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Official: Union acquire Chicago center back Austin Berry

Photo: Paul Rudderow

UPDATE: On Monday afternoon, the Union confirmed the acquisition of Berry from the Chicago Fire in exchange for allocation money. Union head coach John Hackworth said in a press release from the club, “Austin is a talented central defender that will add quality to our back line. He already has a lot of MLS experience and we think he is the right fit to help strengthen our central defense. We’re happy to have a player of his caliber and look forward to him joining the team.”

Philadelphia Union have traded for center back Austin Berry, according to a reliable source close to the team.

The Union will give Chicago an undisclosed amount of allocation money in exchange for Berry, according to the source. A Union spokesman said the club could not comment on any deal until it was approved by the league office.

Berry, 25, likely slots in at the natural partner to Amobi Okugo at center back, filling a gap left when the Union traded Jeff Parke to D.C. United as part of the deal to acquire to Maurice Edu. Berry stands 6-2 and has been a regular starter since he joined MLS out of Louisville and became the 2012 MLS Rookie of the Year.

Last year, Berry recorded 1 goal and 2 assists, ranked 9th in the league in passes intercepted, and was statistically rated the third best starter on Chicago.

However, Berry became expendable when new Chicago coach Frank Yallop acquired center backs Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Patrick Ianni from Seattle. The Fire already have center back Bakary Soumare on the roster as well after acquiring him last year from Philadelphia.

Berry made $78,425 last season, according to the Major League Soccer Players Association.

58 Comments

  1. OMGGGGGGGGGGGG

  2. Thank you Mike McGee. I wonder how many times they begged us to take back Soumare.

  3. OneManWolfpack says:

    Good freakin stuff!!!

  4. Great scoop! I like this deal…

  5. Oh snap.
    Color me impressed.

  6. i almost can’t believe it

  7. This off-season has been really discomfiting. Just when I had the front office pegged as the guys that couldn’t shoot straight, they start acting like they know what they’re doing.

  8. Whew, big sigh of relief. Was terrified it was going to be Wheeler and Okugo in the back.

  9. Sounds good to me! but there’s got to be someone out there that can point out the negative on this deal.

  10. Love it! Can’t wait for opening day.

  11. Competition for that second CB position is going to be fierce. Another good acquisition by the FO and Hack this offseason.

    • Eli Pearlman-Storch says:

      Second? You mean third? Okugo-Berry should be virtual locks.

      • I had Okugo-Berries for breakfast this morning.

      • you win

      • I’ll be “that guy”: Not that it would happen with Edu in the mix, but down the road, if White develops, perhaps Okugo could eventually replace Carroll with White and Berry as the central tandem of the future. A lot has to happen first, but I will not let the “Okugo is a 6” dreams die so easily.

      • I agree that Berry will most likely be the starter, but there’s going to be strong competition for his spot. It’s not like past years where we were looking at guys like Joe Tait as backup CBs. White and Marquez should do a good job of pushing the starters on a regular basis.

  12. Southside Johnny says:

    OK…now I’m getting excited!

  13. Wow just Wow. The amount of experience (and increasing quality) our starters have AND most are still under 30. Unbelievable. But the pessimist in me says Cruz will still start more than Le Toux.

  14. I like this move. This guy is good, just what the Dr. ordered.

  15. Southside Johnny says:

    Anyone have a read on his field leadership qualities? I’m still looking for somebody to actually take charge back there.

    • pfft I think it is gonna go to Okugo or Williams by default.

    • Austin is a take charge defender. He is vocal and will call you out if you screw up. This guy is incredible in the air. Doesn’t lose headers.

      Great weapon for corners and long throws from Williams.

  16. I’m just curious how it is all going to come together. Still trying to picture a lineup that has berry okugo carrol edu jack mac and casey on the field in a 4-3-3

    • Well the only issue there is Jack and Casey at the same time, and if this 4-3-3 works as it should I would much rather see Jack

      • Carrol is a bit of a question mark. especially with a fully stocked and competent back line.

        (LB could use an upgrade but considering all that has happened that would be straight up greedy.)

  17. This is certainly a great move. However, it leaves us with a REAAAAAALLY young back line. In the past, we’ve always had at least one experienced vet (Parke, Valdes, Calliff). At this point Berry, at 25, would be our oldest starting defender unless Fabinho starts for Gaddis at LB.

    Given that we will also have a young GK (whichever one it is), you have to consider where the leadership will come from. Sheanon Williams has definitely shown some leadership potential over the last year, but I think this move also magnifies Brian Carroll’s importance as a veteran “stay at home” DM. We may now need him to, effectively, take charge of the backline.

    • Southside Johnny says:

      Well, that would be a first if he does. The last time I saw or heard anybody take charge since Carlos left it was Soumare helping Ray. Amobi and Williams communicate, but lacking a strong, vocal keeper (unless Blake steps up) Berry could have big added value.

    • Carroll just isn’t that kind of a vocal player. He’s a good teammate who leads by example, but he’s not the kind of guy who’s going to be vocal on the pitch.

    • I think you’re putting too much emphasis on young. Berry started 29 games as a rookie for Chicago and all 34 last year. Okugo started all of last year plus half of 2012. Williams has been our starting RB since mid-2010. Even Gaddis started most of last season, and sprinkled in a few starts in 2012. They may be young in age but they have real MLS experience, and that is hard to come by now-a-days, especially when you venture outside the country for talent. I’ll be surprised if Okugo or Williams don’t step up. I don’t hold the same confidence for Zac, but if he plays the way he did at the end of the season I’ll be satisfied.

  18. Wow, well played by the Union. All of these moves have allowed us to upgrade in areas of need (except for left back).

    I don’t understand what the Fire are trying to do by paying so much for three centerbacks. By last year’s numbers, they’re paying $650k for Soumare, Hurtado and Ianni. That’s way too much for that positions…makes no sense.

  19. This move is really important in two ways. One it gives Okugo a talented and complementary partner as our likely opening day CB tandem. Second, I think that it gives us important cover at the DM spot. If Carroll continues to fade as he has been or needs games off, we can move Okugo into that spot and play White at CB. Ethan White is definitely good enough to start a few games for us this year.

    The team’s defensive depth is actually shaping up fairly nicely. We’re a bit thin at LB (compared to what might be ideal), but it’s really hard to complain that much beyond that.

    LB: Fabinho; Gaddis; Kassel
    CB: Berry; Marquez
    CB: Okugo; White
    RB: Williams; Gaddis; Kassel

    • Agreed 100%. This is the first time in 2-3 years when we don’t have to slide in Williams to cover starting CB injuries/cards. Even LB position (while not ideal) is much better than last year. Fabinho should be better in his first full season and we know Gaddis can do the decent job.

    • I don’t think Kassel makes the team and while I prefer he keeps both White and Marquez for depth . . . based on his past decisions I think one of those two could also be cut before the season starts

      • Kassel could be cut but I highly doubt White will since he has a guaranteed conrtact. Considering the most recent round of cuts, I think we’re good with roster spaces so I can’t see why Marquez wouldn’t at least get an apprentice contract.

  20. What is Chicago’s thinking on this? You have Soumare and Berry, then you go acquire Hurtado and Ianni. They obviously rate Berry, a 2012 ROTY, fourth at best (I’m not familiar with their squad), even making a (relatively) paltry $78k/year. Is Berry that much worse than those three players that they would tie up that much salary among them rather than play him? If so, does he really fill that hole for us, or just smooth it over so Wheeler isn’t left in there? I admit, I haven’t seen the guy play and he could be a stud, but what’s going on over in Toyota Park?

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      I agree. If I’m Chicago, Berry would not be the guy I was trying to trade, especially for just allocation money. Then again we don’t know how much the Union gave up. Berry is young, talented, and cheap. Not sure what they were thinking, but THANKS FIRE!! Ha!

    • I’m not sure he was necessarily #4 on their depth chart (probably #3 given they just acquired Hurtado and Ianni). But Berry was the most attractive trade target, given his age and salary. It seems like he’ll be a good, complimentary fit next to Okugo.

    • They needed to clear salary cap space ASAP since McGee has been holding out on preseason for a bigger paycheck. Berry, with his low salary and huge upside is probably the biggest trade bait they have. My guess is the allocation number is a big one.

  21. This is almost too good to be true. I really like this move and really want to believe, but the Philadelphia sports fan in me is thinking: “Is this guy hurt? Is he a nut job?” I want to believe. Everything seems to be falling into place for 2014.

  22. I agree with JET but add that, as a Union fan, I am waiting to see whether he is played at target striker or goalkeeper. After all, why simply play to his strengths and keep him where he has played?

  23. Let’s see this team win some games before anyone goes all mushy about how competent the front office is…Hack isn’t exactly know for his personnel management. All looks good on paper I guess, but let’s see how all this talent translates on the field. It seems everyone is completely satisfied with our strikers as if there is no room for improvement there at all?

    • You’re right if Cruz starts then all bets are off. Some part of me hopes that Hackworth will finally get it but that blind spot he has for Cruz borders on just plain nuts. He’s starting to redeem himself but…

      • OH Yeah – Hackworth will be having a Q & A on twitter today at 3 pm(info on the Union Facebook page). Hopefully he won’t be going into his usually Hackworth talking points and cliches.

      • First and last question:
        “What is your justification for starting and playing Danny Cruz so much, despite Le Toux leading the league in assists for much of the year?”

        Likely answer: “We feel Danny gives us depth at that position, and it’s always an open competition.”

  24. Love all the new moves, but like others don’t trust Hack to put it all together. I can’t take another year of Hacks pet Cruz. Not sure about the 4-3-3, who will be scoring the goals? None of the new additions are known for goal scoring. I have never been a big fan of Casey but he was a double digit goal scorer last year. Real worries about scoring this year.

  25. I agree with everyone else, I feel like we’re living in the twilight zone where the Union has the best front office in the league. We FINALLY used some of our phantom money this year. Great addition here. Hackworth has proved us wrong with aquisitions, let’s hope he proves us wrong with management as well.

  26. Like most of us, I don’t know much about Berry. But it feels right to pick up a RTY that’s been a starter from day one. I feel much better now going into the season. All Hack has to do now is get us the results. I agree with some of the previous comments regarding concerns with our center forwards. Even though Jack took a big step in the right direction last year, he still hasn’t proven to be a skillful/deadly finisher. He let me down way too many times when he had clear scoring opportunities. So far he is a poaching goal scorer. A goal is a goal, but I’d rather have a skillful finisher. Maybe he can take the next step this year.

  27. Why do people in USA say “soccer” speaking about football?

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