Are the Union’s offseason pieces falling into place?

Photo: Daniel Gajdamowicz

And now for another edition of “What’s BS, and what’s the real truth?” about Philadelphia Union. PSP readers may know this better as Cheesesteak vs. Roast Pork in the grand battle of great Philly sandwiches, but I’m not going to push that metaphor any further than readers are willing to run with it. (So seriously, if you like it, say so, because I love it.)

In any case, I talked to some folks close to the Union, including manager John Hackworth, to get the rundown. Here’s what I learned.

Carlos Valdes to San Lorenzo — injury history blocking deal?

Reports emerged from South America this week regarding a deal for Union center back Carlos Valdes to go on loan to Argentine side San Lorenzo, with an option to buy the Union’s rights to Valdes for $800,000. Depending on what report you read, the situation is either:

Here’s what’s going on.

Valdes, 28, does have a history of knee problems, but that is almost ancient history for him. Valdes had previously injured anterior cruciate ligaments in both knees, according to Union officials, but his last surgery was in 2005. Since then, he has had no knee problems, and he passed a physical with Independiente Santa Fe.

As far as the center back’s injury history being a legitimate problem, don’t believe it.

“There’s no truth to that at all,” Union manager John Hackworth told me today.

The Union are continuing to try to secure a loan deal for Valdes, which could be finalized any day now, so that he can comply with Colombian national team manager Jose Pekerman’s directive that Valdes should play in South America if he wants to start for the Colombian national team in the World Cup.

Discussions have focused on a loan with an option to buy the 60 percent of Valdes’ rights that the Union hold. However, the Union also want to maintain the flexibility to sell Valdes elsewhere if San Lorenzo (or whichever other team acquires him on loan) decides not to buy him, particularly if Valdes has a good World Cup that hikes his transfer value.

Valdes is under contract through this season, but the Union hold an option to renew his contract for 2015, according to a reliable source close to the Union. So they have time in the long-term.

In the short term, they effectively have to seal a loan or outright sale by Jan. 31. If that doesn’t happen, the default scenario is for Valdes to return to the Union, although another Argentine side, Rosario Central, has emerged as a possible alternative. With Jeff Parke’s trade to D.C. United, the team needs a veteran center back to pair with Amobi Okugo, a role that Valdes would fit perfectly. However, his high salary cap figure — $321,000 in 2013 — would likely necessitate the Union making other personnel moves to make room for him.

Union center back options

The Union are looking to acquire a veteran to pair with Okugo in central defense. They acquired 23-year-old center back Ethan White in the Parke deal and center backs Kevin Cope and Richie Marquez in the MLS SuperDraft, but one of them would have to seriously impress in training camp to provide enough comfort that the back line could adequately shield Zac MacMath or Andre Blake in goal.

“We are looking for a veteran, but we also want to give White, Cope and Marquez a chance,” Hackworth said.

Jeff Parke’s trade to D.C. United surprised many people, but it was something he requested due to personal reasons. He also was the caliber of player that United was demanding in exchange for the top spot in the allocation order, which United knew the Union wanted to use on Maurice Edu.

Nogueira and Edu

The Union are nearing deals for both Sochaux captain Vincent Nogueira and U.S. international Maurice Edu. They have till Jan. 31 to complete both deals.

Edu’s salary would be much lower than the $1.2 million figure that many have reported, one Union official told me. That doesn’t surprise me. When I first heard about Edu potentially joining the Union about two weeks ago, I figured his salary would be somewhere in the area of $500,000 to $700,000. We’ll find out soon enough.

Edu is quite worth signing at that price, and those who argue otherwise are incredibly short-sighted.

Critics dismiss Edu as a defensive midfielder comparable to Kyle Beckerman or Ricardo Clark. That is inaccurate, as I wrote last week. Edu has never played as a mere defensive shield for his past clubs, but rather as a box-to-box, two-way center midfielder, and that is almost certainly how he projects for the Union. Those who say Edu is not even an MLS all-star ignore the fact that he was so good in 2007, when he was MLS rookie of the year and the first pick in the SuperDraft, that he earned a £2.6 million transfer to Rangers in Scotland.

Many focus on Edu’s ill-fated signing with Stoke City in 2012. Yes, he has failed to regularly crack the first team there, although he played well on loan in Turkey last year.

But many seem to forget Michael Bradley encountered a similar situation in 2011 when he played just three games during a half-season loan to Aston Villa. What happened next for him? He went to Italy and played so well that he earned the nickname, “General Bradley,” for his prowess as a midfield general.

If you get the chance to sign a quality 27-year-old center midfielder with European and World Cup experience, you do it. The fact that he’s American is just a bonus.

Don Anding to sign with Kansas City

Last year’s top pick, Don Anding, looks set to join Sporting Kansas City, according to a source familiar with the situation. After Anding cleared the waiver draft, teams were allowed to claim players on a first come, first serve basis. In this case, Kansas City appears to have claimed him first, beating Toronto to the punch. His deal would likely be at the league minimum salary, I’m told.

Anding was picked in the second round last year, as the Union had traded away their first round pick for Bakary Soumare. The Union had taken him with an eye toward converting him to left back. It’s not clear yet what role he would play for Kansas City, who play a 4-3-3 that is very dependent on wide players with speed and crossing ability, both of which Anding could potentially offer.

Union formation in 2014?

We’ll start with the necessary disclaimers: Formation are fluid. Form, injury, and international call-ups can change a lot of things.

But if the Union can close the deals on Nogueira and Edu, they have the midfield pieces necessary to play the 4-3-3 that Hackworth has said he wants to play.

Left winger: Hackworth has said he wants recently signed designated player Chaco Maidana out on the left wing, although he can also play more centrally in the No. 10 role.

Right winger: You have Sebastien Le Toux and Danny Cruz out on the right wing, and each is far more natural in that role than in the true right midfield role each was often asked to play last year.

Midfield trio: Then you have Brian Carroll at the base of a midfield trio playing defensive shield for the back line, with Nogueira in the trio’s more attacking role and Edu playing box to box.

Center forward: Finally, you have Jack McInerney or Conor Casey in the No. 9 role.

Will the Union play a 4-3-3? Time will tell. Without Nogueira and Edu, they don’t have the personnel to excel at it. Also, if Conor Casey and Jack McInerney can replicate their peak 2013 form, it would be tough to regularly keep either on the bench. A 4-4-1-1 seems a good alternative, with a center midfielder (probably Carroll) sacrificed for the additional forward.

Either way, the pieces could be falling into place for a Union team that is very fun to watch next season. Come Feb. 1, we’ll know for sure.


  1. Why do the Edu/Nogueira deals need to be completed by January 31st? Any hints who the veteran CB might be?

    • Because that’s the transfer period deadline.

      • No it isn’t. That is the transfer deadline for many European clubs for players coming to their team. MLS’ transfer window runs from February to May, so they can sign players from anywhere during that period.

    • International transfer window closes Jan 31. So it has to be done before it closes.

      • But the players are coming IN to North America. PSP already confirmed via Union spokeperson that the MLS window doesn’t even open until mid-February.

    • That’s the deadline that was characterized to me. I didn’t ask for details on why that was the deadline, but I presumed it was because the European/Argentine clubs wanted to finalize the deal by the end of their transfer windows. (One day, it’ll be worth exploring in more detail why the MLS transfer window is what it is.)
      As for a veteran CB, no insights yet. But it would have to be someone fairly affordable, because the Edu, Maidana and Nogueira deals would push the Union up against the cap, even after allocation money buydowns come into play.

    • My understanding is that the January 31 deadline applies to players moving both in and out of European clubs. Not entirely sure. The MLS window runs from mid-February to May, so players can be added to MLS teams during that frame.

    • No. The only window that matters, technically, is of the league he is going to. Now, practically, you may be right — both Stoke and Edu may want matters settled by Jan. 31 so that if they’re not, they can work out something else.

  2. Yeah, I still don’t understand all the people who say Edu isn’t worth five, even $700,000. He’s 27, compared to Beckerman’s what, 31? It would be a huge signing for the Union. Let’s hoope it happens this week.

  3. Oh no, not another season with Brian Carroll?!

    • With Carroll not having play 3 different positions at one to cover for Daniel and Cruz, that’s fine with me.

      • Exactly. A lot was asked of BC last season. If he can concentrate on breaking up plays, clogging lanes, and shielding a young backline, then he’ll do just fine.

  4. If Valdes really ends up back in Philly for the start of the season, I will chip in to fly Pekerman up here to watch a few games and keep Valdes in the World Cup picture.

  5. I was flabbergated when people negatively compared Edu to Beckerman.

    Are you joking me? Edu is 4 years younger and has a better European AND NT resume!

    • Agreed. I’m a big Beckerman fan and not exactly high on Edu, but that said Edu is a younger player with a larger skill set. Beckerman excels as a prototypical number 6 who occasionally contributes to the attack. Edu is best deployed as a box-to-box midfielder that can also play as a number 6 if necessary.

    • People tend to judge things based on most recent events. Just because he didn’t make it at Stoke doesn’t mean he’s not a very good player. If Rangers didn’t tank, I’m not sure we’d even be talking about getting Edu at this point.
      Also, while people throw around that 1.2 million is too much for Edu, he plays in a position that the Union NEED. We’ve managed to get good forwards and defenders, so the midfield is our most pressing issue. I have no problem with spending more money on positions of need. MLS needs to realize that not every team is going to spend DP slots on CAMs and forwards. If MLS is so concerned about salary inflation, they shouldn’t have allowed LA to sign Omar Gonzalez to a DP deal over 1 million.

    • It’s worth remembering that even with Edu’s poor form, when picking a USMNT side for qualifiers over the summer, JK initially picked Edu over Beckerman (but Edu had to withdraw with injury).

      Some people are just caught up in the whole “Edu hasn’t played much recently” fallacy, as if a player suddenly goes to crap between the ages of 24 and 27.

  6. I still feel like the team needs to have a veteran GK to backup/push the likes of MacMath and Blake, but maybe Andre will light enough of a fire under Zac’s butt to force him to be that much better.
    Not really liking the (lack of) options at LB, still; Gaddis was decent enough, as was Fabinho, with Derschang* as backup, but none of those names give me the warm and fuzzies. Between this mystery veteran CB, Okugo, Williams (in a pinch), White, Cope*, and Marquez*, the center of the backline is deeper than even. Not necessarily better, however.
    Williams starting at RB is a given, with Gaddis, Kassel, and even Le Toux in the pecking order.
    The midfield, a glaring abyss of possession and creativity, has the potential to be a complete 180 of seasons past. It’s not a given that the maximum number of DPs automatically makes this club a contender, but to bring in top-notch players to reinforce the team’s biggest weakness shows intent.
    *assuming they make the team

    • Oops … “… deeper than ever”, with an R.

    • I would put a large bet on Gaddis starting at LB or at least winning the position later in the season. He is better defensively than Fabinho and with a revamped midfield he lack of a left-foot will be less glaring of an issue.

  7. I’m not looking for them to be broadcast in public, but have you learned anything about Jeff Parke’s personal issues to confirm that his trade was for legit reasons? Sorry but the Nowak years have led me to be highly skeptical about just about anything the FO does. Again, I don’t need to know what they are personally but knowing that they were indeed legit & truly separate from the team would at least help set my mind at ease.

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      Personally I think by using the old, “personal reasons” line, Parke just didn’t like the organization. I think he was excited to come here last year, but for whatever reason he didn’t want to stay. He obviously wanted to get back to the East Coast, and did that. He also stayed “local” by only going to DC. Unless it’s a truly personal family thing, that’s my take on what went down.

    • My understanding is that it is legitimate. I haven’t pursued it in detail beyond that because I’m of the opinion that people are entitled to keep their private lives private. One could make the argument that Parke was in no such position, because his personal life was part of the reason for him coming to the Union, but I’m not going to make that argument.
      I often encountered this with politicians back when I was a reporter covering politics, and honestly, I felt the same way.
      My ultimate cautionary tale on this — and it all came out in public eventually, so I can share it — was a few years ago, when Mike Trout’s (yes, that Mike Trout) family was briefly having some financial problems. His father, Jeff, was a Cumberland County freeholder, so he was a public figure. I had the information but, after talking to Jeff (who I consider a standup guy), chose not to write a story on it, because I didn’t see how it would be in the public interest. (There was no indication the finances compromised his integrity as a freeholder.) Another local paper, the Bridgeton News, got the information and chose to run the story. Jeff’s mother died that weekend, supposedly after reading the story, of either a heart attack or stroke (I don’t recall which) believed to have been brought on by stress. The financial problems were more a fleeting thing (Mike’s a multimillionaire now with the Angels) than a substantive matter of public interest to report, but some paper saw an opportunity to dig up the dirt. Did it benefit the public? No. But look what it did to people’s lives.
      So yeah, I don’t dive into this stuff in detail if I don’t need to. I don’t know all the Parke details, but I know enough to believe it and feel comfortable leaving it alone.

  8. We have another chance to watch Nogueira play for Sochaux this Sat. 2 PM on Univision TDN (channel 455 on DirecTV).

  9. As long as Carroll’s place would mean keeping Cruz or Daniel off the field then I’m ok with it. Why can’t jack play right wing? Have we seen him there before, is it feasible?

    • Probably, just because most likely (through design or Jacks instincts) he would play like an inside forward anyway.

    • I think Nowak played Jack out wide a couple times. I don’t remember much positive from it.

      • If I remember correctly, he was playing RW when he scored a goal against LA in 2010.

        Still, he doesn’t really have the kind of work rate or tacking ability for the position, and putting him there will either leave him too far from goal to take advantage of his spacing abilities or leave the right flank a little too exposed. I don’t mind him as an emergency option there, but not as anything more than that.

  10. James lockerbie says:

    I don’t know about anybody else, but with all these moves happening and the upcoming preseason events. I am greating real excited about this Season!

  11. Dare I say, the we could be set up for a nice 3-man back line? Gaddis and Williams definitely have the legs to make it work. Question would be whether Maidana can provide enough defensive cover for Gaddis, but how about this 3-5-2?:
    Casey – McInerney
    Maidana – Nogueira – LeToux
    Gaddis – Okugo – Williams

  12. PainDon'tHurt says:

    Did anyone else notice how full the stadium is in the picture accompanying this story? That’s what it used to look like before the Nowak demolition. If all – or even most of – the moves the Union are negotiating eventually work out, it will go a long way in restoring the faith of the fans. I really hated going to a half-empty stadium for most matches last season, especially when a majority of those seats were sold and should have been occupied. Of course, I wouldn’t mind if the Union end up in a playoff spot in 2014, whether PPL is full or not.

  13. Union has been weak defending corner kicks for the last 2 years. No Parke and No Valdez will not improve that situation. I am still not totally sold on Ockugo at CB. Especially if he has no veteran support. Although he has improved Ockugo loses a lot of players on chips and balls played in the air and gets turned the wrong way by players who can make slashing moves through the box. He has improved but Parke and Valdez helped cover his mistakes over the last 2 years. Williams is a great athlete but he does not always make great defensive decisions and often turns the ball over makes or loses the ball in his dashes upfield. The left side of the defense is very weak. I love the changes the Union made in midfield but the backline looks a little shaky and vulnerable.

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