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Union add depth, look to make strides after MLS SuperDraft

Philly added two key prospects with the 25th and 33rd picks Friday.

Clemson's Aaron Jones joins the Union as their newest defender.

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Fresh off of their first playoff appearance since 2011, the Philadelphia Union are looking to build off of a solid 2016 campaign (11-14-9) which saw growth in many areas throughout the roster.

In this past weekend’s MLS SuperDraft, the Union had the luxury of adding depth to their team, rather than a rebuilding the roster like the team has had to suffer through in previous years.

With no picks in the first round, the Union were able to nab two players they were very high on in the second round this past Friday. With the 25th pick, the Union selected forward Marcus Epps of South Florida followed by the selection of defender Aaron Jones of Clemson with the 33rd pick.

Epps scored just eight goals and nine assists in 75 career matches with the Bulls, but the Union were drawn to his size and speed and his ability to attack one-on-one.

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“He has speed, he has agility, he’s a big boy,” Union Sporting Director Earnie Stewart said. “The combination of those factors and the philosophy that we have at the Philadelphia Union, we believe we can develop this kid to be something very special. If you have the ability that he has on the ball and the speed that he has, that can create a lot of chaos in the opponent’s half.”

Jones will fit in just fine with a Union defense that vastly improved last season. Alongside Keegan Rosenberry, Ray Gaddis and Joshua Yaro, Jones figures to compete and make his mark on the defensive end in camp and potentially be a spot starter if an injury arises.

“He really impressed us,” Union manager Jim Curtin said. “He’s a kid who will compete from Day 1. He wins his one-on-one battles defensively, he embraces the defensive part of the game and he’s a guy that wants to get better every day. He has a Union mentality and will be a guy our fans will be high on.”

Earlier this month, the Union inked former Arsenal forward Jay Simpson as a Discovery Signing. Simpson notched 25 goals in 45 games last season with Leyton Orient in England. They signed defender Giliano Wijnaldum as another Discovery Signing who has made 65 appearances in the Dutch first division Eredivisie, and who was a former player of Stewart’s during his time with Dutch club AZ Alkmaar.

The team is focusing on the holes in the roster, which led to a 0-6-2 winless streak to end their season including a 3-1 loss in the first round of the playoffs.

“I still feel like we could’ve done more, but at least it gave us that taste that we can accomplish what we want to accomplish,” Union defender Richie Marquez said. “This season is going to be a whole new year, this season is fresh and the bar has already been set so now we just have to achieve that bar and surpass it.”

 
 
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