John Hackworth could have a contender in Philly. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)

John Hackworth could have a contender in Philly. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)

Things did not go as planned in 2012 in Philadelphia. Once thought as the club that was on the verge of big things going into the 2012 season, the Union failed to live up to any good expectations that were set on them as they struggled early on and eventually saw Peter Nowak get fired.

Now enter a new year. John Hackworth is the boss now (as he has been since Nowak left). Late in 2012, the Union looked like they were starting to come around even though towards the end of the season their playoff dreams were already dashed away. Big moves made this winter have help get the fan base in Chester at least somewhat happy again too.

But will it all be enough for getting back to the playoffs in 2013? Time to find out where things stand with Hackworth’s bunch.

2012 MLS Record: 10-18-6 (8th in Eastern Conference), 36 points

[twocol_one]IN:
F/M Sébastien Le Toux (12/6/12 – trade from New York)
Jeff Parke (12/7/12 – trade from Seattle)
Conor Casey (12/14/12 – Re-Entry Draft Stage 2)
Aaron Wheeler (1/19/13 – transfer from KooTeePee)
Damani Richards (1/19/13 – free)
Alex Mendoza (1/24/13 – free)[/twocol_one] [twocol_one_last]OUT: 
Gabriel Gomez (11/19/12 – option declined)
Porfirio Lopez (11/19/12 – option declined)
Krystian Witkowski (11/19/12 – option declined)
GK Chase Harrison (12/3/12 – option declined)
Zach Pfeffer (12/4/12 – loaned to Hoffenheim)
F Josué Martínez (12/6/12 – traded to New York)
Carlos Valdes (1/15/13 – loan to Sante Fe)
Damani Richards (2/20/13 – waived)
Alex Mendoza (2/20/13 – waived)[/twocol_one_last]

Key Questions for 2013

1. Can Le Toux and Casey rekindle the attack? One reason that got fans happy about the 2013 season was seeing Le Toux back in a Union kit again. After bouncing around the last two seasons, Le Toux is back where he belongs and where he has thrived in MLS. Along with Casey, the Union have an attacking duo that could do some serious damage in the Eastern Conference. Casey has been a player that has needed a spark for a couple of seasons now. After coming off a nasty injury in 2011, the big striker needed a change of scenery in my opinion and landing in Philly was a good spot for him. I see him and Le Toux working well together over time but there could be some bumps early on. But don’t sleep on Jack McInerney in the attack too, the young striker may be the one wildcard in the bunch that does more of the dirty work in the scoring this season.

2. What to do about Freddy Adu? Lame attempt at clever word play on my part there, sorry about that. But this is a big talking point going into the new season. Freddy Adu isn’t set to be apart of this club in 2013 but his roster status could complicate things going forward if a trade doesn’t happen soon. If the Union are able to dump his salary and open up that DP slot that he occupies currently, you could see them eventually land a quality player this summer. Sadly, there are a lot of ifs in that statement.

3. Is there a good enough playmaker in the midfield to lead the attack? The more I look at this midfield for the Union the more I wonder if they have enough going forward to feed Le Toux and Casey. I think in the defensive/holding midfield area they are set with Brian Carroll and Amobi Okugo. But up further in the midfield things get a little dicy which could complicate things this season if they don’t get them addressed. I think we’ll see more of Le Toux on the wings in the attack like we used to when he was gobbling up assists left and right back in the day with the Union. That may be good enough if Hackworth can get his formation right. So far this preseason the Union attack has looked good but I do say this, be aware of this club not having a true number 10. That being said, maybe Roger Torres finally shows what we have seen from him here and there these last couple of seasons.

Breakout Player for 2013

Chandler Hoffman – The second year player out of UCLA still has a ways to go to really crack the lineup for good but I don’t think it is far fetched to say we’ll see plenty of him this season.

Predictions for 2013

- Union will be a quiet contender. I say they will be a quiet contender for one reason, I don’t think they’ll make a ton of upsets this year or lose to teams that they shouldn’t. But I do see them as a team that will be in the thick of things, like a dark horse for that matter.

- The defense will be the star. The more I look at this team the more I am impressed with the defense. Adding Jeff Parke was a nice addition to replace Carlos Valdes while he is on loan. But the young defense with guys like Sheanon Williams, Ray Gaddis, and Okugo give me reason to think that the Union will be very tight on defense this season as long as the main group stays healthy.

- A couple trades will make them a playoff team. The East is crowded yet again this season but Hackworth and company will make a deal or two that will put them over the top enough to get into the playoffs.