Press Conference

Transcript: Chris Albright on Union’s Monday roster moves

Photo: Paul Rudderow

Editor’s note: Questions have been paraphrased.

Philadelphia Union press coordinator Sean Ellenby opens up the teleconference by saying that Union technical director Chris Albright will not be answering questions on the team’s protected list ahead of its release later on Monday.

Opening statement from Chris Albright

Good afternoon guys, thanks for joining us on the call today. We obviously had some player movement today regarding our roster. I just want to start off by thanking Amobi for his services to the Philadelphia Union the last five years. Amobi’s obviously a guy that I had the pleasure of pleasure playing with, as well. I have a lot of respect for Amobi as a competitor and want to wish him the best in Orlando.

We’re also really excited to add CJ Sapong today. CJ’s a guy that we had our eye on as an organization. Again, part of that was me being a competitor against him, but we’ve been having an eye on him. A guy that came up through our PDL system, that we’re very familiar with through Brendan Burke, ex assistance coach. When we had the opportunity to make a move for a guy like CJ, we pulled the trigger, and I’m really happy about the addition.

It is rumored the Union received about $150,000 from Orlando City for Amobi Okugo. If that’s true, how much flexibility does that give you?

Well, per League policy we’re not going to comment on allocation money amounts. I would say that we’re really happy with the value that we got back in the trade. I would say that we had a good amount of flexibility this offseason to go out and continue to add in positions of need. I think you saw that today with a move like CJ and our roster will continue to develop as the offseason continues.

Is the hope with Sapong that the team will be unable to unlock the potential many see in him, as the team has been able to do with Andrew Wenger?

It’s funny you say that because CJ and Andrew actually played together at Reading. I think that, obviously, that’s what we’re hoping for. CJ is a guy with, for a young guy, has quite a resume and a lot of experience in our league. I think he gives our attack a real dynamic element with his versatility, athleticism, ability to score goals. One of the things we talked about was to try to get a little bigger, stronger, faster in the offseason — he certainly checks all those boxes — and we’re looking forward to him being very productive for us this season.

There were a lot of options regarding Amobi Okugo How big of a plus is it to deal him to Orlando City and get value back?

I think it’s a big plus. We have had conversations with Amobi and his representation and always knew that he wanted to test Europe. Frankly, that’s a risky proposition when a guy is out of contract and we could come back with nothing in return. So we saw some real value in the deal with Orlando. To be able to erase some of that uncertainty, and to have some real value in hand to then go out and be able to have the flexibility in the offseason to address positions of need I think was something we were very happy with.

Do you still expect Okugo to test Europe or have indications that he was going to do that?

Without getting into too many specifics of the deal, our deal with Orlando was contingent upon Amobi agreeing with Major League Soccer and Orlando, so I don’t believe Europe’s an option anymore.

On what Amobi has meant as a Union original

Amobi’s been of really good service to this club on and off the field. He’s a guy that was a competitor that played multiple positions when asked. That being said, I think that Jim [Curtin] and I as ex players want to be able to put players in a position that they’re happy with going forward, as well, to do right by players, and we feel that this is a move that does right by Amobi and puts him in a position to be successful going forward.

On why the team declined the option on Brian Brown

We have a lot of difficult decisions this offseason. I think that in Brian’s case it was a loan that we weren’t quite comfortable with the numbers moving forward for next year. We think Brian has a tremendous amount of upside — he’s really good in the box — it was something we took a chance at last year and, again, we still think very highly of Brian. I just think budget-wise it didn’t make sense to extend that loan.

How much of does CJ Sapong’s youth and upside have to do with the move?

CJ is unique because he’s a guy with a resume that still has upside, if that makes sense. He’s played in 10 playoff games and won an MLS Cup. I think youth is certainly part of it, but the winning culture that he comes from — and that’s credit to Peter [Vermes] and what he’s done in Kansas City — we’re hoping that that’s infectious in our locker room. We know he’s got some relationships with guys in our team —  Andrew Wenger, Ray Gaddis — guys that are winners, as well. He’s an important piece of the winning culture that we’re trying to build. He understands what it takes, the sacrifice it takes, to win an MLS Cup; he was a big part of that run. That being saiud, he’s still — I think he’ll be 26, he’s just entering his prime and we are really thrilled to see what that looks like in Philadelphia.

On decision to decline the option on Conor Casey

Some of these things are still playing out. I would say that, per our statement today, there’s still ongoing discussions with guys regarding contracts, with a lot of mechanisms obviously with the League that we have to get through here — Expansion Draft, Re-Entry Draft — in the next few weeks. But there are ongoing discussions with guys, with Conor and other guys as to possibilities going forward.

On the decision to release homegrown player Cristhian Hernandez

I would start by saying that Zach [Pfeffer] and Jimmy [McLaughlin] from the homegrown side are guys that we have come to terms of an agreement with going forward here, so that’s exciting from a homegrown side; we’re still committed to our youth development, and to having players from our academy help us be successful and to reach our goals of being consistently competitive in the East in MLS.

In Cristhian’s case, the roster is a numbers game, in a lot of ways. We are looking to improve in multiple positions and I think Cristhian is a guy that we know well, that Jim [Curtin] certainly knows well from his days at the Academy, and he’s still very young and has a bright future, a lot of career in front of him, and we wish him the best.

Do you think that the right of first refusal rule might go away with the new CBA and that might affect how teams do deals in the offseason?

To be honest with you, I’m not going to comment on anything regarding the CBA, as it’s obviously sensitive and there’s on-going discussions and negotiations between the league and the Players Union. So, I’m going to refrain on commenting on anything regarding the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Now that Sapong is on the team, how close do you feel the team is having the forward contingent you want? Are you still actively looking for forwards?

Without being too specific, I would say we are far from completing our roster in general. We’re still looking at help from multiple positions — that’s both internationally and domestic. I’ve been traveling quite a bit in the last month– as my wife will tell you — so we’re far from complete.

I would say to the fan base, too: I understand what it’s like to be a fan in this city, and to judge our roster come March, because it’s obviously still early and there’s a lot that can still develop.

What are your thoughts on fan reaction to the Okugo move? Many expected that if he was going to leave it would be for Europe.

My reaction would be is what I said earlier: We feel that we got excellent value in the situation that we were in with the uncertainty that there was. Again, value that will give us flexibility to continue to add at the other positions of need that we have.

As far as fan base reaction, Amobi’s been here a long time, so that’s going to be an obvious reaction. That being said, we are operating in the best interest of trying to win next year and when we saw an opportunity to get value in an uncertain situation, we decided to move on that.

9 Comments

  1. I’m bitter. No surprise- so forgive me for awhile if every time a Union Ass Lick speaks I hear the teacher from Peanuts. Amobi is going to love playing with Kaka.
    .
    He just found himself partnering with one of the great players of the last 10 years- for him and his development I am thrilled.

  2. OneManWolfpack says:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ss2hULhXf04
    .
    “We think Amobi is going to test Europe…”
    .
    “Europe is no longer an option…”
    .
    W.T.F.

  3. I’m sort of tired if the MLS way if handling transaction information. Very cloak and dagger. I understand not discussing future moves as it could compromise them but moves already completed shouldnt be treated like military secrets.

  4. Apparently Amobi didn’t want us….and we didn’t want Amobi. There is no other way to interpret this.

  5. I think Amobi was going to ask for big bucks in the form of a raise and the FO was like….um….no thanks!

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