your talent only gets you so far. And he has talent, no question.”

» READ MORE: Union sign Anton Sorenson, a promising left back prospect from the team’s youth academy

Matt Real

When the 22-year-old Drexel Hill native turned down a new contract offer from the Union last year, it was understood — and appreciated — that he’d seek a new fortune elsewhere. But no such fortune emerged, so he returned to his hometown team.

Right backs

Olivier Mbaizo

As his play with the Union and Cameroon has shown, he’s better in a 4-3-3 with a winger in front of him than he is in a winger-less 4-4-2. But he’s also shown he’s better in that 4-4-2 than in the 3-5-2 Cameroon played at the recent Africa Cup of Nations.

He knows he needs to raise his defensive game to match his great skill at passing and moving forward to build attacks. And everyone knows that if he helps Cameroon qualify for the World Cup in March, he’ll likely become the first Union player to play on soccer’s biggest stage while a member of the team.

» READ MORE: After living a dream at the Africa Cup of Nations, Olivier Mbaizo wants to help the Union win a trophy

Nathan Harriel

The 20-year-old academy product will get some time this year as he prepares to be Mbaizo’s successor. He’s got a higher defensive upside and some well-deserved hype, but Mbaizo is the better player right now.

Defensive midfielders

José Andrés Martínez

His all-action game helps him pile up stats all over the field, and makes him a perfect fit as the midfield anchor. But there are two stats he needs to keep down: yellow cards, and the height on those long-range shots he blasts into the River End.

» READ MORE: José Andrés Martínez reflects on playing against Lionel Messi and Neymar, and his love for Philadelphia

Leon Flach

You’re more likely to see him play on the left side of the midfield diamond than at the base, especially at the start of the year. But Flach is Martínez’s first backup, and he’s definitely a defensive midfielder. His acumen at that end of the field is superb. Unfortunately, his passing and shooting aren’t what they need to be yet. The key word is yet, though, because the 20-year-old has lots of potential. If he keeps developing, he’ll be on the U.S. national team’s radar after the World Cup.

And if the Union rotate their midfield diamond into a box — two defensive midfielders behind two attacking midfielders — Flach could look even better. In reality, there isn’t much of a difference between the box and the diamond once the ball gets moving. It comes down to how many offense-first players and how many defense-first players Curtin wants to deploy at a given time.

Jesús Bueno

The 22-year-old Venezuelan arrived in Philadelphia last summer as a bit of a wild card, and he still is. He projects at the defensive anchor role, but can also play either central midfield position.

Cole Turner

A 20-year-old academy product, he spent the last two months of last season on loan to the El Paso Locomotive in the second-tier USL Championship. Where he fits in this year remains to be seen.

Central midfielders

Alejandro Bedoya

There’s no doubting his leadership in the Union’s locker room, or his desire to win. Curtin said earlier this month that his captain started preseason camp “in probably the best physical shape he’s been in yet.”

But the purpose of insisting that Bedoya needs to play less, as has been said here repeatedly, isn’t just to get the Union’s youngsters on the field. It’s so that the 34-year-old, who will turn 35 in April, has enough gas in the tank late in the season so he doesn’t burn out the way he clearly did last year. Curtin and Bedoya both surely know what needs to happen, even if it’s a hard conversation to have.

» READ MORE: Union manager Jim Curtin is under pressure this year, but he doesn’t mind

Jack McGlynn

With Jamiro Monteiro gone, the question of who comes after Bedoya at this spot is a big one. As noted above, it will probably be Flach to start the season. But McGlynn has a special combination of skill and smarts. The bet here is we’ll see him at the left central midfield spot a lot this year.

» READ MORE: An 18-year-old with ice in his veins: Jack McGlynn was the Union’s penalty kick sensation against Nashville

Quinn Sullivan

He started last year ticketed to be Bedoya’s backup, and he still is. That’s a fine place to be for now. McGlynn has moved ahead of Sullivan on the depth chart for now, but Sullivan’s time will come.

» READ MORE: Quinn Sullivan’s bicycle-kick goal in his first MLS start was a dream moment for one of Philly soccer’s most famous families

Attacking midfielders

Dániel Gazdag

There were glimpses as soon as he arrived of what he could do, and by the end of the year, there was proof: four goals and one assist in his last eight games. Expectations are high for the Union’s star playmaker as he heads into his first full season here, as well they should be.

» READ MORE: Dániel Gazdag hit his stride right in time for the start of the MLS playoffs

Paxten Aaronson

No Union prospect gets fans’ attention faster, and not just because of his last name. But it sure does help, as does his reputation for being a better shooter than Brenden at a younger age. The Union are ready to turn him loose, and the only question is how: as Gazdag’s chief substitute, or with a formation change to get them on the field together?

» READ MORE: Latest Union phenom Paxten Aaronson keeps up family tradition of playmaking skill


Mikael Uhre

It’s endlessly frustrating that the Union’s record striker signing — indeed, their record signing overall — was delayed but was expected to arrive Friday due to visa issues. Just remember that immigration matters are beyond the team’s control, and Uhre wants to be here just as badly as everyone wants him.

» READ MORE: Mikael Uhre officially joins the Union for a team-record $2.8 million transfer fee

Julián Carranza

There have already been hints that the Union’s move to take him on loan from Inter Miami was a smart piece of business. If he pairs well with Uhre, he could be one of the year’s great steals in the MLS.

» READ MORE: Julián Carranza has a chip on his shoulder as he settles in with the Union

Sergio Santos

His skill is clear, but his injury history is clearer. Until he can be relied on to play 90 minutes on a regular basis, he’ll be relegated to the role of super-sub. But no team will want to see him coming off the bench to charge at tired legs.

Cory Burke

The Union like to play with a striker tandem of one big player and one smaller one. It’s nice to have one of each as a backup, with Burke bringing lots of MLS experience to the big-player side.

Away on loan

Matej Oravec

The defensive midfielder at Zeleziarne Podbrezová, a club in his native Slovakia’s second division, until the summer. It will be surprising if we see him play in a Union jersey after that.

Jack de Vries

The forward, who can play a few different attacking positions, is at Venezia of Italy’s Serie A until the end of June — and he’s turning heads. The 19-year-old has eight goals and three assists in 15 games for the club’s top youth squad, and he made a cameo for the senior squad in the Italian Cup. Will continued success earn him a full-time move, and earn the Union a transfer fee? Stay tuned.