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Philadelphia Union Gaining Momentum

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There has been a lot of activity going on in Philadelphia. Their new coach, Peter Novak, has pretty much telegraphed his approach to next season: defend first and then scrap for goals. This is a team being built from the back.

The industrious Greg Seltzer, of No Short Corners and of Soccer365 has a great scoop reporting Danny Califf will sign for Philadelphia. This is a great signing for Philadelphia. Califf is a quality defender and will immediately be one of the best defenders in MLS. One question is what his salary will be - I assume he won't be a designated player, but is he getting paid on par with Europe.

By most accounts Philly's expansion draft was solid, if not a bit perplexing. Novak did not go for some of the more notable names, such as Bobby Convey and Frankie Hejduk, but got some good defensive players and some decent young prospects. The recent signing of goalie Chris Seitz is also a very solid move - he looked legit in the under-20 World Cup in 2007 and his been waiting his turn behind Nick Rimando in Salt Lake.

Building from the back is not a bad approach and is probably the smartest way to start for an expansion franchise. This approach, however, is directly counter to the flowing football model pursued by Seattle. The Sounders didn't just seek to win games and get by, they sought to play attractive football and they succeeded. Philly, at least the way it looks now, is going to fight through games. There is as of yet little flair or anyone that would really strike fear in the hearts of opposing teams. That will likely change and I would expect a designated player - which Philly has indicated they are looking at - to be used for a creative central midfielder or a striker. All in all Philly are looking like they will field a very solid, competitive team that may have a shot at the playoffs.

Off the field things are looking even better. While the stadium won't be done in time for the start of the season, a lot of progress is being made and it should be done fairly shortly into the season. Playing at the Linc in the city is not a bad way to start and should draw the attention of the city's sports crazed media and fan base. While the new stadium looks excellent, I am a little worried about the stadium being located outside of the city. Suburban stadiums have not done as well as urban ones, and the Chester site not only is suburban but is in a rough neighborhood that may turn off easily paranoid suburban families.

Nevertheless, the fan base and the buzz is growing. They are off to a really good start in season ticket sales and they seem to have cool new uniforms and a burgeoning blue collar identity - which their team will likely reflect in their style of play. The Sons of Ben - Philly's supporters group - existed before MLS even decided to give Philly a team. They have already gained quite a reputation, showing up at the draft and to DC United or Red Bull games to root against them. It is looking like Union fans will quickly adopt the aura of Philly and Eagles fans, which means they will soon be intensely hated by DC and New York fans. And that is great for the league.