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

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Training camp observations, January 28

Much of the attention Tuesday at Union practice at YSC was focused on the arrival of Maurice Edu, who participated fully in the morning session before his big unveiling ceremony. The American looked impressive, however limited the action was. But he wasn't the only notable performance. A few others:
Fred: A blast from the Union's past
on trial with the club. (AP file)

- The 11-on-11 scrimmage sided shaped up thusly:  

Orange Team 

Navy Team
Le Toux-Ribeiro-Fernandes

The only roster players absent where Hoppenot, Kassel and Wheeler, who we're playing 7-v-7 on a lower field. Amobi Okugo wasn't involved.

- I got to see some impressive saves from first overall pick Andre Blake. It's odd to see the lanky guy (he's not 6-foot-4 as some outlets suggested before the draft; the Union measured him at 6-1) get low to make saves since he needs to almost fold his body out of the way to get his hands down. He's got great reach and leaping ability, all the things you’d expect from a goalkeeper. But what I thought was most impressive is that when a ball hits his hands, it stayed in his grasp. That's something Zac MacMath had struggled with at times.

- As far as MacMath, he has warmed to the competition of Blake. The two are constantly communicating in drills, and MacMath is quick to offer encouragement.

- Blake's size may have been oversold. Pedro Ribeiro's was not. The first rounder is every bit of 6-4, and he's not a wiry 6-4. He's a physically imposing midfielder. I haven't seen enough of him to remark on his technical skill, but whatever he does with the ball, it's tough to dispossess him of it.

- The Union needed to get bigger and more physical in the offseason. The draft picks seem to have addressed that, whether or not it was a clearly outlined issue. Kevin Cope isn't a monster, but he looks like an MLS center back in terms of his physique. Richie Marquez is even more imposing. Even Robbie Dershang isn't tiny for a left back.

- Noticed a lot more Danny Cruz running along the back line Tuesday. He made a few good, diagonal runs across the center backs from the wing position in the presumed 4-2-3-1 (or I guess you could call it a 4-3-3; let’s not quibble this early as there will be plenty of time for that). If the Union are going to better utilize a creative midfielder in the hole this year, that kind of movement will be crucial to unlock defenses.

- Speaking of players in the hole, and don't call me crazy when I say this: I'm impressed by Fred. He scored one of only two or three goals in the scrimmage with a cheeky little flick. He looks spry for 34 and was playing at a relatively high level in Australia for Melbourne Heart. I could see him sticking around as a veteran mentor for a guy like Ribeiro or Leo Fernandes and as an insurance policy for some of their other creative signings.

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