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Union II announces end-of-season roster moves

Photo: Marjorie Elzey

Philadelphia Union II announced its end-of-season roster moves Friday morning.

The club released or declined options on Saed Diaz, Jamoi Topey, David Rabadan, Steve Kingue, Issa Rayyan, Yomi Scintu, and Zach Zandi. All other contracted players are set to return in 2021.

Data points

Three professionals survive towards 2021’s Union II. All three were signed after Ernst Tanner was physically present in Philadelphia.

  • Shanyder Borgelin, 19.2-years-old, a striker, signed April 5, 2019
  • Selmir Miscic, 17.9, a midfielder/false 9 striker, September 12, 2018
  • Ben Ofeimu, 20.2, a center back, signed January 23, 2019 

With Union II leaving the USL Championship, it remains unclear where next year’s side will play.

The roster announcement states “the club is currently working closely with Major League Soccer on next year’s competition format.”

It also quotes sporting director Ernst Tanner: “Union II will continue to prioritize competition and player development on their pathway to the pros. As we continue to remain focused on investing in and developing our academy players, the returning and upcoming players on Union II will benefit greatly from a competition format that allows for a streamlined approach and strategy in a completed infrastructure.”

What have we learned?
  • That three Union II pros survived indicates the new competition format allows signed professionals who are not on MLS contracts. That creates new questions: what kinds of contracts, with what entity, how do they interact with NCAA eligibility, and so forth.
  • Borgelin lost an entire season of development between the virus and his broken foot. He is still young enough to realize the potential Ernst Tanner saw when signing him. The pipeline is thin at striker. And not bringing him back would discourage others from being honest about their injuries, if his injury were perceived to have cost him his chance.
  • Miscic signed when Tanner was present but not yet officially sporting director.  He will turn 18 January 23, 2021, so he still has time to grow and develop. And when he was signed it was rumored there was competition for his signature, so his contract may have included more years than usual.
  • Ofeimu played the second half of Bethlehem’s 2018 playoff-game-winning season as an Academy amateur in front of the new sporting director. He is the oldest survivor at 20.2 years old. His return reinforces that Tanner does not view recent homegrown signing Brandan Craig as a center back. Ofeimu may be the youthful half of an insurance policy against Mark McKenzie leaving without a rapidly ready replacement. Aurelien Collin would be the older half of that policy.
  • Earlier rumors that the new competition venue might be an MLS reserve league are reinforced by the club’s working closely with MLS on the new competition platform.
  • Tanner’s circumspect “completed infrastructure” with its “streamlined approach and strategy” echoes his language-style during player negotiations. He does compare the new format favorably against the USL Championship, but gives no corroborative detail. He  makes it fair to infer that negotiations remain in progress.
  • “Streamlined” might refer to geographic regionalization, the way Germany’s non-professional divisions  are organized below the top three professional ones. MLS would not need anything so complex, since it will total only 30 teams by 2023, but U.S. Soccer — one of the presumed stakeholders in the negotiations — might have interest.

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