After a match this Saturday against Orlando City S.C. at the Florida Citrus Bowl, the Philadelphia Union are heading home for a few days before jetting off to Greece for 16 days to complete their preseason training.
The Union have been based in Orlando for the first part of their preseason. Heading into Saturday's match, Philadelphia is 2-0-1. The Union drew 1-1 with the U-17 United States Men's National Team on Feb. 6. That was followed by a 2-0 win over the University of South Florida on Feb. 10 and a 1-0 win over the University of Central Florida on Feb. 13.
While in Greece, the team will be based in Heraklion, Crete, from Feb. 23 to March 10. The Union will play matches against Greek Third Division team Hersonisos F.C. and Super League side Ergotelis F.C. The Union will train and play at the 26,240-seat Pancretan Stadium, home of Ergoteli F.C.
"It's our mission to not only become the most admired American soccer brand, but also to grow the Philadelphia Union brand on a global level," Union CEO Nick Sakiewicz said in a statement. "Traveling to Europe and training in one of the most historic and picturesque cities in the world will help us to do just that."
It also will give manager Peter Nowak a chance to make some final roster decisions ahead of the Union's MLS opener against the host Houston Dynamo on March 19. The Union's first home game of the MLS season is against the Vancouver Whitecaps on March 26 at PPL Park in Chester, Pa.
The Union's roster has been in a bit of flux during their Florida foray. The team has waived defender Cristian Arrieta and midfielder Eduardo Coudet while acquiring striker Chris Agorsor, a former University of Virginia standout who has overcome significant injury problems. And, rumors won't go away about the team signing ex-Los Angeles Galaxy striker Carlos Ruiz.
By all accounts from Florida, Colombian goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon and his countryman, defender Carlos Valdes, have been shrewd acquisitions by the Union. And Nowak will know better than anyone how important a good start to the season will be after last year's perpetual road trip put the Union in a hole from the get-go.
It will be very interesting to see if the Union can count on goals from someone other than the usual suspects Sebastien Le Toux and Danny Mwanga early on. Teenage striker Jack McInerney looks physically stronger and he has that valuable experience of a full MLS season under his belt, but the team probably could use another proven player up top.
Single-game seats for all games at PPL Park are now on sale, although the home opener against Vancouver has been sold out.