In previous years, losing Haris Medunjanin, Marco Fabian, Fafa Picault and Auston Trusty would have probably significantly hampered the Philadelphia Union’s offseason roster-building efforts.
But in the franchise’s new era under sporting director Ernst Tanner, all four players were deemed surplus. In the first month the MLS offseason, the Union offloaded over $2 million in salary and brought in a haul of $600,000 in allocation money for the 2020 season.
Fabian, who finished his Union career with the game-winning goal in the club’s first playoff win, had his option declined, and with it, a $2 million salary came off the books.
Medunjanin, a midfield stalwart that played two 34-game seasons in the last three years, did not negotiate a contract with the club and was subsequently taken by FC Cincinnati in Monday’s waiver draft.
Trusty was shipped to Colorado, a trade partner that has welcomed many Union castoffs in the past, in exchange for up to $750,000 in allocation money, $300,000 of which will be used in Targeted Allocation Money for 2020.
On Tuesday, Picault was shipped off to FC Dallas for $300,000 in General Allocation Money, and an additional $75,000 in GAM for 2021 if he hits certain performance metrics.
But the Union have been stockpiling cash reserves for a while now.The Union have $100,000 in TAM to use as part of C.J. Sapong’s trade to the Chicago Fire in February, and it is believed the forward hit the performance metrics attached to the deal to trigger an extra $100,000 in GAM to the Union’s growing funds.
The Keegan Rosenberry deal from December 2018 will bring the Union $100,000 in GAM, plus an additional $100,000 if certain performance metrics were hit. The team did not disclose the metrics, but Rosenberry played every game for Colorado during the 2019 season.
All told, that adds up to $1 million in allocation money gained from four deals, which is a remarkable haul for Tanner to work with — and it is especially important given the club’s smaller budget compared to other MLS squads.
The immediate correlation between the oodles of TAM and GAM goes to bringing back Jamiro Monteiro, the dynamic midfielder that impressed while on loan from French side Metz. The Union announced they extended an offer to the Cape Verde international, but in order to bring him back, all parties have to be willing to get the deal done.
Since the offseason began, Tanner has declined comment on the status of negotiations with Monteiro. But even if Monteiro is not retained, the Union have enough funds and available salary to make a splash before camp begins in late January or early February.
A year ago, Tanner showed off his transfer acumen by acquiring Kai Wagner, Andrew Wooten, and Sergio Santos — three players expected to be key parts of the 2020 roster. Some of those moves happened because Tanner opened up flexibility on the roster with his in-league transactions.
The same situation is unfolding this offseason without stretching the roster too thin.
Medunjanin was the not the long-term starter at the No. 6 spot based on his age and defensive liabilities. Sure, his passing acumen would have been welcome for the 2020 campaign, but it is clear they are looking for a more complete player that can be the fulcrum of midfield in attack and provide support to the back four.
Picault was the odd man out with Kacper Przybylko, Wooten and Santos under contract for 2020. All three fit the 4-4-2 system much better as true strikers. The return of Cory Burke, who is more of a hold-up forward, would knock Picault further down the depth chart.
He deserves credit for making it work as a traditional winger playing the No. 9 spot, but Picault was not a perfect fit in the system and now gets a chance to thrive on the wing at FC Dallas.
Trusty was also the odd man out at center back with Jack Elliott and Mark McKenzie taking over the starting roles. Instead of stunting his development as a third option, the Union shipped Trusty to the Rapids, where he can start, while bringing back a nice haul of allocation money.
All of the moves make sense from the Union’s perspective, but it won’t mean anything if they can’t go out and find improvements for their squad.
Upgrading the midfield is the first priority. At least two to three players should be brought in to replace the impact of Medunjanin, Fabian and possibly Monteiro. Brenden Aaronson and Anthony Fontana are expected to play bigger roles in 2020, and if that is the case, the offseason demands require two impact players and then a focus elsewhere.
With depth locked in at forward and left back, a possible improvement over Ray Gaddis and Olivier Mbaizo at right back could be brought in, as well as center back depth.
If Tanner hits on those acquisitions, like he did with a smaller offseason budget last year, the Union could be in the best possible position to reaffirm their status as one of the top Eastern Conference clubs.