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Crossing the Touchline: Crew vs. Philadelphia Union

Get to know last year’s Supporters’ Shield winners and the Black & Gold’s first MLS opponent.

MLS: New England Revolution at Philadelphia Union Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Columbus Crew officially begin the defense of the team’s MLS Cup title on Sunday. The Black & Gold don’t get an easy competitor coming to historic Crew Stadium to start the new Major League Soccer season in last year’s Supporters’ Shield winners, the Philadelphia Union.

While Columbus retained the vast majority of the team that took home the MLS Cup in December, the Union had to remake the squad to some degree after multiple important pieces departed for overseas in the offseason. This should make it an interesting prospect as Philadelphia hopes to add more trophies after gaining the team’s first a year ago.

But first will come Sunday’s game. In order to get a better feel for the Union, we reached out to Joe Lister, assistant editor at SB Nation’s Union site, Brotherly Game.

Questions for Brotherly Game

Massive Report: Last year, the Union won the Supporters’ Shield for the first time but fell in the first round of the MLS Cup playoffs. How much is that still on the mind of the players/coaches heading into this year and is the team using that disappointment as motivation?

Brotherly Game: I can’t speak to the minds of the players and coaches, but it doesn’t seem to be holding the team back. I haven’t heard the loss mentioned since early on in the offseason, so it hasn’t lingered all that much. Right now, the team is spending a lot of time hyping up the Supporters’ Sheild victory, and they’ve moved on to the Champions League and the 2021 season. It doesn’t look like it’ll hold them back or motivate them all too much.

MR: The big story, it seems from the outside, with Philadelphia this offseason was the players that departed. How will this year’s team manage without the likes of Brendan Aaronson and Mark McKenzie and who could step into a bigger role?

BG: The departures of Aaronson and McKenzie brought in a lot of revenue for the club, which fans expected to be put back into bigger signings, but the Union has instead flushed that money back into the Union Academy. Ironically, the positions that Aaronson and McKenzie left open aren’t the Union’s weak spot. Jack Elliott and Jakob Glesnes are two incredible defenders, and Jamiro Montiero just had an incredible Champions League match against Saprissa as the 10. It’s more likely that the Union is going to notice the lack of strong forwards than the holes left by the two Homegrowns this season.

MR: What would you say are the expectations for the Union in 2021?

BG: Obviously, this answer depends on how far the Union goes in the Champions League, but I expect them to have a solid season overall, finishing at least in the top five. I’d expect that at the start of the season, considering the large number of games, that they’ll be rationing players for a little while.

To read Massive Report’s answers to Brotherly Game’s questions, head over to their site here.