A View from Afar / Analysis / Union

Evaluating the David Accam trade

Photo: Paul Rudderow

Philadelphia Union’s trade of David Accam to Columbus is one of those deals where it looks like everyone wins.

The Union free up salary space, and they secure allocation money they likely need to secure the permanent transfer of Jamiro Monteiro and perhaps other players.

Columbus gets the goal-dangerous winger that team desperately needs.

Accam, who appears to have regained his form (or is at least well on his way to it), goes to a team with a system that fits him and, after Justin Meram’s trade to Atlanta, a starting spot in his preferred position waiting for him.

Why? Dollars and depth charts

The Union’s accrual of allocation money doesn’t match what they gave up to get Accam in January of last year, but there was no way they were going to match that. Accam hasn’t built up a long enough post-injury track record to prove that he’s back to what he was, but he’s definitely showing signs of it.

In the end, the Union’s collection of $400,000 in general allocation money (GAM) and $100,000 in targeted allocation money (TAM) equates to about half of what they spent on Accam in the first place ($300,000 GAM, $900,000 TAM) to get him from Chicago. (If you’re wondering how that math works out, the track record of trades of GAM for TAM shows that $1 of GAM is worth $1.40 to $1.50 of TAM. So if you use the 1:1.5 ratio, the Union are getting the equivalent of about $470,000 in GAM after sending Chicago the equivalent of about $900,000 in GAM. And that doesn’t count the international roster spot they’re getting.)

Additionally, the Union also presumably free up Accam’s salary, which was $1.25 million last year, although it’s possible the Union agreed to pay part of that salary as part of the deal.

The fact is that Accam doesn’t fit the Union system as well as he did when he was first acquired. At the time, the Union were playing a 4-2-3-1 (or 4-3-3) and required a goal-dangerous inverted left winger. Fafa Picault had not yet demonstrated he was capable of locking down that spot, which happened last year when he beat out Accam for the job.

Even if Accam was to surpass Picault on the depth chart, there’s still probably only room for one of them. They both fit best at that inverted left winger role, which the Union’s move to a 4-4-2 diamond system effectively eliminates. In that system, each is a second striker, and Sergio Santos looks capable of playing that role.

Even with the Union’s newfound flexibility in moving between the diamond and the 4-2-3-1, head coach Jim Curtin still only needs one inverted left winger to play that role in the latter formation. Given Picault’s emergence as one of the league’s best pressing wingers (or strikers) on defense – if not the best – he has more value in the Union’s system, particularly if he can consistently find his finishing boots again.

The money to sign Monteiro …

The big win here is this likely puts the Union in position to lock down Monteiro, if they weren’t already secure on that front. He has been ridiculously impressive in his short stint with the Union, an active, aggressive and pesky defensive presence and a midfielder with tricky footwork and a hop in his step. It would not be a reach to say he has been the Union’s most impressive midfielder this season, although the nice thing for the Union is that there would be a good debate about the matter.

Monteiro has filled a massive gap for the club: An active box-to-box midfielder who provides defensive cover for a regista in Haris Medunjanin who is crucial to the team’s possession game but a defensive liability if not surrounded by players like Monteiro and Alejandro Bedoya.

In terms of what Monteiro’s market value actually is, it’s hard to say. At the time he arrived on loan from French side FC Metz, likely with an optional transfer fee already negotiated, he was rarely playing. Transfermarkt indicates Metz paid €3 million to get him last July after their relegation from Ligue 1, and the oft-reliable reference site values Monteiro at €1.75 million. Given that Metz has already secured promotion back to Ligue 1, it’s unlikely the club wants to bring back a player already deemed surplus to requirements. We still don’t know what went wrong for Monteiro in France, but whatever it was, it probably drove down his transfer fee. My guess is his transfer fee is probably under $1 million, with Monteiro to collect a salary that is probably in the TAM player range ($500,000 to $700,000).

… And someone else?

Beyond that, the Union also get an international roster slot in this deal, which allowed the Union to sign Congolese forward/winger Michee Ngalina from Bethlehem Steel FC. Including Ngalina, they now have 11 players occupying international slots, well above the default of 8 international slots per team.

That said, if Cory Burke’s visa problems mean he’s lost for the full season, he could be potentially removed from the active roster, which would free up another international roster spot.

Thus far, sporting director Ernst Tanner has proved excellent in his shopping on the foreign market, and he could do so again once the summer transfer window opens. The Union don’t have many needs, but there are two: Right back and striker.

Right back: Ray Gaddis has played well this season, but his attacking deficiencies are well-documented. An upgrade could be the difference between being a good team and a league champion, and Olivier Mbaizo has not yet shown he is an MLS-quality starter.

Striker: This would be less of a concern if not for Burke’s visa troubles, which will keep him out at least three months and possibly the whole season.

Kacper Przbylko has looked very good in his three starts, but that’s an awfully small sample size. Similarly, Sergio Santos looked good last weekend, but he has looked injured the rest of the time.

So that’s four strikers (counting Picault and Ngalina) for two slots on the depth chart, none of whom has yet proved they can consistently produce 15 goals a season in MLS.

The bottom line

The bottom line is the Accam trade gives the Union more financial flexibility to complete their team and potentially turn it into one capable of winning an MLS title. They currently sit in first place in a wide open Eastern Conference. The opportunity is there to, for the first time in club history, win something of consequence.

Tanner chose to seize the moment.


  1. I was surprised he was replaced with a Congolese. If the Union want to get more Mexicans to come then a Mexican player would have been a better choice.

    • Michee was impressing with Steel. natural progression to the first team. if the team wants to target the latino market, they should be scouting and investing in those player markets with a similar path.

      • They should also be scouting in the Latino communities in the area for the Academy. This is probably an untapped source.

    • Dan Walsh says:

      Interesting note: the Union’s first Congolese player since Danny Mwanga, I believe.

  2. I love Tanner. Honest, transparent and shrewd. Love his focus on the first team and his no BS approach to the whole practice of being the sporting director. I hope he stays longer than Stewart did.

    • I think my man crush started with the Rosenberry trade. That indicated to me Ernst was serious about making this team competitive. I said this before, and I’ll probably say it again, but I fear the day he leaves already.

  3. el Pachyderm says:

    We cannot look at David Accam at the end of the season when he scores 15 goals and feel jilted. Can only feel happy for him.
    Guy was no longer the answer here. Wanted to play. Ernst obliged him and got what he needed out of the deal too.
    David Accam or Jamiro Montiero?
    No brainer thus far.

  4. HopkinsMD says:

    Consider Union’s trajectory pre- and post-Tanner’s arrival. It’s a clear inflection point and each successive move reenforces the optimism.
    One day, one game at a time. But the future is bright.

  5. Atomic Spartan says:

    The solution at RB could easily be Picault

  6. HopkinsMD says:

    And now Union have traded Derrick Jones for $175K in GAM to Nashville. Plus 20% of any foreign transfer fee. Astute, again.
    Best of luck to DJ.

    • Wow!
      Getting $175k for a player who likely would not break the game day 18, even money from the expansion year bump that new teams get, is a shrewd move from the U. I’m sorry that Derrick did not make it here but I do hope the change of scenery will get him back on track for his career.

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