Preseason / Union

As preseason opens, Union sign defensive midfielder Matej Oravec

Photo: Earl Gardner

On the first day of the Philadelphia Union’s 2020 preseason, the club announced the signing of 21-year-old defensive midfielder Matej Oravec for an undisclosed transfer fee.

Oravec “is a mobile, aggressive midfielder who can distribute effectively to start our transitions,” Ernst Tanner, Union sporting director, said in a statement.

Oravec is a Slovakian youth international. He joins from the first-tier league in Slovakia, where he made 17 appearances for FK DAC 1904 Dunajska Streda.

Speaking after practice in Wilmington, Delaware, Tanner and manager Jim Curtin expressed excitement for what Oravec could bring to the team.

In comments reported by Joe Tansey of, Curtin described Oravec as “a player that is a ball-winner in midfield, can start your transitions quickly, good passer.”

Tanner, meanwhile, explained that the club was “looking for a more defensive-oriented player in holding mid as we try to reduce our goals against.” He believes he’s found that in Oravec.

Oravec will compete with fellow offseason signing Jose Andres Martinez for the bulk of the minutes vacated by Haris Medunjanin, who the club moved on from in the offseason.

Oravec signed a three-year contract with a club option for a fourth year. He will wear number 24, according to the club website. His name is pronounced “Ma-te OR-a-vetz,” according to the man himself.

Notes from the first day of preseason
  • Perhaps the most notable absence from preseason training was super-sub Ilsinho. Although all indications at the end of last season were that Ilsinho would be back on a new contract, Tanner revealed that Ilsinho was yet to sign the new contract. “There’s no room for negotiations,” said Tanner after training. Tweets from Ilsinho’s sister, meanwhile, suggested that Ilsinho is unhappy with the pay cut that Tanner has offered him, as she described the offer as “ridiculous.”

  • The Union’s highest goal-scorer last season, Kacper Przybylko, will not train with the club this week as a precautionary measure due to the turf field at the 76ers Fieldhouse in Wilmington, where the club is conducting training. Przybylko missed the end of the 2019 season with a foot injury.
  • There is one trialist with the club in Delaware, a striker. No reports as of yet as to the identity of the mysterious trialist.
  • For those curious about the schedule: the Union will train this week in Wilmington before departing for Clearwater, Fla., on Monday, Jan. 27.


  1. Day one of his tenure with the club, and Matej has already become a fan favorite…promising us a “sexy season”…#SexySzn is already the hashtag du jour. Love it.
    Concerning about Ilsinho….hopefully they’ll work it out.

  2. I honestly believe Ilsinho deserves a raise. Regardless of minutes played, he improved his play last year. And there is no denying that he freed up everyone else on the attack with his defender magnets on full blast. His +/- speaks to that.
    Not knowing what mechanisms will be available with the CBA’s still up in the air is playing on Tanner’s mind I’m sure, but we need to make space for him on this roster. Especially with all of the talk about using a 4222 during games at some point. Tuck Bedoya in with Oravec in the 65th, and let the man run rampant on the right side!!!!!

  3. Regardless of how many goals Ilsinho scored last year, the Union’s goal differential with vs. without him on the field was staggering. Whenever the Union tried to isolate him on the wing, defenses shifted over to his side like Ryan Howard was at the plate in his heyday, and it freed up space all over the field for the rest of the offense. I don’t think he was making that much last season…pay the man.

  4. John O'Donnell Jr says:

    Made a little over 330K last year, close to half of what Santos made last year. My question is, who on the Union roster will come into a game with the opposition looking over at the sideline and thinking… ah $#!+ here we go?

  5. OneManWolfpack says:

    Ilsinho should get what he got last year or small raise… $350k-$375k. Maybe $400k max. He adds an element to the team that is necessary and no one else on the roster currently provides. Don’t blow this over a few bucks.

  6. I love “license to Il”sinho. I have no idea where the sticking point is with the deal, but I would not pay him an exorbitant amount of money. I understand the stats and what happened when he was on the field last year. I also saw how that effectiveness waned down the stretch. He’s also a year older and not going to be a starter unless there’s a rash of injuries. So, for me, paying him this season the same amount or more than last season makes no sense. I’m thinking Ernst offered between $150-200k. I think that’s reasonable. If Ilsinho finds, at his age, that number insulting, than so be it. As I’ve said before, I’d much rather let a player go a year early than a year too late. Now is NOT the time to overpay for Ilsinho.

    • What I’ve read on some Twitter exchanges (including his alleged sister?) makes it seem like he was offered the same as last season’s salary: $330,000.

  7. Joseph Barnett says:

    someone else will pick him up for sure and pay 400K at least. There is nobody on the roster who other teams need to double team. Nobody,,,. Giving him away and letting fafa go make the union a slower team and a team without 2 game changers when the situation arises for more speed or ilsinios craftiness.

    Who and how are they going to fill the goals with??????

    Love Kascper but he was hurt at the eend of the season.

    Nice defensive signings but looks like we may not be scoring enough goals to win enough games to advance in the standings ,

    Need to make an offensive move next. Look for forward/ attacking midfielder by March 1st or sooner to stay on pace. ok Ernst Mach Schnell!

  8. Kacper not training on the turf? Glass feet. What a pity. When do we expect his first injury?

  9. Without Ilsinho, we would have been worse than a non-playoff team last year. We would have been irrelevant.
    There were so many articles on the league site about #Skillsinho and what he meant to the team. Matt Doyle brought him up in almost every discussion of the Union.
    His presence justifies at least last year’s salary, purely in media exposure. And that’s without even discussing his impact on the games.

  10. a Quandry of Insolence says:

    In a 34 game season, Mr. Elastico will play in about half, mostly due to his inevitable injuries-they’re seasonal… the flu. In those games that he participates in, roughly half of those he will be the difference in. The rest he will range from ineffective to invisible.

    What is the going rate for that?

    GM demands a fuller commitment to a system he can’t function in, and invariably the staff will see fit to spot start him when the time for that to be an option has passed him by.

    MLS’ 2019 “Golden Hoagie” * super sub * award winner is in a bit of a box, no?

    Thought Tanner kind to even give him a choice based on his contributions there.

    Contributions :/: minutes played = ………..

    • This is a fair assessment. One could argue the “system” comment, though. The club is committed to high-press/transition, but has shown flexibility in formation from 4-4-2 diamond to 4-2-3-1 to 4-2-2-2 (U2 all year). When Ilsinho came on as a sub, it was typically done with a shift to the 4-2-3-1. That will still be an option with or without him.

  11. I would also argue that in the later stages of the season, teams started to figure out how to deal with him and lessen his impact. I suspect they’ll have it figured out right from the start this year. I think he will not approach anything close to last year’s stats and paying him more will simply have us lamenting another “overpriced” player. I love what the guy did for us last year, but it’s a new season and new team.

    • Joe Barnett says:

      bring back Jack Mac…. Still need to fill the goal assist gap if both Fafa and Ilsinio are gone. With what?with who? Like Kacsper but he is also injury prone. If he goes down santos will never be able to do it alone. Oh I forgot we have another forward who could not even crack the starting line up.. Talk about limited value and limited contribution. I have already forgotten his name Andrew something. Our. Poor forward signings are starting to blend together.. I say what the beck resign Jack Machinerney a fan favorite
      Give him a second chance nothing to lose.and he is under 30 and available playing in San Fran arrea. Still scoring goals and would match perfectly with Kacsper or Santos. Come on Curtin bury the hatchet and bring him back.

      • Uh no. Jack is a poacher. He’s not a high energy guy. He’s not fast. He would not fit in a high press system. Thanks for the memories though.

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