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What a Monday, league news, US Soccer’s new youth development initiative, more

Photo: Daniel Gajdamowicz

Philadelphia Union

Where to start? With Amobi, of course.

Amobi Okugu traded

As we reported would be the case on Sunday night, the Union traded Amobi Okugo to Orlando City. And as we also reported would be the case, he was traded for allocation money and a draft pick. Just how much allocation has not been confirmed — per league and club policy and all that — but Philly.com’s Jonathan Tannenwald reports, “what I’m told is $150,000 in allocation money. That is a sizable figure by the standards of most MLS transactions.” The accuracy of that figure is unknown but I suppose some solace can be taken in the sentence that follows it, even if the amount doesn’t feel very sizeable. So far as the draft pick, the Union said in its announcement on the transfer that it’s a “second round pick in the 2016 MLS SuperDraft.”

Later on Monday afternoon, Okugo appeared with new Orlando City signings Tally Hall and Aurélien Collin wearing purple and beaming. I’d link to photos on Twitter for you but, frankly, looking at them makes me feel more depressed about Okugo’s departure than I already was. (It goes like this: As an Amobi Okugo fan, I’m happy for him. As a USA fan, I’m even more happy — playing along with Kaka will surely have a positive effect on Okugo’s development, which can only be good for his prospects with the USMNT. As a Union fan, Okugo’s departure is depressing, more so that he is now with another MLS team, let alone an in-conference rival. Especially when Orlando City head coach Adrian Heath says, “We think we’ve signed some of the best players in their respective positions in MLS.”A Q&A at Orlando Sentinel doesn’t help on the Union fan depression front.)

This is what Okugo had to say to Matthew DeGeorge of the Delco Times after the trade was announced:

I’ve got nothing but respect for Philly. I’m going to be forever grateful, forever indebted for them for taking a chance on me, drafting me as a young freshman out of UCLA. But at this point in my career, I felt that it was time to move on. For me to take that next step as a player, I don’t think it was going to happen in Philly. And I think Philly had their own ideas as well. I’m just moving onto the next chapter with Orlando City.

To which I can only reply, “Sigh.”

CJ Sapong arrives

Soon after the official announcement of the Okugo trade, the Union announced it had acquired CJ Sapong from Kansas City. This is a good thing.

Sapong said of the trade, “I feel like…this is a team where I have a good fit and I feel like I can provide an impact.”

The cost of Sapong’s acquisition — the Union’s first-round pick in the 2015 SuperDraft, No. 10 overall — is unsettling to those who were looking to the January draft as a way to acquire help in positions of need such as, say, left back. As things stand at the moment, the Union’s first pick will be in the second round, 31st overall. There is of course still plenty of time for all manner of wheeling and dealing, whether through deals within the league or internationally. But in terms of the draft — and I don’t claim any insight about prospects in the draft — one can’t help but feel at the moment that the team has simply raised its hands at the prospect of the next draft being a source of impactful talent.

Protected list released

And then there was the release of the protected list ahead of Wednesday’s Expansion Draft. By their nature, such lists are going to result in some manner of raised eyebrows and/or disappointment. But, does the Union seriously think Fabinho was at risk of being selected by NYCFC or Orlando? More so than the unprotected Pedro Ribeiro? I get that Fabinho is cover at left back but, I mean, c’mon. So, let me just say this: Don’t be sitting next to me at the bar if Pedro Ribeiro is selected by Orlando City because Fabinho was protected. I will be a poor conversationalist and am sure to be spilling things.

Oh yeah, Rais Mbolhi and Zac MacMath were both unprotected. Mbolhi is among four DPs that were left protected across the league, the others being Tim Cahill, Eddie Johnson, and Claudio Bieler. (I know, Mbolhi isn’t on the list of DPs on the league site, but a report who’s available in the Expansion Draft at the league website says he’s a DP.)

Chris Albright on Monday’s moves

Before the release of the protected list, Union technical director Chris Albright spoke to reporters via conference call about the day’s moves (transcript here).

On the Okugo trade:

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.

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.

On Sapong’s arrival:

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…

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.

On the Union’s moves thus far:

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.

Albright also said that negotiations with some players — such as Conor Casey — are ongoing. He also said that while the option on homegrown player Cristhian Hernandez has been declined, the Union “have come to terms of an agreement” with homegrown players Jimmy McLaughlin and Zach Pfeffer.

More

More reports on the Okugo transfer at CSN Philly, Philly Soccer News, Brotherly GameOrlando City SC, Orlando Sentinel, MLSsoccer.com, Vavel, and Playing for 90.

More reports on Sapong ‘s arrival at PSP, Daily NewsDelco Times, CSN Philly, Philly Soccer NewsMLSsoccer.com, Kansas City StarKansas City Business Journal, and the Sports Network.

More reports on the protected list at PSP, Philly.com, CSN Philly, and Brotherly Game.

One last thing

One last bit of news from Monday: At the Washington Post, Steven Goff reports that former Union Academy player Zack Steffen, now a sophomore at Maryland, is close to signing with Bundesliga side Freiburg. I don’t think anyone seriously thought Steffen would begin his professional career with the Union, so good luck to him.

MLS

You can view the protected lists from across the league here.

Monday’s brief trade window saw a flurry of moves across the league. In addition to the Okugo, Colin, and Hall moves, and in no particular order:

Also, Orlando Sentinel reports, “Orlando City has reached an agreement to sign Honduran forward Bryan Róchez from Real España in the Honduran league, pending a physical.”

Houston Dynamo have “signed an agreement” with Owen Coyle — the manager who brought the Dynamo’s Stuart Holden to Bolton — to be the team’s new head coach. Needless to say, Dynamo players are excited. More at Houston Chronicle.

At Reuters, Simon Evans on the big questions facing the league ahead of the CBS negotiations.

Goal.com reports, “The Liga MX is studying the possibility of incorporating MLS teams in the Copa MX competition, league president Decio de Maria said on Monday following an owners’ meeting in Mexico City.”

Bruce Arena. Legendary.

Good on you, Mike Petke.

David Villa defends the resemblance of the NYCFC home kit to that of Manchester City.

This just in from the Department of Questionable Timing’s Who Gives a Toss subcommittee: the official match ball for the 2015 season was unveiled on Monday. Yeah, it was an otherwise slow news day.

US

The US has been drawn in Group A of the CONCACAF U-17 MNT championship, which will take place in Honduras, Feb. 27-March 15. Also in Group A are Cuba, Honduras, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, “and an UNCAF qualifier – either El Salvador or Guatemala.” The first US match will be against Cuba on Feb. 27.

Speaking of youth national teams, US Soccer is stepping up its development game with the addition of a U-12 age group to the Development Academy program and U-16 and U-19 youth national teams. The federation is also continuing to push for college soccer to adopt a split schedule that would be played in the fall and spring. More on the news from SI, New York Times, ESPNMLSsoccer.com, Soccer AmericaProSoccerTalk.

Brandi Chastain talks to Soccer Nation about why kids under 14 shouldn’t be doing headers.

Elsewhere

FIFA whistleblower Phaedra Almajid, former communications director of Qatar’s 2022 World Cup bid, tells France Football that Qatari officials offered bribes of up to $1 million for votes, although she did not see money change hands.

Reuters reports, “Michel Platini is refusing to back incumbent Sepp Blatter or challenger Jerome Champagne in next year’s FIFA presidential election with the UEFA boss saying he hopes a third candidate will emerge.”

Checkout this week’s Footy on the Telly for listings of today’s Champions League games.

9 Comments

  1. Why does the Union get credit for players like Steffen being in there academy, the Union Academy didnt start till 2 years ago they had a few scrimmages a year and played in 1 tournament a year with a bunch of players from different teams, Zach and most of the successful college and pro players that you list played for FC Delco Academy a team that won 8 National Championships give them there do.

  2. There is NO way Orlando or NYCFC would’ve taken Fabinho, especially with Greg Cochrane among others available. I’d like to believe there’s a good reason for that, but frankly I think they have a handshake with OC to not take anyone. NYC would be wise to take Zac but I really hope they take M’Bohli.

  3. Owen Coyle is a nice get for Houston. Nice get. Do we have Owen Coyle? Do we have AN Owen Coyle? Wonder if Owen Coyle was even considered along the Delaware. Was Owen Coyle interviewed? Did we have high tea with Owen Coyle and just go in a different direction? Are we concerned with how much money a manager of his obvious pedigree would require? Did our leaders even know Owen Coyle was willing to come and play in the sandbox stateside? Hmm. Are these good questions? Does anyone else wonder? Good luck down there. Sure as shit hope you know what the flying flip you are doing.

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      We have Curtain. He can learn on the job. We will be fine. (It’s a good thing I had the ability to type that cause I sure as hell couldn’t have said that with a straight face)

  4. OneManWolfpack says:

    “I will be a poor conversationalist and am sure to be spilling things.” – the best way I have ever seen someone say, “I will be flipping the F out!”
    .
    I’m not happy Okugo,is gone, but it am happy we got something for him. Not what I had hoped but something. We can replace him. It’s not the end of the world.
    .
    That video for the new MLS ball is sick… I’m kidding, it’s just a ball.
    .
    When Zac and Pedro go it will be really infuriating. Cause they’re both going… (Honestly, in all likely hood, just Zac will go to NYCFC, assuming the Orlando handshake deal is in place… but hey I’m a Union fan, I expect the worst)

  5. Good news for Zack Steffan, but it brings up an issue for the Union and the League. The plan to develop youth through the Academy is great, but what happens when they follow Klinsy’s advice and bolt for Europe? Since the Union cannot sign any of their Academy players to contracts early on, they often get nothing in return. This is potentially a serious problem with the long-term plan.

    • You are correct, although it is an easy-to-fix problem. It is true that the Union, along with the rest of MLS, does not own its academy players. If it did, it would actually have to pay them or at least educate and clothe them and feed them. I believe the Union is willing to let a few players go, for free, because it’s not willing to pay whatever it would cost to actually own the rights to the players. If an increasing number of Yanks transfer into European academies for free, and it begins to look like too much lost income, then the Union and the rest of MLS will have to fork over the money for the entire academy squads beginning with a certain age. I think the current situation is all about business and not about football.

    • dynamotique says:

      Zac owes the Union nothing, he never was officially in the Union academy ,, his parents paid his Academy fees to FC Delco just like any other player on that team,, good luck Zac in Europe.

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