The New Faces of the Philadelphia Union

With training camp underway in Clearwater, Florida, the Union ready themselves for the Suncoast Invitational. But before fans come and support the boys in blue, they should familiarize themselves with the new faces of the Union. Unfortunately for the Union, the proclaimed “best player to ever put on a Union jersey”, Tranquillo Barnetta is not back for another year. With his departure, many new opportunities for players have blossomed and it will be interesting to see how they will play. As for the offseason moves, the Union added seven brand new players in hopes that they can reach the playoffs for a second straight year.  Let’s take a look at who they got.


Name: Giliano Wijnaldum

Age: 24

Position: Defender

Jersey Number: 32

Acquired: 1/5/17 as a free transfer

Former Team: VfL Bochum of German 2. Bundesliga

The first move of the offseason for Philadelphia to the shock if no one was another Dutch player. Given Earnie Stewart’s past in the Netherlands, he has vast knowledge of good up and coming players in the country. Wijnaldum is a tall, speedy outside back who has great on the ball skill moves. His name peaked a lot of interest to Union fans, as his older brother Georginio, is a talented midfielder in the Premier league overseas. The Union are hoping with his offensive talent he can help the Union attack in numbers as he runs up the side supporting the Union’s attack.

Name: Jay Simpson

Age: 27

Position: Forward

Jersey Number: 28

Acquired: 1/9/17 as a free transfer

Former Team: Leyton Orient of League 2 in England

Can Simpson be the forward Union fans have been waiting for seemingly since 2010? The Union might’ve found their striker in the former Arsenal product. Simpson is a 5”11 target forward who needs service. He has great finishing ability, however offense is all he does. He doesn’t seem to help a lot defensively said by some of his critics. But if given just a little space, Simpson can make a team pay with his strikes. Jay scored 33 goals in 87 appearances in the past 3 years for Leyton Orient.  Look for Simpson to be the starting striker up top for Philadelphia when the season starts.

Name: Oguchi Oneywu

Age: 34

Position: Defender

Jersey Number: 5

Acquired: 1/30/17 as a free transfer

Former Team: Charlton Athletic of League 1 in England

Oguchi Onyewu is the center back the Union have needed. There are a lot of very young very talented defenders for Philadelphia who have needed a mentor. Onyewu who has a vast amount of experience is the certainly going to be looked upon to teach these youngsters. Onyewu is a big, strong, physical center back who will look to push you off the ball. The 6”4, 210 center back appeared on the backline for the U.S. men’s national team 69 times while netting in 6 goals. He has played all over the world from lower tier leagues in England, to being a part of AC Milan in Italy for two years until he was loaned out. Onyewu looks to be the center back who will be paired with Richie Marquez for the first few months until Josh Yaro is ready to return from shoulder surgery.

Name: Haris Medunjanin (pictured up top with Lionel Messi)

Age: 31

Position: Midfielder

Jersey Number: 6

Acquired: 1/31/17 as a transfer

Former Team: Maccabi Tel Aviv of the Israeli Premier League

Ever since Vincent Nogueira’s departure, the Union struggled to have consistency in the center midfield position. In comes Haris Medunjanin who is 6”1 and a big presence in the midfield. However his scouting report claims he has great technical skill and pinpoint passing skills. Despite his lack of speed, he can be dangerous in the Union’s attack with his phenomenal passing skills as well as his distance shooting. Some believe he was the best signing for the Union this year and most certainly will be paired with a healthy Maurice Edu in the midfield for the 2017 season.

Name: Fafa Picault

Age: 25

Position: Forward

Jersey Number: 22

Acquired: 2/2/17 as a free transfer

Former Team: FC St Pauli of German 2. Bundesliga

Fabrice “Fafa” Picault will provide the Union with great depth on the attacking side of the ball. Though only 5”8, Picault’s speed will scare any team in the MLS. He’s got a great knack for being in the right place at the right time and will be a huge burst off the bench. Picault was called up by the Haitian national team in 2014 but did not make an appearance. Last May, he was a surprise call up for the U.S. Men’s national team, and appeared in a game against Puerto Rico but was not able to score. For FC St Pauli he scored 4 goals in 22 appearances. Look for him to be a backup to Ilsin Jr., Chris Pontius, and Fabian Herbers.

Name: Marcus Epps

Age: 22

Position: Midfielder

Jersey Number: 20

Acquired: Drafted 25th overall in the 2017 MLS Superdraft, signed on 2/6/17

Former Team: University of South Florida Bulls

Marcus Epps is one for the future. The 6 foot outside mid will be dazzling Union fans for years to come. He’s got great footwork and knows how to play in a good ball. He’ll be a guy who can provide great service to either C.J. Sapong or Jay Simpson. He knows how to dance around opponents to get into the box and cause problems. Whether it’s a great through ball he’ll play in, or he dances around in the box to set up a play, he is going to be dangerous. Right now, he is at the bottom of the depth chart for wingers.

Name: Adam Najem

Age: 22

Position: Midfielder

Jersey Number: TBD

Acquired: In a trade with the Redbulls for a 2018 2nd round pick, signed on 2/8/17

Former Team: New York Redbulls

Adam Najem is a versatile attacking midfielder who is coming from the New York Redbulls. Though he did not make an appearance for them, he put together an illustrious career at the University of Akron. The four year starter appeared in 89 total games scoring 33 goals and assisting on 29. Adam will have a few years to develop until he truly blossoms into the player the Union staff is looking for. He will most likely sit behind Alejandro Bedoya and Roland Alberg in the number 10 role.

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