During the offseason, Philadelphia made many smart moves that bolstered their own lineup as many Eastern Conference teams did the same. The potential to succeed is there, but now the Union need to show it on the field.
While the 2014 preseason was spent using different lineups, it seems clear which starting XI the Union will use. Zac MacMath will start in net, and Fabinho, Amobi Okugo, Austin Berry, and Sheanon Williams should fill in the back-line. However, Williams is currently dealing with an injury, and if he can't go Saturday, Ray Gaddis seems to be the logical backup.
The Union's midfield stymied their success in 2013, however, that should not be the case in 2014. The acquisitions of Maurice Edu, Vincent Nogueira, Cristian Maidana strengthen the midfield and plays them in their respective natural positions. For example, Edu is a box-to-box player who can attack and defend. His skill set will allow Brian Carroll to remain in a defensive midfielder role and not be forced up or out wide.
Offensively, Sebastien Le Toux should play in a wide position providing multiple chances to Jack McInerney and Connor Casey. With Casey battling a minor injury, it is unknown whether or not he will play against Portland. For McInerney, this game serves has the beginning of regaining confidence and goals after a dismal second-half of the 2013 season. For the Union to succeed in 2014, McInerney will need to find the net as the season gets underway this weekend.
John Hackworth and the front office did their job bringing in quality players in the offseason and keeping the Union's young core together. Now it is time for the Union players to translate what's on paper to the field.
Saturday's game will be a tough test against the Timbers and it will be imperative to get the 2014 season off with at least a point. Portland's supporters will be loud and proud Saturday, so the Union's starting XI needs to dig deep and communicate well amongst the organized chaos in the stands.
Philadelphia takes on Portland 10:30 p.m. on Saturday. The game is scheduled to be aired on CSN and also on MLS Live.