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February 28, 2017

Union notes: A homegrown starter, adopted Eagles fans and defenders 'up your butt'

Soccer Union
022817_union_kk Kevin Kinkead/for PhillyVoice

The Union went back to work in Chester on Tuesday, three days after wrapping up preseason training in Florida.

It looks like 19-year-old Derrick Jones might be in line for his first MLS start in Sunday's season opener.

At Tuesday's training session, the homegrown midfielder played alongside Haris Medunjanin in full field, 11 vs. 11 drills. Warren Creavalle is still recovering from a preseason groin injury and sat out team exercises. Brian Carroll played with the second stringers and Maurice Edu worked out individually inside the Power Training Complex.

This is how the teams were divided up:

"First team" – Andre Blake; Keegan Rosenberry, Oguchi Onyewu, Richie Marquez, Fabinho, Haris Medunjanin, Derrick Jones; Chris Pontius, Alejandro Bedoya, Ilsinho; Jay Simpson

"Second team" – John McCarthy; Ray Gaddis, Ken Tribbett, Jack Elliott, Giliano Wijnaldum, Brian Carroll, Adam Najem; Marcus Epps, Roland Alberg, Fabian Herbers; C.J. Sapong

A couple of observations from training:

     • The team switched to 7v7 drills and used Anthony Fontana as a "plus one" player wearing a green pinnie. I thought he looked sharp during this part of practice, along with Adam Najem, who played a couple of excellent through balls and made some nice one-touch passes.

     • Fafa Picault and Charlie Davies took part in passing and warm up drills but did not play in the 11v11 or 7v7 games. They worked to the side with Creavalle and Performance Director Garrison Draper.

     • Goalkeeper Jake McGuire is now with the group. The Tulsa product is a second-round Houston draft pick, but he was given permission to train with the Union in hopes of earning a contract. Philly only has two goalkeepers on the roster and needs to sign a third.

     • Ilsinho is now sporting a David Beckham-styled mohawk

After the session, head coach Jim Curtin said this about Creavalle and Picault's availability for Sunday:

"The hope is yes, but Warren has a little bit of a groin going on that happened last week and kept him out of our last two or three exhibition games, which is difficult because he was playing well. Fafa has healed. It turns out it was, they think – they're not one-hundred percent – but it was some version of gout in the toe. That's why the pain was so sharp and unfamiliar for him. Obviously, he gives us a speed threat that we would like to be able to go to in Vancouver, but he has missed a significant amount of training. Hopefully, we can get him back fully tomorrow. It sounds like he responded well to today."

Additionally, Josh Yaro observed practice and no longer has a sling on his surgically repaired shoulder.

Facing forward, or back to goal?

One of the big tactical storylines this season will be the usage of Alejandro Bedoya in the midfield.

He played primarily as a number eight last season, but he's also been used as a number ten this preseason, filling the role vacated by Tranquillo Barnetta.

Bedoya's preference is the deeper lying number eight position, and he explained the main difference between the two roles from his point of view.

"For me, playing as an eight or a six, I'm always going to get the ball facing forward, more often than not," the Union captain said. "At the number ten, a lot of (the time) you have to check to the ball with a defender up your butt. You don't have as much time as you do (as a 6 or 8). That's obviously the biggest difference for me. But they're both key roles. For me, as a number eight I feel like I'll have more of an important role on the team because I'll have the ball probably a lot more and maybe be able to dictate the tempo of the game. As a number ten, sometimes you can drift in and out of the game and maybe not touch the ball for awhile. But they're roles you just have to learn and deal with and hope you can get on the same page as your teammates."

Fly Eagles Fly

Jay Simpson has only been in the United States for a few weeks, so he's quickly becoming immersed in American sports and culture.

The English striker might not be familiar with the four major American sports, but he's intrigued.

"I'm an adopted Eagles fan," Simpson told reporters after training. "I tried to watch (the NFL) a couple of times back home but I never really understood the rules. But while I was in Florida I got to watch the Super Bowl. I watched it with my teammates so they explained to me what was going on between the loop. But yea, I really enjoyed it. And obviously, while I'm here in Philly you've got the Flyers, the Phillies, the 76ers, and the Eagles. When I have a chance, I'll try to go watch all of them."