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Union decline contract options on Ilsinho, Herbers, Onyewu, Wijnaldum, Edu

Photo courtesy of Philadelphia Union

Philadelphia Union has declined contract options for nine players, including Ilsinho, Oguchi Onyewu, Giliano Wijnaldum, Maurice Edu and Fabian Herbers.

The club announced the moves Wednesday morning, along with other roster moves.

Options were also declined on:

  1. Aaron Jones
  2. Ken Tribbett
  3. Roland Alberg
  4. Charlie Davies

Chris Pontius and Fabinho are out of contract this off-season, and Pontius is eligible for free agency. Stewart indicated that Pontius will test free agency rather than return to the Union.

The most notable surprise among the group may be Fabian Herbers, who was one of the league’s top rookies last year before missing much of this season due to injury. He was on a Generation adidas contract, however, meaning his salary was not on the Union’s books for salary budget purposes. Stewart said that the club will attempt to retain Herbers and try to negotiate a contract that will make all parties happy.

Alberg has already signed with CKSA Sofia in Bulgaria’s top division. Onyewu and Wijnaldum were both making the league minimum base salary. Wijnaldum’s inconsistency, and a desire to be closer to his family, were at the heart of the decision to decline his option, according to Stewart.


The club did not characterize the moves as releases. A Union spokesman noted the club could still negotiate new contracts with these players.

Additionally, the Union picked up contract options on:

  • all three of their goalkeepers;
  • defenders Jack Elliott, Ray Gaddis and Keegan Rosenberry;
  • and midfielders Adam Najem, Derrick Jones, Fafa Picault, Marcus Epps and Warren Creavalle.

The Union confirmed that several players are already under guaranteed contract for next year:

  • defenders Richie Marquez, Auston Trusty and Josh Yaro;
  • midfielders Alejandro Bedoya, Anthony Fontana and Haris Medunjanin;
  • forwards C.J. Sapong and Jay Simpson.

Also, the Union hold a contract option for Eric Ayuk, who is on loan with Swedish side Jönköpings Södra IF. According to Stewart, the Union have yet to speak with Ayuk about his future but will do so in the near future.

Should they not reach new agreements, these players’ movement options within MLS would be as follows:

  • Re-entry Draft: Edu, Fabinho, and Davies would all be eligible for this draft, which is basically the closest thing to free agency within MLS for players who don’t meet the age and experience requirements.
  • Waiver Draft: Herbers, Ilsinho, Onyewu, Wijnaldum, Tribbett, Aaron Jones and, theoretically, Alberg would go through waivers.

Union sporting director Earnie Stewart and head coach Jim Curtin are scheduled to hold a news conference this afternoon, during which they will discuss these roster moves and may address the question of whether the Union plan to try to retain any of the players whose contract options they’ve declined.


  1. Gooch was a steal for us this year at $60k. Unless he was due a huge bump for ’18 I’m surprised we dumped him. Of the guys that could come back I would add him back to the roster and maybe Ilsinho if we can pare down his salary to $250k. The rest I’m fine with cutting.
    I see we’re going to have another Gaddis vs Rosenberry showdown next year… not too happy with that.

    • he probably wanted something in the 150,000 -180,000 range. *shrugs*

      • Yeah and I think he has a good personal relationship with Curtin/Stewart. I’m sure they are letting him go test the waters and see what he can get. I wouldn’t be surprised if they will have a chance to match either.

    • The plan could be to move Gaddis back to the left.

      • I doubt that. Ray was always somewhat limited over there, and Curtin has been emphatic that he’s a right back, period, full stop. I think he’d be fine as a backup for either side, though.

      • in fairness, ray was always somewhat limited on the right

  2. I am quite surprised about Herbers, but even more shocked about Gooch. Seriously, what more could you expect from the guy?! Even if you plan on playing Elliott & Marquez, with Yaro fighting for time in the #3 slot — which I would be perfectly fine with — why would you not keep Gooch as a veteran presence?? And it’s not like they want to negotiate better terms with him, since he’s making the league minimum. Color me baffled.

    As for Gaddis & Rosenberry, I would assume that we picked up their options so that we can trade one of them for value. Which is certainly sensible (and I hope it’s Gaddis).

    As for the others, Wijnaldum is clearly on his way out. And Ilsinho — and possibly even Edu — could be resigned at lower salaries, if they wanted. If Medunjanin goes to Germany, and Edu will take a large pay cut, he might conceivably be worth signing. Ilsinho… maybe, as a backup option, depending on who else they sign (and how much they have to pay him).

    And the worst news here is that Simpson is still under contract. He looks like a total white elephant signing. Doubt we’ll get anyone to take him off our hands either.

    • Remember that the organization uses end-of-season interviews in which the players clearly get to have their say.
      Gooch has proven his value to the rest of the league.
      He may want to try his luck elsewhere since CB is still crowded. If I’m Bob Bradley at LAFC, depending on how they intend to build their roster, I’s take him if he would come frugally.

  3. With almost no players, this looks like the strongest roster the Union have ever announced.
    But really, wouldn’t it be the most Union thing to have picked up Edu’s option? Aren’t you just a little afraid they still may sign him? Yeah, me too.

    • If they sign him for 150,000 or less I’m ok with it. But yeah, I can imagine them picking up the option. He’s close to returning I tell you…

  4. Honestly this is a good first step and actually gives me a little hope.

    • I’m a big fan of having this announced before the playoffs are even over… would have been better if it was the day after the ORL match.

  5. Hopefully this sets them up for one of the following two options: 1. They go full youth and we see what the kids are made of or 2. They’ve identified A LOT of players they want to bring in

  6. 1. I hoped Wijnaldum would have been the answer. But he is not so now we are going to have to find two Left Back when we could only barely muster one the entire time the Union were a team.
    2. I know of one person who will be having an Aneurysm over keeping Gaddis.
    3. Bear with me here I think there may be some redemption for Jay Simpson. If/when we get a third striker There may be less pressure on him with a full strikeforce rotation add a possible hypothetical #10 and who knows. (It’s November, we are stuck with him for another year and optimism is free.)
    4. Looks like we are going all in on our back line. We are going to have Yaro/Marquez/Elliot Rosenberry/Gaddis Whoknows/Godhelpus
    5. Herbers leaving makes the Charlie Davis deal a complete rout. Herbers was supposed to be the replacement for Letoux. and now we got nothing.
    6. I can live with Ayuk coming back. God help me for saying this but we could really use someone to come off the bench and run at defenses like the Hoppenots and Cruz’s of yore.

  7. I’m most surprised by Herbers. I thought he showed a lot of promise. Perhaps he’s obsolete with the additions of Fafa and Epps. But I thought herbers was a pretty solid chance creator and a smart player. Maybe he’ll sign a new deal.

    • Theory based on logic only, no facts.
      Earnie wants his players to have explosive offensive bursts of speed, the ability to separate.
      I did not see that in Herbers for all the other good qualities.
      Perhaps Earnie wants a top quality foundation before he goes after his difference makers in 2019 or 2020.
      That’s how I am explaining the departure of Aaron Jones to myself.
      All the ones they chose to keep have “separate-ability.” Some who don’t they cannot remove yet.

    • Agreed. Hopefully they can get him back on a decent deal because he does have some value to a team even though he has some big flaws.

    • Seems as though Herbers GA contract ran out. So maybe the injury has something to do with this, maybe they are being cheap, maybe they have big plans lined up. Who knows.

    • Earnie states that they are trying to bring Herbers back. If they picked up his option, Earnie said he would no longer be Generation Adidas and would start counting toward the salary cap.
      I’d like to see Herbers back

    • I agree and count myself a Herbers fan. I could see two issues with Herbers, though. Perhaps he is not healing from his injury well, which would be a shame if that got him waived.
      More likely, after he comes off GA I think he’d take up an international slot. That might be what got him ultimately cut. He’s an good young player, but international spots are limited.

  8. PhilinWilmiington says:

    anyone know anything about Fontana?

  9. Atomic Spartan says:

    For all above who have speculated on even the most remote possibility of an Edu return:
    Please, No.

  10. Of the departures, disappointed to see Gooch and Pontius leaving.
    Gooch certainly proved he can still play at this level. Not sure how much the option $ were for the second year, but they couldn’t have been that big, could they? Yet to see anything that shows me Yaro can be a consistently solid player in this league. Maybe they feel they have to have a clear path for Trusty – which I’m OK with.
    Pontius was better on the pitch this year than his stats show. On top of that, he was a proven MLS veteran and, by all accounts, an absolute solid locker room guy. There has to be some value attached to that, especially with no BC in the locker room next season. At almost every home game I attended, he was one of the last, if not the last, player into the locker room – signing every autograph and taking every photo for the kids waiting in the stands. Maybe I’m getting too old, but I see clear value in those intangibles.

    • I don’t know about Gooch… he CAN play at this level, but I found he committed way more fouls than CBs should be committing, and most of that was due to either his pace or his soccer IQ. He always seemed to be just a little bit too late on his challanges.
      As for Pontius, I would have loved to keep him as a LeToux esque super sub, but not at 431k… especially since he doesn’t move like he used to and hasn’t played a full 90 most of the games I saw him in. Maybe sign him on a smaller contract after he “tests the waters” of free agency?

      • Gotta comment here, If you do not know this already ,Gooch has experience over seas. For example, AC Milan just to name one. I’m sure his soccer IQ is fine. I would say better than a lot of players on the Union. But yes, I agree his age and pace are against him

    • Gooch leaving is probably the right call. At his age he’s an inherent injury risk, and dropoff in performance can be sudden and precipitous. That said, he was definitely a good solider for us this year. I hope his play here gets him some level of contract somewhere if that’s what he wants.

    • Msg….., Yaro is a consistent player in the league. Watch how he plays. Good move to keep him. He needs to play more and more.

  11. Gaddis? Really?

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