Analysis / Union

A mid-season assessment of the Union’s signings

Previously in this space, I considered the Union’s biggest signing ever, Marco Fabian, and examined whether the marquee player was worth the investment. As the Union travel to New England to begin the season’s second half, here’s a quick look at the other new signings and how they’ve fared in a season set to potentially be the club’s best ever.

Kai Wagner

Wagner in some ways best embodies the 4-4-2 system the Union play this season under Ernst Tanner’s direction: He’s a left back who gets forward, sometimes almost to the opposite touchline, then tracks back quickly to defend on turnovers. Having played nearly every available minute aside from a two-game suspension for a foolish red card, Wagner has produced four assists, but only two shots, neither of which were on frame. However, the numbers don’t fully convey how productive Wagner is on the left side of the pitch: He forces turnovers deep into the opponent’s half and manages to both create chances offensively and averages more tackles per game than Jack Elliott.

Bring back for 2020? Without a doubt.

Kacper Przybyłko

Przybyłko is part of the now-somewhat-diminished squad of strikers the Union began the season with and, among that group, is second in minutes only to Fafa Picault. Przybyłko has produced 4 goals and 1 assist in his 817 minutes, most of which came during the Union’s late-April, early-May surge to the top of the Eastern Conference. Since that period, Ilsinho theatrics aside, the 2019 Union have looked a lot like the 2018 Union in their opponent’s final third: Struggling to find the back of the net despite creating chances. The absence of a consistent chance-creating central midfielder is undoubtedly part of that, but both Przybyłko and Santos (see below) tend to look flummoxed in the box as of late.

Bring back for 2020? Probably? Przybyłko’s second half of the season will need to justify his continued presence on the roster.

Sergio Santos

Santos has had the fewest minutes of all the Union’s strikers, and in that time he’s produced 3 goals, 2 of which came during his debut in the 6-1 rout of New England on May 5. As with Przybyłko, Santos has seen his productivity decline with the relative slump of the Union’s offensive form heading into the Gold Cup break. Discussed with much promise in the pre-season, the fully-healthy Santos has yet to consistently produce goals.

Bring back for 2020? As with Przybyłko, the answer remains “we’ll see.” There’s an argument to be made that, more than a big-name number 10, the Union could use a designated player-caliber striker. If Tanner goes that route in the off-season, the depth chart for the Union’s forward could be quite scrambled.

Jamiro Monteiro

Of the new signings, Monteiro has played the most minutes and in that time has produced 4 goals and 3 assists. His real value, however, is often off the ball: Monteiro tracks back and harries opponents as they try to move the ball through midfield, winning battles that create turnovers in prime spots for the Union. He leads the team in average tackles per game and passing accuracy. Monteiro is the box-to-box midfielder the Union have missed in previous seasons and is perfect for the high-press system the team plays.

Bring back for 2020? Without a doubt, but it’s easier said than done.


  1. In Tanner We Trust says:

    I still have hope for Santos

    We need to do (almost) whatever it takes to keep Monty

  2. John Harris says:

    Ownership are not to be taken seriously if Monteiro does not come back. IIWII. Regardless of how the team does this year, people should leave and not come back until ownership sells if Monteiro is not extended. He’s not that expensive; just isn’t. Don’t buy into the excuse-making narrative. If an owner in this market can’t afford Monteiro, he should excuse himself and thank Philly profusely while packing.

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