After reaching the playoffs in its second season, the Philadelphia Union struggled mightily in 2012, going 10-18-6 and finishing eighth out of 10 teams in Major League Soccer's Eastern Conference.
The team begins its third season today at 4 p.m. at PPL Park in Chester, Pa., against Eastern Conference champion Sporting Kansas City (TV: ABC Philadelphia).
The Union scored just 37 goals in those 34 league matches, while allowing 45. Philadelphia hopes to see major improvement offensively with the return of fan favorite forward Sebastien Le Toux, who scored 25 career goals for the Union but was traded to Vancouver last year. After being traded once again to New York, Le Toux was then sent to Philadelphia in the offseason.
The Union also picked up Conor Casey, a proven scorer, as well as defenseman Jeff Parke. Having a veteran presence in front of young goalkeeper Zac MacMath will be crucial if the Union harbor playoff aspirations for the second time in four years.
The schedule is difficult in the early part of the season, which will be a challenge for manager John Hackworth, who took over for Peter Nowak last June and was offered the full-time position in August.
Here's a look at this year's roster:
Who's back: GK MacMath, F Jack McInerney, F Jimmy McLaughlin, F Antoine Hoppenot, F Cristhian Hernandez, MF Brian Carroll, MF Danny Cruz, MF Keon Daniel, MF Michael Farfan, MF Greg Jordan, MF Michael Lahoud, MF Amobi Okugo, MF Roger Torres, D Chris Albright, D Gabriel Farfan, D Ray Gaddis, D Bakary Soumare, D Sheanon Williams.
Who's gone: MF Gabriel Gomez, D Porfirio Lopez, MF Zach Pfeffer, D Carlos Valdes, F Josue Martinez, F Krystian Witkowski, MF Freddy Adu, F Chandler Hoffman (who was traded Friday to the Los Angeles Galaxy for a pick in the 2014 draft).
Who's new: F Le Toux, F Conor Casey, D Jeff Parke, F Aaron Wheeler.