MLS Season Preview: Philadelphia Union

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Despite two straight years outside of the playoffs, the Philadelphia Union is building something special. No, the squad doesn’t feature world-class DPs but it’s one that fits right in line with the city itself: a young, tenacious, strong side with a bit of a chip on its shoulder.

So go ahead, dare you to take them lightly.

Players In: Vincent Nogueira (transfer from Sochaux), Christian Omar Maidana (free transfer from Argentinos Juniors), Corben Bone (Chicago Fire, Re-Entry Stage 1), Maurice Edu (loan from Stoke City), Ethan White (trade from DC United), Andre Blake (University of Connecticut, SuperDraft), Brian Holt (free transfer from Harrisburg City), Austin Berry (trade from Chicago)

Players Out: Jeff Parke (trade to DC United), Michael Farfan (transfered to Cruz Azul), Chris Albright (retired), Oka Nikolov (waived), Greg Jordan (waived), Kléberson (waived, Bahia), Don Anding (waived)

source: Getty ImagesKey Player: Maurice Edu

Sure, the argument could be made for Connor Casey, Jack McInerney, Sebastien Le Toux, or any number of players to be the key man. But Edu comes into this side as the player with the most to prove.

For the last two years he’s floated from Rangers to Stoke to Bursaspor, battling injuries and struggling to lock down consistent playing time. Those trials and tribulations have hugely frustrated Edu, and rightfully so. He doesn’t just have something to prove to try and make the USMNT World Cup squad, he has something to prove as a player, period.

Returning to MLS was the best move he could make and fortunately he’s still young enough at the age of 27 where he can re-establish himself as a top professional player. Expect him to play as a box-to-box center midfielder with a chip on his shoulder. Assuming he partners well with Brian Carroll in the center of the park, Edu can be the midfield general that brings the Union to the next level.

source:  Manager: Since his confirmation as interim manager in June 2012 and then manager in August 2012, John Hackworth has steadily built a young, cohesive side with impressive chemistry.

Entering the offseason Hackworth needed to strengthen the midfield and backline in the hopes of moving away from last season’s counter-attacking system and into a more possession-oriented game. Mission accomplished.

Hackworth brought in Edu and Christian Omar Maidana as DPs and also added Vincent Nogueira from France, who could prove to be a tricky attacking midfielder. The acquisition of Austin Berry into the defense will further strengthen the spine of the team allowing them to utilize Hackworth’s favored 4-3-3 approach.

Outlook: The Union are a steadily improving squad, one that knows its identity under Hackworth and ultimately could prove to be the team no one wants to face. After falling short the last two seasons the target will be to make the playoffs and assuming the new boys gel with the old guard – and that quintessential Philly chemistry remains in tact – it’s an objective well within reach.

Soccer world reacts to the Manchester attacks

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NBC News is reporting that at least 19 people have been killed and another 50 are injured following a possible suicide bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester.

Multiple senior U.S. intelligence officials who are monitoring British authorities told NBC News that preliminary reports indicate that a single explosion took place outside the arena on the southwest side opposite the train station. The explosion occurred as the concert ended, catching people as they exited.

Soccer clubs, players and personalities around the world are reacting to the horrible event.

Juventus purchases Cuadrado from Chelsea

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If you didn’t realize Juan Cuadrado still belonged to Chelsea, you’re forgiven.

The Colombian attacker will complete his second season at Juventus after the UEFA Champions League Final against Real Madrid, and won’t be headed back to Chelsea afterwards.

Juve has purchased Cuadrado, and the fee is $22 million, and Juve will pay it over three seasons. Cuadrado, 28, is now signed through 2020 with The Old Lady.

Cuadrado first went on loan to Juve in Aug. 2015, and has eight goals and 18 assists in 83 career appearances with the club.

Chelsea bought Cuadrado from Fiorentina for around $32 million in the January 2015 transfer window, but made just 14 appearances with the club.

Report: Jermain Defoe meeting with Bournemouth

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Sky Sports is reporting that Jermain Defoe may head back to the south of England following Sunderland’s relegation.

Defoe, 34, spent two seasons with Portsmouth between 2008-09, scoring 15 goals in 31 appearances.

[ MORE: ‘The Moment’ of each PL club’s season ]

The 56-times capped England striker had a clause in his Sunderland contract allowing him to leave the Stadium of Light were the Black Cats to be relegated, as they were this season. He’d have little interest in dropping into the Championship given his desire to stay a part of the England squad ahead of the 2018 World Cup.

Bournemouth’s strike corps includes Joshua King, who scored the most goals of any player not on a Top Seven side this season. King’s 16 goals were one more than Defoe’s 15, though the latter scored just one goal following a brace against Crystal Palace on Feb. 4.

Chelsea’s Conte wins pair of top managerial honors

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Antonio Conte took league and national honors from the League Managers Association on Monday night.

The Chelsea boss was named Premier League Manager of the Year and Manager of the Year after leading the Blues to the PL title and an FA Cup Final in his first year on the job.

Brighton and Hove Albion boss Chris Hughton nabbed another Championship boss of the year award after leading the Gulls to the Premier League. He also won the honor with Newcastle United in 2010.

The League One winner is Chris Wilder of Sheffield United. Wilder won the honor with Northampton Town last season.

In League Two, Paul Cook of Portsmouth was named the winner.