The first signing of the Ernst Tanner era is a forward.
The Philadelphia Union announced Friday it signed Brazilian Sergio Santos from Chilean side Audax Italiano with Targeted Allocation Money.
“He’s an upcoming young striker and he had a fantastic season in Chile,” Tanner, the new Union sporting director, said of Santos. “We had a lot of games watching him and following him on video. Finally, we traveled down twice and had to watch him live and also had a meeting. I was there once as well.
“I think he’s the perfect fit for our future playing style. He can cover quite a lot of positions in attack. He can play almost anything there.”
In 2018, Santos scored nine goals in 16 matches for Audax Italiano, which sits in 10th place in the Chilean Primera Division.
Tanner confirmed to reporters the Union paid a $500,000 buyout clause to bring in the 24-year-old forward, who reportedly had an offer from Liga MX as well.
“That’s true,” Tanner said when asked about the buyout. “For a striker like him, I would say this is not too much money at all. I think we will have a lot of fun with him, especially in terms of what we paid.”
The visit made to Chile by the Union front office helped convince Santos the move to Philadelphia was the right one for him.
Through a translator, Santos repeatedly mentioned the opportunity to better himself as a player in MLS.
“I think one of the things that really drew me to the United States and MLS is that it offers me a great opportunity to become a better player and become a very distinct player in how I play the game,” Santos said. “The Union front office came down to see me in Chile and to understand and get to know me as a player. I thought that was very interesting that they took time to come all the way down there and see who I was as a player and try to get to know me a little bit. I hope I can score a lot of goals and win some championships and bring a lot of happiness to the club.”
Santos stood out to the Union staff because he offers a skillset different than the ones the current forwards on the roster possess.
“He’s quite quick,” Tanner said. “He’s very good maintaining the ball and putting his body in between the ball and his opponent. He can also be good in hold-up play. He’s very good in counter attacking, and by the way he’s left footed, that’s what we don’t have on our roster in attack. All these items really make him an almost perfect fit for our future squad.”
The 24-year-old went into a little more detail about his playing style and how it suits the strengths of the Union, as they look to press opponents from the opening whistle.
“I like to be the player to make the difference on the team, score goals and help make the difference,” Santos said. “I’m also a player that likes to go and put a lot of pressure on the other team and pressure their defense when they have the ball.”
Santos carries a bit of familiarity of MLS from watching the league from afar, and he talked with players he knows from Brazil and a few players based in Philadelphia about the league during his discussions with the Union.
“MLS is in a really good spot right now,” Santos said through a translator. “It’s a really great league and in the public eye right now. It’s a good league in the way it’s set up. It’s a great opportunity to come into. Philadelphia’s in a great situation right now with the style that they play and be able to get forward and hopefully play to my strengths.
“I’ve spoken with a few different players across the league, some in Philadelphia and some that I know from Brazil and they describe it as a great opportunity, a good championship with good players. I’m excited about it.”
Santos is only the first piece the Union will add to their squad during the offseason, as Tanner is currently on a scouting trip in Europe and is headed to Africa on Saturday.
“Currently, we are on our way a lot and talking to quite a few players,” Tanner said. “I’m still over here in Europe, heading off to Africa tomorrow. I think we have a few options we can pull, especially when the transfer window opens (in Europe).
“I think we are on our way, we are good in time and we’ll probably have some news at the beginning of January,” Tanner said. “I can promise Sergio was not the last player we are going to sign. That is for sure.”