Class of '22: Chris Donovan 2023 MLS Season Expectations

Chris Donovan enjoyed a promising start to life as a professional player in 2022, and after one combined year with the Philadelphia Union and Union II last season, the second-year forward is ready to take the next step in 2023.

Donovan is coming off his first full preseason camp with the Union as the defending Eastern Conference Champions aim to get back to MLS Cup this season. The 22-year-old was originally signed by Union II ahead of the inaugural MLS NEXT Pro season last February before the Union acquired his MLS rights in June via a trade with the Chicago Fire.

A versatile forward/winger, Donovan excelled for Union II last season, totaling eight goals and three assists in 22 appearances for Marlon LeBlanc’s squad. He also made seven combined appearances for Jim Curtin’s first team, working alongside standout forwards Mikael Uhre and Julian Carranza in training.

“Chris Donovan is a striker that we have really high expectations for, he’s jumped in with the first team now for a full preseason and did really well with the group,” Curtin said about Donovan. “He’s a guy who is going to contribute a lot of minutes this year.

“If you talk about work rate, playing the way that we want to play which is pressing the opponent, Chris checks all of those boxes, and he is probably our best player physically in the air as well,” Curtin added. “He has good speed too. Great kid, quiet kid, that takes information and is learning at a rapid rate. I think he can be a double-digit goalscorer with the first team, and when he does get opportunities with Union II in MLS NEXT Pro, we know he will score goals there as well. I have big expectations for Chris this season and I have really enjoyed working with him.”

Curtin recently backed up his words when he included Donovan in the starting IX for the Philadelphia Union in their opening match of CONCACAF Champions League. The young forward fought hard and earned valuable playing experience by playing all 90 minutes against Alianza F.C. in one of the region's toughest places to play.

Chris Donovan

Donovan has excelled at every level to date prior to signing his pro contact last year. The Conestoga High School graduate totaled 56 goals during his senior season in 2017, and finished his high school career with two PIAA (Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association) titles and three Central League championships to his name.

Donovan proceeded to enroll at Drexel University ahead of the 2018 NCAA season, where he would register 60 appearances for the Dragons, scoring 30 goals and adding 13 assists. Although his MLS minutes were scarce behind two double-digit goalscorers in Uhre and Carranza last season, Donovan’s role is likely to increase in 2023 with the Union set to take part in four different competitions (Concacaf Champions League, U.S. Open Cup, Leagues Cup, MLS).

Donovan is ready to do whatever he can to become a regular first-team contributor for the MLS Cup contenders and ultimately believes his positive relationships will carry over to a new campaign. 

“[I am] just looking to make an impact, looking to make the squad, maybe make some starts in some cup games and see what happens,” Donovan said. “I feel great fitting in with the team, having been part of the team last year as well, I have a lot of good friends, and everyone is great on the team.”