Soccer MLS

5 Key Players To Philadelphia Union’s 2014 MLS Season

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5 Key Players to Philadelphia Union's 2014 MLS Season

Philadelphia Union
Brad Mills-USA Today Sports

At this point last year, Philadelphia Union fans were excited for the 2013 season to get underway. Come season end, many were asking for John Hackworth to be sacked. However, those same fans are optimistic again for their beloved team as the Union look to start their 2014 MLS season off on the right foot when they travel to take on the Portland Timbers on March 8.

The Union front office took their time and stretched Union fans' patience as Toronto FC was making moves left and right. Nonetheless, Hackworth and gang brilliantly navigated the 2014 MLS SuperDraft and brought in three high-caliber midfielders with the additions of Vincent Nogueira, Christian Maidana, and USMNT player Maurice Edu. This trio allows the Union to fix their 2013 season midfield woes.

Defensively, Philadelphia traded for young defenders in Ethan White and Austin Berry, while trading away Jeff Parke and allocation money. The moves bring in young, talented players.

On paper, Philadelphia improved impressively. However, teams don't win games on paper. The Union have the talent, but they need to develop team chemistry and mesh as one for an entire 90 minutes of soccer. With that in mind, here are five key players to their 2014 MLS season

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5. Sheanon Williams

Sheanon Williams
Eric Hartline-USA Today Sports

Right-back Sheanon Williams was a key to the Union's season last year. This will be no different in 2014, and his importance will increase as well. From his long throw-ins appropriately called "Sheanon Shot Puts" to his solid defensive skill, he will be important to the Union's success.

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4. Amobi Okugo

Amobi Okugo
Eric Hartline-USA Today Sports

Amobi Okugo transitioned from the Union's midfield to center-back in 2013, and he will remain in the latter position in 2014. He will be vital as he matches up with a new center-back this season in either Berry or White. One of the reasons Philadelphia had 12 shutouts in 2013 was because of Okugo's play, and that will dictate the total number of shutouts in 2014 as well.

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3. Sebastien Le Toux

Sebastien Le Toux
Eric Hartline-USA Today Sports

Sebastien Le Toux, the Union fans' favorite Frenchman, showed why Hackworth brought him back to Philadelphia last season. If the Union are to succeed in 2014, Le Toux needs to remain out on the wing. There are other players who are more effective inside, and Le Toux is best when his passes and crosses come from his wide position. Many of those find forwards Jack McInerney and Conor Casey as they crash towards the net.

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2. Zac MacMath

Zac MacMath
Eric Hartline-USA Today Sports

Looking ahead to 2014, MacMath has competition in goal with the Union drafting Andre Blake No. 1 overall. MacMath will be starting Week 1, but this move puts the pressure on him to step up or be benched in favor of the Jamaican keeper. MacMath has another year of experience under his belt, so 2014 should be an improvement year rather than a step back.

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1. Jack McInerney

Jack McInerney
Eric Hartline-USA Today Sports

For the Union to play well and stay in playoff contention throughout the 2014 season, Jack McInerney needs to be playing his best soccer. If McInerney's play suffers up top, it will be much tougher for Philadelphia to return to the playoffs in the franchise's fifth year of existence.