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Philadelphia Union sporting director Ernst Tanner closing in on roster reinforcements

When he first set out to build the offseason roster, Philadelphia Union sporting director Ernst Tanner wanted to have all key contributors in place by the time the club left for preseason training in Florida. 

The club is progressing nicely toward that goal, with a few things in the works, Tanner told Pro Soccer USA on Monday night.

“We are in quite a lot of negotiations at the moment,” said Tanner, who spent the last month on an extensive global scouting trip. “I think that we will present something during the week and maybe next week, so we are close to signing some players.” 

Tanner’s main focus at the moment is getting a deal done for a versatile midfielder with box-to-box qualities who can play the No. 8 and No. 10 positions.

“He’s somewhere in between an 8 and a 10, the one we are negotiating with at the moment can play both positions,” Tanner said. “Our priority was a box-to-box midfielder in an offensive way who could also play the No. 10 eventually.”

The one hole on the roster at the moment is at the No. 10 position, and it appears a potential deal to bring back Borek Dockal isn’t going to happen. 

Dockal is under contract with Chinese Super League club Henan Jianye, and the situation to get the Czech midfielder back to Chester, Pa., is complex, to say the least. 

“This is so difficult,” Tanner said. “It is not in our hands. That is our problem. I don’t like a situation where you always are dependent on decisions made by somebody else who you can’t even influence. It’s really problematic. We can’t wait until there is something getting done.” 

Tanner trusts Ilsinho and Homegrown player Brenden Aaronson to help fill in the void left by Dockal, the 2018 Major League Soccer assist leader.

“I think we already have somebody inside the club who can play No. 10,” Tanner said. “Ilsinho could play in that role. We have Brenden Aaronson who could fill in that role slowly. We for sure need to get somebody who can play that position.” 

The other areas of the roster where improvements will absolutely be made are left back and backup goalkeeper, while a search for another midfielder is in the works as well.

“I would say that we are for sure well set up in attack for the moment,” Tanner said. “We need to have some improvements in midfield and the left fullback position.

“On the goalkeeper side, I’m also working on a solution. I’m quite prospective to present something soon.” 

Tanner is currently in Florida with most of the Union technical staff at the MLS combine, where the team has identified some interesting prospects, but they might not be available by the time the Union pick at No. 13.

“There are always some opportunities, and even the past days the coaches have identified quite a few possibilities, but the problem is we’re in a certain position and the other teams are watching the players,” Tanner said. “We will see. Sometimes you really can make a bargain here, but you also need to be lucky.” 





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