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

Friday, January 27, 2017

Day 4: Union training notes from Friday's open session

A hundred or so people turned out for Union open training Friday.
The Philadelphia Union held their annual open practice Friday morning, in blustery conditions that were far less hospitable than what YSC has offered in the past. Nonetheless, about 100 fans turned out to see the team practice for an hour and a half.

A few observations from the session:

- Still waiting on the arrival of Jay Simpson and Giliano Wijnaldum, neither of whom practiced Friday.

- Also absent from training: Fafa Picault. Though he’s not with the club at the moment, I’m told his trial isn’t over. (The Union are usually pretty upfront about when trials end, so his absence may be a precursor to a move.)

- One other new face in: Former Clemson central midfielder Alex Happi. Born in Cameroon and raised in France, Happi was eligible for the 2017 MLS SuperDraft but wasn’t selected. Sounds like a guy just there to stay fit alongside former college teammate Aaron Jones (Oguchi Onyewu is also a Clemson guy who remains with the Union), and it’s likely he’s being looked at more for Bethlehem Steel than the Union, if at all.

- It's not from Union training per se, but there's this from Keegan Rosenberry at U.S. National Team Camp:

- The last hour or so of training involved the Union in full-field 11-v-11. Here are the field players for each of the three teams (with some positional shuffling):

Blue Team

Pink Team

No Pinnie Team 

- You’ll notice five Bethlehem Steel players in there – Matt Real, defender Hugh Roberts, winger Amoy Brown, forward Cory Burke and of course James Chambers. Burke scored a couple of nice goals in interchange play with Brown. Burke will join Andre Blake with the Jamaican national team next week. Steel has alternated platoons of five guys training with the Union and five training together with Steel this week (Bolu Akinyode and Seku Conneh were among those present Tuesday).

- Anthony Fontana was the only Union Academy field player out there, far as I can tell. Matt Freese was in goal. I believe the other goalie was an Academy player as well; Tuesday’s session featured U-16 Tomas Romero. I believe he was there Friday as well.

- Positional changes to read into: Jack Elliott playing in central midfield. He has a background there, and the Union are thinner there than at center back. His size and comfort on the ball warrant a look there.

- Positional changes not to read too deeply into: Eric Ayuk at left back. He’s done it before in training; he wouldn’t be doing it if Wijnaldum was there, I’d suppose. Ilsinho, who you’ll recall was capped for Brazil as a defender, also had a turn as a fullback. Not a long-term solution.

- One intriguing positional tweak is Ken Tribbett and Josh Yaro playing together. That didn’t happen in MLS last year and Curtin was very specific about having discreet right- and left-center backs. Tribbett and Yaro both generally play on the right. They alternated sides Friday in the two games I saw.

- It became evident in 11-v-11 drills that, particularly with Ray Gaddis, there was a real emphasis on getting outside back high up the pitch. Certain drills had him starting essentially even with the opponent’s backline. I’d imagine that’s a big point of emphasis for a player who has shown limited attacking aptitude in the past.

- Watching Santi Moar play short-sided 4-v-4 with small goals is a treat. Kid has great footwork. The Union would do much worse than he and Adam Najem (also still with the club) splitting the No. 10 minutes at Steel this year.

- The Union ship out to Florida Tuesday. They should have a training session Monday before departing.

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