With the MLS Cup over and teams now free to make roster moves, the Union will go to work.
"There will be changes," Union manager Jim Curtin said in an exclusive interview with CSNPhilly.com. "The bottom part of the roster needs to improve and be upgraded. We'll get some new blood in there. We'll get younger in a lot of spots but we will still have the right veterans to get us in the playoffs. The goal for next year is to be in the playoffs."
Of those expected changes, the Union have been deliberating over whether to keep or release 34-year-old veterans Brian Carroll and Conor Casey. In the end, Carroll will stay while Casey will become a free agent.
"Brian will be back with the team," Curtin said of the defensive midfielder, who has played 139 MLS games with the Union. "He contributed a lot to the team in terms of minutes, so I see him as a guy who can contribute. He'll also have a little bit of a role helping Bethlehem Steel, being a leader and mentor for some of the players on that team. He'll be helping those guys and helping me a great deal."
For Casey, it was a matter of finding the right deal. Despite becoming a fan favorite in his 70 MLS matches with Union, the team simply couldn't match what was asked.
"I had a good discussion with him, he's very grateful for his time with the club and he wanted to be back," Curtin said. "But with the salary that we started talking about, it's not going to be possible to have him back with us."
The decision was a tough one for the club, especially Curtin, who valued Casey's veteran leadership and penchant for scoring important goals. The forward amassed 21 goals over three seasons with the Union.
"We respect each other a ton and he's responsible for me getting my job in a lot of ways," Curtin said. "He carried the team when I was the interim coach and we have a great relationship. It's the tough side of business."
Casey isn't alone. The number of players the Union will release or move, beginning on Monday evening, is expected to be in the double digits, including some starters. Though much of the core is expected to remain intact.
But while the early headlines will touch on the players shed from the Union's roster, the team is also looking to strategically add the right players for a new system. Attacking midfielder Chris Pontius was reportedly acquired from D.C. United in exchange for allocation money.
It will be the first move of many for new sporting director Earnie Stewart and the Union this offseason.
"I understand that we need to be better but I also do know it's a process," said Curtin, who is eager to have the Union's offseason brighten up a bleak Philadelphia sports landscape. "And with Earnie's leadership, we're making improvements with the club. It's an exciting time."