Previous Year Recap
It could not have gone much better for the Union, could it? 2020 was the culmination of six years of building for Jim Curtin and company that resulted in the club’s first major trophy in the form of the 2020 MLS Supporter’s Shield and the sale of academy products Brenden Aaronson and Mark McKenzie for six figures each to European sides Red Bull Salzburg and K.R.C. Genk, respectively. The only black spot for Jim Curtin’s men is that they fell at the first time of asking in the playoffs once again, despite securing home field advantage throughout the playoffs due to their league performance.
Fantasy Players to Watch
Truthfully, the whole of the Union roster is quite affordable this season, with just 4 players (Jamir Monteiro, Kacper Przybyłko, Sergio Santos, and Anthony Fontana) above 6 mil.
Goalkeeper: Reigning Allstate MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, Andre Blake is good value at 6 mil. You can expect between 6 and 10 clean sheets from the Jamaican internationally and because he single-handedly keeps the Union in matches at time you should anticipate an occasional nice save bonus. He has also got 3 career regular season penalty kick saves. Keep an eye on back up keeper, Matt Freese. With Andre Blake expected to miss time in the summer while away with the Jamaican national team for Gold Cup, Freese will see game time for the Union during the summer and at just 4 mil he is very affordable.
Defenders: Defense is a consistent area of the pitch for the Union. The Union’s formation depends on its fullbacks for attacking width. Left back, Kai Wagner in particular has good potential for offensive points generation from a defender with 1g 8a in his past two seasons. At center back, Jakub Glesnes was top 20 in points and points per game for defenders last season and has been known to take free kicks in the past. From a fantasy perspective, Jack Elliott had a down year last year having been moved into midfield at times but with midfield replacements now secured expect him to start at center back, he is also known to score the odd goal from corners, with 6 in his 4 seasons in MLS. All are good options at either 5 or 5.5 mil.
Midfielders: Jamiro Monteiro was a top 10 midfielder in fantasy last season despite a drop in both goals and assists, a move from a playmaker to a box to box role seems to have seen him pick up more bonus points to compensate. Outside of Monteiro, I would advise you proceed with some caution. Jose Martinez and Alejandro Bedoya both averaged about a 4.4 last season, however Martinez frequently picks up yellow cards. Finally, Anthony Fontana managed 6 goals as a super sub in 2020 but as a starter in 2021. That form seems unlikely to translate as a starter, he has zero career assists and does not take enough shots to earn consistent attacking bonus points.
Forwards: Forward is the area in which I have the least confidence with respect to value for your money from a fantasy perspective. While Kacper (8g, 5a) and Sergio Santos (8g, 2a) have reasonable offensive productive. Both forwards have had their injury issues and are considerably streaky with Kacper having gone 8 games without a goal last season and 3 of Sergio Santos’ 8 goals coming in a single game. With that said, Cory Burke should get plenty of game time this season between rotation and injuries and managed 2 goals in 5 matches from the bench last season so at 5.5 mil, he’s worth a look.
Philadelphia’s “team is the star” ethos makes them a tricky proposition from a fantasy perspective and given last year’s heights and balancing a hectic schedule I would not be surprised to see an overall drop off in performance from the team and some heavy rotation early on in the season should they continue to progress through CONCACAF Champions League. With that said, midfielders Jamiro Monteiro and Alejandro Bedoya as well as goalkeeper, Andre Blake have been consistent performers in fantasy throughout the years.
Potential Starting XI
The starting line up pretty much picks itself given that the Union have retained most of their starters from last season. Mbaizo is a lock at right back for the timing being, although Nathan Harriel is well thought of at the club and looked good in preseason. In addition, Stuart Findlay could potentially disrupt a Glesnes/Elliott partnership. Expect some rotation due to CONCACAF Champions League, US Open Cup, and Gold Cup/International Duty this season.
Otherwise, I expect the following: