The Philadelphia Union was sputtering leading up to the month-long MLS break.
However, after a rough road stretch, the Union bounced back in a big way.

Where do they stand, and what does the rest of an uncertain summer window hold for the team?

The Union were red hot heading into July. Then, abysmal away performances in Atlanta and Los Angeles put a damper on things. The only thing that made sense after that was to walk into a red-hot Nashville team and leave with 3 road points and a Joe Bendik shutout.

Of course, the return of Andre Blake on Saturday would lead the Union to yet another win over NYCFC. That would make for 5 straight victories over their i95 rivals. The Union enter the Leagues Cup break 3rd in the Eastern Conference. The road ahead isn’t as straightforward as many would like, with the roster and the standings.

The Union *Should* Be Fine in the Standings

Unfortunately for Union fans, we have been spoiled in recent years. With a supporters shield, MLS Cup berth, and multiple top 3 conference finishes, this season has felt like a step backward. In all fairness, fans have every right to feel that way. Although all key players were brought back, this is not the same team that lost MLS Cup in a heartbreaking fashion.

While the team has taken a slight step back, they are still elite. Their 40 points have them 3rd in the East and 4th overall in the league. They are just 3 points away from being second in the league. Perhaps the biggest eyesore to fans looking at the standings is the fact the Union sits 11 points back of League and conference leaders FC Cincinnati.

It is probably not the best idea to gauge the Union’s season off of Cincy. Cincinnati is on pace to break the league record in points in a season. Their surge from the league’s laughing stock to the elite has been immediate. Union fans should feel a sense of pride in that, considering Cincy copied the Union formula almost to an exact. They even dragged Ray Gaddis out of retirement!

The fact of the matter is the Union, and the fans, should be fine with where they stand now. A few bad games leave a bad taste in the mouth, but it could be much worse. A 2nd or 3rd place finish in the East should be the expectation right now. However, this is MLS. Cincy could fall, or Messi could take the league by storm and surge Miami from worst to first. From a Union perspective, they are fine in 3rd and have a lot to play for when MLS resumes play.

The Roster Keeps Gaining Question Marks

With the summer transfer window open, the future of the Union roster is a big question mark. Of course, the usual culprit of the stress is when Kai Wagner is finally going to get his big transfer to Europe. However, there are more moves to worry about.

The first worry is the news this week that Olivier Mbaizo has requested a transfer from the team. While there is no bad blood here, Mbaizo still gives the team useful minutes. It would appear Mbaizo wants out as soon as possible. Mbaizo made the request as his family has been denied visas multiple times, and he wants to play somewhere he can be with his family. Which is totally understandable and not the first time the Union has been in that situation.

Just a few seasons ago, Jamiro Monteiro requested out for the same reason. This is an unfortunate situation for all sides. The Union will likely have to take less than what Mbaizo is worth. Also, while Nathan Harriel can take over full-time, the depth at the wing-back position on both sides will be non-existent.

Other than transfers, the Union now has another Alejandro Bedoya injury to worry about. Bedoya was forced out of Saturday’s game around just the 30th-minute mark. Jim Curtin confirmed it is the same quad injury that plagued the captain last year and held him out of the MLS Cup.

The injury brings many levels of concern. Mostly the Union are a different team when their captain is suited up. They struggled down the stretch last year without him, and it cost them the Supporters Shield and hosting MLS Cup. However, this also holds up any possible transfers out of the midfield. Leon Flach had his name thrown around, but with the captain out, Flach and McGlynn will likely be needed every game.

The roster is a question mark. Ernst Tanner may have to deviate from his normal plan and bring in a key player or two instead of reserve players.

There is One Constant

In the talks of all the unknown, let’s take some time to recognize the Union’s constant for years now. On Saturday, Andre Blake made his 221st appearance for the Union in MLS.

This ties him with Ray Gaddis for most in club history.

Blake will become the club leader in appearances when the team returns from the Leagues Cup break in August.

Photo: Wes Shepherd/PHLSportsNation

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