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A Philadelphia Union blog hosted by Christopher A. Vito and Matthew De George

Saturday, March 31, 2012


Union manager Peter Nowak is mixing it up today in hopes that an alteration to his lineup will result in a win.

Here's the Union (0-3-0) starting XI vs. Vancouver (2-0-1):
GK Zac MacMath
RB Sheanon Williams
CB Danny Califf
CB Carlos Valdes
LB Porfirio Lopez
MF Brian Carroll
MF Gabriel Gomez
MF Keon Daniel
MF Gabriel Farfan
FW Lionard Pajoy
FW Chandler Hoffman

Some things to consider with this lineup:
1. Going with the rookie. Nowak's been known to reward good fitness and training, which might be why Hoffman - the Union's first-round SuperDraft pick - will not only make his debut, but also get his first start. There's a lot of pressure on Hoffman to perform, though, with Danny Mwanga, Jack McInerney and Josue Martinez on the bench.
2. Califf is back. The knee injury that kept Califf, the Union captain, from the last two matches appears to have lessened in severity, explaining why the veteran centerback is back in the lineup. Through three games no MLS team has been as scored upon as the Union's.
3. No sign of Torres. Nowak kept Roger Torres from the starting lineup and the 18-man gameday roster. That's perplexing, considering the midfielder was not listed in the club's injury report all week.

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This week, Danny Mwanga found out he and the Union would get a chance to take on Aston Villa, the club with which Mwanga trained for 10 days during the offseason, this summer in an international friendly.

But the return of Sebastien Le Toux, with whom Mwanga played in the Union's attack for two seasons, in today's match against Vancouver was more intriguing to Mwanga.

“It'll be a good matchup beside Sebastien coming back here and, overall, it'll be a very good test because they're a good team,” Mwanga said of the Whitecaps (2-0-1), who sit in first place in the Western Conference.

“(Sebastien and I) had a very good time together. Most of the games where we paired up like Houston, where I assisted him for the one goal and he gave me an assist back for my goal, we had a few games where we had a good combination. ... Those are good memories for me.”

Le Toux worked to bring along Mwanga during his rookie season in 2010, when Mwanga had seven goals. Together, they guided the Union to a 2011 playoff berth. Of course, Mwanga also was asked this week of the July 18 friendly the Union scheduled against Aston Villa, the English Premier League side with which Mwanga trained for 10 days. Mwanga later joined the Union in Orlando, Fla., on the second leg of their preseason.

“I was there for training and now we get a chance to play against them,” Mwanga said. “My time there was great. It was a learning experience with the forwards to see what pace they move the ball and how they stay attacking-minded all game. That's one of the things I learned while I was there.”

Tickets to the summer exhibition are available for purchase currently.

(Times staff photo / ERIC HARTLINE)

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Friday, March 30, 2012


Of course, Sebastien Le Toux is concerned with the response he'll receive from Union fans when he and the Vancouver Whitecaps arrive at PPL Park Saturday.

But if there's one thing Le Toux's learned from his experiences with both fanbases, it's that he's wasted no time in endeared himself to both.

“I scored in the first five minutes of my first game (with Vancouver), and I was happy to pick that off my back,” Le Toux told me in a phone call earlier this week. “There was an expectation when I got here to score here, too, like I did in Philly. That's why they (traded for) me and I was glad to do that right away. I was just happy to win the game.”

Le Toux netted a hat trick April 10, 2010 at Lincoln Financial Field in a 3-2 win over D.C. United, accounting for his first three goals in a Union kit in their first home opener.

“I was very pleased that day, to make people be happy because that was my team and they were with me from the beginning,” Le Toux said.

There was a bit of contention when Le Toux was traded to Vancouver Jan. 31 for allocation money. Le Toux said it was for nothing more than money. The Union, and manager Peter Nowak, have never reasoned why they traded away Le Toux, who scored 25 goals in two seasons with the club. Nowak has said only that the Union are attempting to build a club around a group, not around one player.

Only one more day separates Le Toux from his homecoming. Less than 24 hours until we find out what kind of reaction he'll receive. Pick up Saturday's Daily Times for more from my conversation with Le Toux.

(Photo: Associated Press)

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Thursday, March 29, 2012


Amobi Okugo and Sheanon Williams are more likely to see the pitch Saturday than their United States U-23 teammates Freddy Adu, according to Union manager Peter Nowak.

Okugo, a midfielder, and Williams, a right back, played considerably fewer minutes for the U.S. U-23s, who sustained a 3-3 draw Monday against El Salvador and were eliminated from the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament in Nashville.

Adu, the U-23 captain, played three matches in five days.

“I know how disappointed they are,” Nowak said. “I did talk to all of them before training (Wednesday). I feel sorry for that. They were hoping for great things. This process is never easy, especially being eliminated in this fashion, (with El Salvador's equalizer coming) in the last second.”

“We want to be back on the field as soon as possible and forget about what happened in Tennessee,” Okugo said. “...You can't change the past.”

Okugo said Adu, a midfielder, served as “a good captain” for the U-23s, despite the results.

“He was a good captain, given his experience during the last Olympic cycle,” Okugo said. “And he played with youth national team growing up, so with his experiences he led by example on the field. You can see it in the games he played, he played very well through all three games. We just learned from him and tried to mature and look to him as a role model, because he's been there before.”

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Wednesday, March 28, 2012


You-know-who is returning this weekend to PPL Park, which meant the inevitable was due to occur there Wednesday.

During Peter Nowak's weekly press conference, a series of questions pertaining to Sebastien Le Toux was asked of the Union manager. Rather than defuse the situation and wish Le Toux -- the franchise's leading scorer who was traded to Vancouver in January -- all the best, it got ugly.

Here's the line of questioning from a reporter to Nowak:
Reporter: With Sebastien coming back, what do you expect the atmosphere to be, you know, with his popularity while he was here?
Nowak: Are you serious or joking?
Reporter: Serious.
Nowak: Oh, I can take it as different perspectives. Maybe confettis, maybe parade, maybe banners. I don't know. I don't know what it's going to be and how it's going to be. I'm not worried about this thing whatsoever.

Unfortunately, it didn't end there. After Nowak completed his near-12-minute presser, stepped from the podium and walked toward the exit, he said to the reporter, "Get over it, man. This doesn't help anybody."

Nowak and the reporter had a boisterous back-and-forth for more than 20 minutes, during which time Nowak left the hallway that connects home and visitor locker rooms only to return and have it out with the reporter some more.

The relationship between Nowak and Le Toux likely became contentious when Le Toux, who was traded to the Whitecaps in January despite wishing to extend his contract with the Union, told me he'd rather retire than play for Nowak ever again.

Moral of the story?

This doesn't do any good for the Union (0-3-0), the last-place team in the Eastern Conference which is looking to nab a win against its former star player and the Whitecaps (2-0-1), the first-place team in the Western Conference. This whole thing could have been buried had Nowak played it coolly or, at the very least, privately. Instead, it's turned into something that, as Nowak put it, "doesn't help anybody."

If there's one saving grace to it all, it's that Nowak told reporters he would reach out to Le Toux upon his visit to PPL Park this weekend, should the opportunity present itself.

(Le Toux photo: Times staff photo / COLIN KERRIGAN; Nowak photo: Associated Press)

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Tuesday, March 27, 2012


July should be an exciting month to spend some time on the Chester waterfront.

In addition to three of the Union's five matches in July being contested at PPL Park, the team announced Tuesday that it will host English Premier League side Aston Villa July 18 at 7:30 p.m. for an international friendly.

Oh, and PPL Park serves as the host of this season's MLS All-Star Game, to be played July 25. Not bad, huh?

As for ticket details, the Union said tickets to the friendly with Aston Villa -- the very same club with which Union forward Danny Mwanga spent 10 days during preseason training -- will be available for purchase today, Tuesday, March 27, beginning at 4 p.m. That's assuming you don't possess a season-ticket plan. (Season-ticket holders with cards will have the game loaded onto their cards, while those who opt for printed tickets will have them in the mail by June. As for parking, the club said there's a 'bonus game' parking pass in every season-ticket holder package that can be used for this match.)

“It’s our ongoing commitment to bring world-class international competition to Philadelphia,” said Union CEO Nick Sakiewicz in a statement. “We are very proud to host Aston Villa in what will be a challenge for our club and a treat for our fans. We’re also thrilled that this match will be a wonderful precursor to the 2012 MLS All-Star Game and its surrounding festivities. This will certainly be an amazing week for not only our fans and PPL Park but also for cities of Chester and Philadelphia.”


Also, one other note: Because the United States U-23s endured a 3-3 draw Monday night against El Salvador, they finished third in their pool and will not qualify for the 2012 Summer Olympics.

Therefore, the returns of midfielders Freddy Adu and Amobi Okugo, as well as right back Sheanon Williams to the Union's locker room will be sooner than expected.

Waiting on official word from the club regarding their availability for this weekend's match against Vancouver, but a team official said the trio -- in theory -- should return to the Union Wednesday (Tuesday was their travel day) and should be available to play Saturday, barring anything unforeseen.

(Times staff photo / ERIC HARTLINE)

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Friday, March 23, 2012


The U.S. national team callup of right back Sheanon Williams caught the Union by surprise, but it's not unprecedented nor was it out of the question.

And according to an official from U.S. Soccer and another from Major League Soccer, Union boss Peter Nowak wouldn't have been in wrong to block Williams' late callup to join the U.S. U-23s for a CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying tournament. Nowak had said Wednesday “it's not possible” to block Williams' callup.

“Because this tournament is not on a FIFA international date, there is no requirement for a club here or in Europe to release players,” Neil Buethe, the communications coordinator for U.S. Soccer said to me Wednesday. “On a related note, I will say MLS has been very supportive of permitting players to participate for qualification tournaments in the Olympics and World Cup.”

“There's always been a symbiotic relationship between U.S. Soccer and MLS,” Will Kuhns, Major League Soccer's director of communications, told me Wednesday, “but there is no requirement.”

Nowak was unnerved Wednesday during a press conference at PPL Park, where he said he detested Williams' callup to join the U-23s despite missing the training camp that precipitated the Olympic qualifying tournament.

According to the U.S. Soccer and MLS officials, Nowak would have had ground to stand on to block Williams' callup. But, let's be honest, even if Nowak was surprised by the timing of Williams' callup, what coach is going to stymie a player's national-team visibility and progress?

“Everybody got caught by surprise because Sheanon wasn't in the last two camps with the national team, with the U-23s,” Nowak said. “It was communicated by the coach at the end of the January camp … and we saw the final roster – not the final roster, but the roster that was called a day after the Portland game that Sheanon might not be in the plans for the national team. We didn't have any kind of indication during that time that he might be called up last minute.

“Our understanding was that – and I was part of this process four years ago (as an assistant coach) – you take the numbers and players (so) that, if something happens, you have enough players in camp that you don't move anybody from outside the pool that you have,” added Nowak. “It was a drastic change. He wasn't with the team for 10 days. It's a little bit of an adjustment for all of us.”

Without Williams, the Union will have to look elsewhere for support on the right side of the backline for Saturday's match at Chicago. It's yet to be determined what the defensive four will look like, especially considering the Danny Califf scenario and Porfirio Lopez's callup earlier this week.

Williams, and Union teammates Freddy Adu and Amobi Okugo continue their time with the U.S. U-23s through next week.

(Times staff photo / JULIA WILKINSON)

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Thursday, March 22, 2012


Regardless of who's available and who isn't Chris Albright figured he should be ready. It's the least he could do, considering his spate with injuries.

The veteran defender, Albright started the Union's 2-1 loss to Colorado Sunday.

Union manager Peter Nowak wanted to try a lineup that would push his attacking midfielders and forwards higher up the pitch, so he chose Albright. That allowed guys like Sheanon Williams and Porfirio Lopez to make runs on the wing, even if they didn't produce any goals.

Williams will miss the next match, due to a U.S. call-up, and Lopez could be fatigued, after getting a Costa Rica call-up this week, which puts extra emphasis on Albright.

“My mentality coming into this year, regardless of Sheanon being called in, was to be ready when called upon," Albright said Wednesday from PPL Park. "Having the experience with being in a lot of different situations and on different teams, that's sort of what's asked of you as a professional. If you've learned your trade good enough over the years, you should be ready.

“You learn how to get ready in the gym. It's sort of the loneliest place on earth, doing rehab. If you work hard enough to get back, it's a testament to the work you put in. I focus on being healthy now."

Albright, who signed with the Union in the offseason to bolster Nowak's backline depth, is a Philadelphia native and a Penn Charter alum. He's seen the ups and downs of MLS, which wasn't around when he was a kid.

“I try to explain this to people: If you asked me when I was 12 years old who my favorite athlete was, it was Michael Jordan because there wasn't any soccer players I could see regularly on TV that gave me the dream to maybe on day realize the dream of playing professionally. With MLS, that's changed now. Guys can turn on the TV and a 12-year-old kid who's not going to be 6-6, 250 can say, 'I want to be like...' Pick an MLS player. That's an opportunity those kids have now that guys my age didn't have. So it's unique."

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Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Peter Nowak said Union captain Danny Califf sat out Sunday's loss to Colorado with a knee injury. Califf said the Union manager never spoke with his regarding his omission from the starting lineup.

Wednesday, both Nowak and Califf addressed reporters at PPL Park regarding the situation, which spurred plenty of national and local feedback in the days since Sunday's loss.

“I was a bit surprised with how many spins it definitely took, but – you know – it's something we've moved on from," Califf said.

I've embedded videos from the press conferences. Take a look.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2012


As if beginning the season 0-2-0 wasn't difficult enough, the Union were dealt another blow late Tuesday night, when right back Sheanon Williams got word that he'd received a call-up for national duty.

Williams (pictured, left, with Freddy Adu) will fly to Nashville Wednesday morning to join the U.S. U-23s, who christen their Olympic qualifying tournament Thursday with a 9 p.m. match against Cuba. Union teammates Freddy Adu, the U-23 captain, and Amobi Okugo are already in Nashville.

A defender, Williams inked what he told reporters is a five-year contract extension this offseason. In doing so, the Union locked up a rising talent on the national circuit ... which makes the notion of losing Williams for as many as the next two games a concern.

Williams, who had been in the U-23 camp this offseason, along with Adu and Okugo, will miss Saturday's match at Chicago and stand to miss the March 31 date against visiting Vancouver, assuming the U-23s advance to the CONCACAF semifinal and beyond.

Following Thursday's match with Cuba, the U.S. U-23s take on Canada Saturday, then El Salvador the following Monday, March 26. The semifinal and final matches are March 31 and April 2.

Already a weak link for the Union, the backline would suffer a serious hit if Williams was to miss the next two matches. The Union have relinquished five goals in two matches, both defeats, to open their season. No team in Major League Soccer has surrendered as many.

And with Danny Califf's status unknown -- at least until Wednesday, when Union manager Peter Nowak addresses the media -- the backline has a serious hole.

(Times staff photo / JULIA WILKINSON)

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Just got word that left back Porfirio Lopez received a call-up Tuesday to join the Costa Rican national team. But fear not, Union fans. Lopez will rejoin the Union Thursday, in time for the club's match Saturday in Chicago.

Lopez will compete with Costa Rica against Jamaica in an international friendly Wednesday at 8 p.m. at National Stadium in Kingston, Jamaica. He'll rejoin the Union Thursday.

That Lopez will not miss a match is the good news for the Union, who had pined for an anchor at left back since trading Jordan Harvey to Vancouver last season. And Lopez is it. He has played 90 minutes in each of the Union's first two games of the season. Gabriel Farfan, a natural midfielder, filled in well the rest of the 2011 season until the Union made signing Lopez a priority during the offseason.

Lopez has only one cap with Costa Rica, debuting Aug. 10, 2011 in a friendly against Ecuador, during which he started and played 73 minutes in a 2-0 loss.

(Times staff photo / JULIA WILKINSON)

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Monday, March 19, 2012


Union midfielder Freddy Adu has been named the team captain for the United States' U-23 team, in advance of its Summer Olympics qualifying tournament later this month, according to soccer reporter Grant Wahl.

Neither U.S. Soccer nor the Union have made an announcement regarding the captaincy.

Adu, Union teammate Amobi Okugo and the rest of the U-23s are expected to finalize their rosters by Tuesday. The CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying tournament begins Thursday in Nashville, with the U.S. partaking in Group A. The semifinal and final matches will be played at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kan., March 31 and April 2, respectively.

Adu and Okugo stand to miss two more matches for the Union. They flew to Nashville following the Union's March 12 loss at Portland and missed Sunday's home-opening loss to Colorado.

Adu being named captain to the club is a far cry from two weeks ago, when he told me prior to the Union's season opener that he'd be thankful just to get a call-up to the team. Maybe that's just Adu being the consummate team guy who's unwilling to ruffle any feathers, but it sounded genuine. He really wanted to be on this team, and now he's its captain.

“Sure, it would (be great)," Adu said of a potential call-up. "You give it your all and have a pretty good idea where you stand with the team. I'd love to be a part of that team. That's a goal of mine. At the end of the day, if I am with the Olympic team ... it'll be great."

(Photo / Associated Press)

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Sunday, March 18, 2012


Danny Califf spoke out after Sunday's 2-1 loss to Colorado, regarding Peter Nowak's decision the sit him out.

Minutes after Nowak said in his press conference that Califf had undergone an offseason procedure to have meniscus removed from his left knee and that he endured a cortisone shot, Califf refuted those statements.

“It was a surprise to me. I didn't find out I wasn't playing until today, when we walked into the locker room," Califf said. “I guess I found out. Supposedly I have a knee injury."

Califf said he had something called synvisc, or "joint grease," injected into his knee, March 5 -- a week before the season opener. But other than that, Califf said he had been cleared by all doctors and medical staff from the Union to play Sunday. Califf went all 90 minutes in a March 12 loss at Portland.

“Honestly, that's the first time I've heard about my knee being a problem," Califf said. "I don't really understand where that's coming from. I have no idea what's going on in Peter's head because he hasn't said a word to me. To be honest, I don't really have any idea. I would've thought that he at least would have a conversation with me. But he didn't and maybe that's his style and that's the situation right now."

Here are Nowak's exact words:

“Danny's still – you guys don't know – he has a shot in his knee. Doctors in the offseason took a pretty good chunk of meniscus," Nowak said. "He started preseason and didn't do anything until the first day. … We're monitoring the situation to make sure he's ready to play, but he's going to be available for us and getting the performance that we all expect."

So why did Califf make the 18-man gameday roster?

“Because,” Nowak said, “we didn't know … with Chris (Albright) coming back as well, I think we just wanted to make sure (Califf) would be available for us.”

Albright, coming off a groin strain, started Sunday.

For more on Califf and the Union, check out Monday's Daily Times.

(Photo: Associated Press)

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It's a beautiful day at PPL Park for the Union's home opener. One wonders what the view of the scenic stadium will be like for Danny Califf.

Califf, the club's captain, will watch the match -- at least the start of it -- from the bench as Union manager Peter Nowak left Califf out of the starting lineup against Colorado.

Carlos Valdes will serve as the Union's captain for the match.

Considering Califf was not included in this week's injury report, the move to rest Califf, who turned 32 yesterday, is a peculiar one. In three seasons with the Union, Califf has missed only three of 77 matches: April 24, 2010 at New York (red card suspension), Oct. 2, 2010 vs. Houston (yellow-card accumulation), and May 6, 2011 at Portland (illness).

Califf was asked if the performance by the Union March 12 in a season-opening loss at Portland would require alterations to the lineup.

“I have no idea about next weekend," Califf said at the time. "I wish I could look into the crystal ball, but I can't."

Here's a look at the rest of the Union's starting XI against the Rapids: GK Zac MacMath / D Chris Albright, Carlos Valdes, Sheanon Williams, Porfirio Lopez / MF Michael Farfan, Brian Carroll, Keon Daniel, Gabriel Gomez / F Danny Mwanga, Lionard Pajoy.

Amobi Okugo and Freddy Adu are not available due to international duty with the United States U-23 team, which is in camp in advance of an Olympic qualifying tournament.

On the health front, only Chris Albright (groin strain) was listed in the injury report. But that's Wednesday's report. Peter Nowak said this week he expected Albright to be ready for today's match, which explains his place in the starting XI.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Forget the fact that the Union started four guys Monday who weren't with the team a year ago. Toss out the fact that a fifth guy, Zac MacMath, is a first-year starter.

Union manager Peter Nowak (pictured) suggested Wednesday that newness didn't lead to his club's 3-1 loss at Portland in the season opener. According the Nowak, the Union have other things on their minds right now.

“It's not only the changes on the field, just per se. ... I think its getting the housing together, the families -- that's important to their life," Nowak said Wednesday, in his press conference at PPL Park. "That's why we try to make those moves before the season, (and) preseason starts so they can establish some sort of stability in their lives. ... They are very connected with the families, with the people they try to bring with them, the children. It's important."

That's not to say the Union are dealing with outside distractions, but there's an argument to be made for what Nowak is saying: With moving to a new region of the world -- as have Gabriel Gomez, Porfirio Lopez, Josue Martinez and Lionard Pajoy -- comes the settling-in period.

Maybe we're only seeing the Union (0-1-0) with one set of eyes. Maybe, in time, we'll see the Union for what they are -- a third-year franchise coming off a playoff appearance. But Sunday's match against Colorado, which opens the PPL Park portion of their 2012 slate, should be a good barometer for whether the Union have shaken the off-the-pitch duties.


Nowak said he expects midfielder Roger Torres "to be on the roster" for Sunday's home opener. Torres missed the season-opening loss at Portland with an ankle injury. Nowak added that defender Chris Albright, who's recovering from a groin strain, trained today with the Union.

"I don't expect any (further) setbacks," Nowak said.

From that we can conclude that defender Carlos Valdes, who took a headshot from Portland's Kris Boyd and remained in the game, should be good to go for Sunday.

(Times staff photo / JULIA WILKINSON)

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Tuesday, March 13, 2012


PORTLAND, Ore. -- It would've been easy for Freddy Adu to allow his mind to wander, but the 22-year-old midfielder insisted Monday night that he was focused on one thing: winning.

In the moments following the Union's 3-1 season-opening loss to the host Timbers, Adu discussed the news that he received prior to the game -- that he would be joining the United States U-23 team for its final training camp prior to Olympic qualifying.

“You've got to adjust. You've got to be ready for anything," Adu said about his call-up. "… I'm excited. Hopefully we can qualify for the Olympics.

As for whether Adu, who played 74 minutes and was subbed out for Jack McInerney, had his mind elsewhere while playing at JELD-WEN Field... umm, quite the contrary, he said.

“I wasn't thinking about it at all," Adu said. "I was completely focused on Philadelphia and what we're trying to do here and focused on getting the win."

Of course, what the Union are trying to do could suffer a blow with Adu gone for what could amount to the next three matches. Adu and fellow Union midfielder Amobi Okugo ship out to Nashville to join the U-23s directly from here in Portland.

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Monday, March 12, 2012


PORTLAND, Ore. -- Midfielders Freddy Adu and Amobi Okugo got word Monday that they will head to Nashville following tonight's season opener with the Union, having received call-ups to the United States U-23's final training camp in advance of its Olympic qualifying tournament.

Per MLS policy, players are not available for comment prior to matches, so I'll try to snag comments from either Adu or Okugo (or both) afterward.

The U.S. club will compete in Group A in the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying tournament, which kicks off March 22 at LP Field in Nashville. Adu and Okugo could miss three matches with the Union, should the U.S. side require their services for that long. Those matches are: March 18 vs. Colorado; March 24 at Chicago and March 31 vs. Vancouver.

Here's a look at the rest of the roster:

GOALKEEPERS (2): Bill Hamid (D.C. United; Annandale, Va.), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire; Lilburn, Ga.)

DEFENDERS (6): Josh Gatt (Molde; Plymouth, Mich.), Perry Kitchen (D.C. United; Indianapolis, Ind.), Ike Opara (San Jose Earthquakes; Durham, N.C.), Kofi Sarkodie (Houston Dynamo; Huber Heights, Ohio), Zarek Valentin (Montreal Impact; Lancaster, Pa.), Jorge Villafaña (Chivas USA; Anaheim, Calif.)

MIDFIELDERS (6): Freddy Adu (Union; Potomac, Md.), Joe Corona (Club Tijuana; Chula Vista, Calif.), Mix Diskerud (Gent; Oslo, Norway), Jared Jeffrey (Mainz; Richardson, Texas), Amobi Okugo (Union; Sacramento, Calif.), Michael Stephens (LA Galaxy; Naperville, Ill.)

FORWARDS (5): Juan Agudelo (New York Red Bulls; Barnegat, N.J.), Terrence Boyd (Borussia Dortmund; Berlin, Germany), Teal Bunbury (Sporting Kansas City; Prior Lake, Minn.), Joe Gyau (Hoffenheim; Silver Spring, Md.), Brek Shea (FC Dallas; Bryan, Texas)

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PORTLAND, Ore. -- Even if the calendar disagrees, it's been a long offseason.

So the opening of the Union's third campaign, the 2012 season, is a welcome sign. No more signings, no more roster juggling -- at least for now. The 2012 campaign kicks off tonight at JELD-WEN Field, where the Union face the host Portland Timbers in a 9:30 p.m. nationally televised game.

Here's a primer for the Union's season opener, which the Daily Times will have covered for you:
***Zac MacMath (pictured), the second-year goalkeeper and first-year starter, realizes the pressure he'll draw in replacing all-star and captain Faryd Mondragon.
***Freddy Adu is ready for the next stage of his career. It's difficult to fathom a 22-year-old needing to reinvent himself, but maybe that's where Adu's career has taken him.
***Additions and subtractions. A quick-hitting glimpse at three welcome additions, three somber goodbyes ... and three others the Union are better off without.
***Five MLS storylines. With so many ups and downs, twists and turns this offseason, here's a five-point preview of what you should know elsewhere in MLS.

Stay close to Union Tally, and to, for more coverage of tonight's season opener. I'll drop another blogpost closer to gametime at JELD-WEN.

(Times staff photo / JULIA WILKINSON)

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Thursday, March 8, 2012


Freddy Adu is convinced he's ready to go for the Union's 2012 season.

How ready? He said if he wasn't in Union manager Peter Nowak's starting XI for Monday's opener at Portland "that'd definitely be a surprise," Adu said Thursday at PPL Park.

Despite a nagging ankle injury that limited the midfielder to two goals in 11 matches for the Union, who signed him in August 2011, Adu said he is 100 percent healthy and declared himself ready for the season.

Adu said he took "a couple weeks" off after the Union concluded their 2011 season with an Eastern Conference semifinal series loss to Houston. Then he trained with the United States U-23 national team at one point during the offseason and joined La Liga side Rayo Vallecano for preseason training before returning to the Union.

"When you come here, with all the hoopla, you have to be out there and available to play all the time, and - for me - I just want to be on the field," said Adu, pictured at right with teammate Sheanon Williams during Thursday's training.

"When you have an injury and you're playing on it all the time, one day you feel great and the next you're like, 'Damn, I shouldn't have done that.' Just sitting out a couple weeks and not doing too much on it helped. It got stronger."

For more on Adu and a full preview of the 2012 Union season, pick up the Monday, March 12 edition of the Daily Times.


On an editorial note...this is the first of what should be many blog posts this season. Bookmark the site for running commentary, news, notes and observations on the Union. Thanks for stopping by.

(Times staff photo / JULIA WILKINSON)

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