A View from Afar / Analysis

A transfer target list for Philadelphia Union

Photo: Paul Rudderow

The hot stove season starts in a few weeks. The question is who Philadelphia Union will target.

New sporting director Earnie Stewart changes the paradigm significantly, likely bringing in transfer targets he scouted while at AZ Alkmaar in the Netherlands. It means the traditional pool of available players may be very different from past years. Don’t be surprised to see some unknown, young players from the Netherlands finding their way to the Union’s roster.

That said, it doesn’t mean you can’t play the parlor game and float some transfer targets for the club to consider.

So let’s play.

How to approach this transfer target list

As with any such list, use some common sense. In some cases, the players on the list below represent specific players the Union should consider. In others, they may simply represent a way of thinking to approach the marketplace. You may see one guy on the list who may never come anywhere near MLS, but a similar player from a similar background could show up instead. Personal preferences and contacts matter a great deal in this business.

Additionally, you’ll notice this list is light on domestic names. That’s because we don’t know all the players in MLS who will be out of contract once the MLS Cup final comes and goes. So presume that more names will join the list once that happens.

Lastly, this list is geared heavily toward free transfers, because that’s how MLS generally works and these players may represent better value and lower risk as a result.

Ideal roster breakdown by position

Here is the breakdown of the minimum number of players per position for the Union’s 28-man roster, predicated upon the team continuing to play a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3.

  • Goalkeepers: 2
  • Center backs: 4
  • Fullbacks: 4 (2 left, 2 right)
  • No. 6 center midfielders: 2
  • No. 8 center midfielders: 2
  • Attacking midfielders: 6
  • Center forwards: 2

That total of 22 leaves six open roster spots. Most likely, one would be able to play center forward, while another would be capable of playing a second striker role to increase formation flexibility (although Sebastien Le Toux can already fill this role). A veteran third goalkeeper should be considered, along with additional midfielders and particularly players who can play multiple positions and fill a utility role for the club. However, a third goalkeeper is not absolutely necessary due to the close proximity of the reserve squad with the USL club in Bethlehem, as players there can be recalled on short notice.

Transfer targets

(ordered by position, not priority of signing)

Player Analysis
Will Packwood, 22, CB The U.S. youth international remains without a club after leaving English side Birmingham, where injuries often curtailed his progress, but he is regarded well enough that he has still been called in for Olympic qualifiers. At 6-3, he has good size, and he is young. The Union should look to sign him, under the premise that even if he doesn’t break through immediately with the first team, he can find minutes starting with their reserve side in Bethlehem.
Ondrej Mazuch, 26, CB A quality center back recovering from injury, the Czech international has started regularly in the first tiers of Belgium and Ukraine but is currently a free agent. Inquire as to interest. He may prefer a club in Europe, but it’s worth trying.
Ron Vlaar, 30, CB Holland international, currently a free agent. Left Aston Villa as a free agent and then tore his meniscus for the second time in 8 months. Recovery time will leave him out of action till January. Was drawing interest from Southampton and Lazio before injury. Inquire about his interest in MLS. He wants to play in Europe, but if there no suitors after his recent injuries, it’s worth taking a chance on this top player. Would probably be a designated player if signed.
Urby Emanuelson, 29, LB/LW Earnie Stewart should be familiar with this former Ajax star and Dutch international who also played in Italy with Milan, Roma and most recently Atalanta. He is versatile enough to play left back, left wing or center midfield. He was linked with moves to England and Brazil this past transfer window but remains a free agent.
Kevin Constant, 28, LB/MF The former Milan left back and midfielder recently ended his contract with Turkish side Trabonzpor after a run-in with Turkish airport authorities. To give him the benefit of the doubt, he wouldn’t be the first person to have trouble with overzealous Turkish authorities. Either way, he’s available as a free agent, although probably too expensive for MLS tastes until he finds he’s not in demand in Europe.
Chris Klute, 25, LB Fast left back with good crossing ability. Impressed and broke through for Colorado Rapids under Oscar Pareja, an excellent attack-minded coach. After Pareja left for Dallas, Klute was marginalized by noted tactical genius coaching disaster Pablo Mastroeni. Columbus acquired him via bargain trade despite already having a good left back in Waylon Francis. Klute hasn’t won the starting job but, given extended minutes, could regain his best form. Acquire via trade and give him the chance to beat Fabinho for the starting job in training camp.
Oriol Rosell, 23, CDM Sporting Lisbon has granted Rosell’s request to leave the club, and he could seek a return to MLS during the winter transfer window. He is an excellent defensive midfielder, able to shield a back line, maintain possession well, and move forward as needed. Kansas City will likely to seek to acquire him back, but Los Angeles holds the top pick in the allocation order for returning players who have previously been sold from MLS. Any team seeking to acquire him would have to obtain that pick from the Galaxy. For the Union, it would not only be worth acquiring Rosell, but it would be worth dropping a high salary and allocation money amount to get him. Additions of Rosell and Bedoya could make the Union’s front six the league’s best when healthy. However, that is all provided Rosell is willing to join the club.
Jeff Larentowicz, 32, CDM/CB Proven defensive midfielder in MLS, knows the league well, and is a smart player. He is also a Philadelphia-area native, so he would adapt to the region quickly. Plus, he is versatile enough to fill a backup CB role.
Patrick Ekeng, 25, CDM The Cameroon international terminated his contract with Cordoba after a frustrating season in which they were relegated from La Liga, the second straight season he played for a relegated club (also the previous year in Switzerland’s top tier). He has been out of contract since leaving Cordoba and would be worth bringing in for a trial.
Keegan Rosenberry, 21, CM A top college player, Rosenberry is potentially eligible for signing as a homegrown player. Good speed and technical ability, good in possession. The Union have probably already tried filing a homegrown claim on him to sign him without need for him to go through the MLS amateur draft, but if they haven’t, now is the time. He probably won’t qualify, however, due to lack of adequate ties to their academy, so he may have to go through the draft.
Wilson Palacios, 31, CM The Honduran international didn’t fare well at Stoke City after solid tenures with Wigan and Tottenham in England. He has been out of contract since the summer and may be ready to lower his salary demands to follow his fellow Honduran internationals to MLS. Would he be a good No. 6 compliment to Vincent Nogueira?
Alejandro Bedoya, 28, RW Capable wide midfielder who can also play centrally as a midfielder or second striker. U.S. international, has played well at high level in Europe (Ligue 1, France). Former teammate of Aristeguieta at Nantes. The Union already initiated transfer discussions with Nantes about him, but an initial effort fell through. The question is where he fits into this club. Acquiring him would likely relegate Le Toux to the bench or Cristian Maidana to the transfer list. Worth acquiring at the right salary and transfer fee. An attacking midfield trio of Maidana, Barnetta and Bedoya, backed by Nogueira and a solid defensive midfielder and fronted by Sapong at striker could produce the league’s best front six. Continue to pursue a transfer. Bedoya projects as a designated player.
Darius Madison, 21, ST Union Academy player has been a top college player and should be available for signing as a homegrown player unless he elects to enter the MLS amateur draft instead. File a homegrown claim and sign him once he finishes his senior season this year. (Homegrown players do not count against the team’s salary budget.) Character concerns were raised when he was kicked off the University of Virginia’s team — he now plays for University of Maryland-Baltimore County — but the Union youth brass should know him well enough to gauge whether to sign him. With playing time available in Bethlehem, it’s low risk, high reward here.
Who’s missing?

We all know how this game works. One transfer target list is as good as the next. What do you think of this list, and who’s on your list? Speak up in the Comments section below.


  1. It should also be noted that some/many/all of these players could be listed on another MLS team’s “discovery list” which could cause issues is bringing them in, at least for free that is.
    My guess is at least Packwood is on someone’s list.

    • Good point, re: discovery lists. Not so sure about Packwood, as I know he was in trial with New England but did not sign.

  2. Crap! Jeff Lawrentowicz? I’d have to start liking him. Never happen.

  3. Dan C (formerly of 103) says:

    Dan, WHY are you floating these aimless rumors around, this isn’t the VIEW!!!! 😉


  5. I would like to see a trade with NYCFC, Edu for McNamara and Mix/Allocation Money. Klute is ideal for the money in my opinion, and I’ll take Jeff Lawrentowicz any day of the week. Lawrentowicz was in Denver Sunday night with his wife and kid so maybe he is looking at the Rapids as well.

    • i wouldn’t be surprised if mcnamara could be had cheap. i think i read that he was a kreis guy and that the meddlers in their front office weren’t high on him

      • Kreis took a flyer on him after Chivas folded. He spent half the season injured out in LA. I wouldn’t be surprised if NYCFC drop him or would be willing to give him up on the cheap

  6. No Paul Pogba?
    The Philadelphia Union would like to introduce Paul Pogba.
    Could you imagine.
    Someday maybe.

  7. Are we all of the sudden ok with our strikers? Does Chaco stay or go? priority #1 is left back. Then find out where Mo wants to play CB or DM and hunt accordingly. Packwood sounds interesting you can’t teach tall. And by all means keep our academy guys if they can play at all.

    Does Earnie Stewart keep them at a 4-5-1?

    • I’m not at all okay with our strikers.

    • I’m ok with Sapong. But that’s it. 2-3 more NEW strikers are needed. Chaco goes. Is it Stewart’s job to choose what formation? It should be the manager’s. Maybe they talk about it and find common ground, but I want the manager deciding.

      • is curtain a one formation guy? if so can we get the right players to make a good 4-5-1?

      • I don’t think Curtain can claim to be anything right now. He claimed to be defensive minded, suiting the 4-2-3-1 and it’s variations. Then after the season claimed he was limited by his roster, which is true to a certain extent. Followed that up with wanting to be aggressive, presumably a 4-3-3, once Stewart was named. If anything, in his early coaching career, I think he’s open, or at least flexible, to changing the formation to what fits.

      • From everything I have heard they want to play an aggressive 4-3-3. Chaco does not fit in that as far as I am concerned, at least not as a starter. That being said, I’m ok with Sapong as our main striker mainly because I think getting upgrades at both wings, both outside back, and defensive mid will have a much bigger effect. That’s a lot of change right there too, half the team.

    • Good question. If they’re playing a formation predicated on a single striker — 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3 with wingers, etc. — I think I actually might be OK with them. Not sure. Depends on what upgrades are available and affordable and whether Aristeguieta will return at an affordable rate. I like Sapong as a starter.

      Could they upgrade? Sure. Depends on price and availability, again.

      Did I have someone to add to the list though? No. There are certainly possibilities out there, but I didn’t want to make the list too long.

  8. “To give him the benefit of the doubt, he wouldn’t be the first person to have trouble with overzealous Turkish authorities.”

    Sounds like someone has a story to tell.

  9. #1 priority is signing Darius Madison before he declares – because if you sign him you still have all the money/cap room to go out and sign some of the other players from your list.
    I’ve said it many times before but the other Academy Player I want locked up ASAP is Raheem Taylor-Parkes. Kid is the real deal and if we don’t sign him soon we may not get the opportunity to again (cough Pulisic).
    3 years 8 months since our last Homegrown signing, but who’s counting

    • Everybody but Sak, maybe? I bet this quickly changes once Stewart arrives. It’s going to be so interesting watching actual player movement rumors and deals associated with the Union.

    • Got more to share on Taylor-Parkes? Many of us haven’t seen him play.

      • I don’t want people to take this the wrong way, but he’s kind of Freddy Adu-ish. Slightly bigger. Kid is unbelievable with ball at his feet. All the moves Ayuk tries this kid does effortlessly and blows by defenders. He’s just a natural

  10. Dan – After looking on Transfer Market, you’ve done a good job coming up with this list. There are some other interesting and talented names out there (e.g. – Dario Cvitanich, Chinedu Obasi, Christian Lobato, Evander Sno, etc.), but it’s so hard without knowing their back stories. They could have had a bad agent, degenerative injuries, checkered personal life, etc.

    It definitely gives you an appreciation for what sporting directors have to do as they sort through all of these variables.

  11. You’re missing some academy guys who are seniors in college. How about Shane Campbell? Proven defender in ACC, captained Reading United this summer….Quincy Thomas? Another proven defender…guys like this could strive for Bethlehem and are names the community knows well, along with the already named Keegan Rosenberry and Darius Madison

  12. Would be a more complete list with $$$ figures included. That being said, I wouldn’t mind seeing Urby in blue and gold. He’s sloppy but plays with great hustle. When Allegri would give him a longer leash he was dangerous in the offensive half. Would be a new and improved model of Fabinho and I’m okay with that.

  13. You forgot Connor Maloney at PSU. I believe he can be designated a homegrown player. Might have to play at Bethlehem for a while and beef up, but has good technical skills and speed.Played forward at PSU, but I could see him in the LeToux role on the right side.

  14. Lucky Striker says:

    Just “more or less” working with that list…….

    Any kid you can sign reaps potential dividends down the road. Madison, Rosenhosen….whomever. All good.

    If 2016 portends a Curtin Call, best to address the holes. The holes being the complete and utter lack of a left side.

    Urby and Ekeng? Yes please ! Constant seems a stretch, if there’s anything to Bedoya it’s probably worth pursuing-but don’t stop there:

    Look at the league. Klute intrigues, is Erik Hurtado still collecting splinters in B.C. ? Seba back to Forward, they’ll find more help somewhere.

    If Philly was that close on Poku…….pursue it……

    • Man, Poku is a BIG omission from my list. Other possible omissions too, as other readers have pointed out, but I really like Poku. That dude can play. Add him to the list!

      • I’d love to see them inquire about Joel Campbell. Due to the injury crisis he’s currently getting time at Arsenal but he’s deep squad depth once everyone heals up. Consensus is he’s a good player, will put in a hell of a shift, but just doesn’t quite have enough technical ability to consistently make the 18 for Arsenal.

        He could probably be had for a transfer fee of around what Bedoya would cost. He’s 23 and stud for Costa Rica. He can play RW and ST.

        So it’s relatively affordable (say 2 million fee and roughly EDUs wages), CONCACAF expierenced, a versatile attack minded player. It’s a home run.

        You would have to sell him on coming back to this hemisphere to be a star instead of a key bench player or average starter for a mid tier Serie A or La Liga team, but I think Earnie could sell the pitch.

      • Like to optimism – I would too but would assume he is going to move from Arsenal laterally or one step down (think Lukaku moving from Chelsea to Everton). Not sure how many steps down he would view MLS but it is probably more than 1.

  15. Keep it up, PSP. We need ya to keep us going til March. Great start with the targets and potential keeps/castoffs.

  16. Biggest target on this list I think should be Urby Emmanuelson. If he is available and willing to come lock him up now. Imagine a left side with him LDM Nogs and LM Barnetta. Now that is a good left side. My next thought is move towards Packwood a young 22 year old 6’3″ center back to pair with the young Marquez this could be a pairing that is very promising both now and into the future. Darius Madison from what I hear seems worth it but only locked in as a homegrown player. Ekeng and Klute are both worth looks as well. And as I’ve said all season still want Poku. Other targets who are prob not available would be Tony Tchani and Ryan Hollingshead (Hollingshead would be if Urby wasn’t locked up). It depends very much on formation and who stays on this team but I think if Urby is available and willing to come he is a no brainer and must be on this team comes preseason.

  17. Lucky Striker says:

    Guess this is the place to put this info:

    Emmanuelson to Hellas Verona on a free.

    Cross that one off Philly.

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