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Breaking news: Union sign Richard Odada from Red Star Belgrade

Photo courtesy Philadelphia Union

The Union have formally announced the long-rumored signing of Richard Odada from Red Star Belgrade to a two and a half-year contract with club options at the end of the 2024 and 2025 seasons.

Born in Nairobi, the 21-year-old Kenyan has been playing in Serbia since 2019, when he signed with the Red Star U19s. The senior Belgrade club retained his rights the entire time he was in Serbia, but most of his playing time has come on loans to second-division Grafičar Beograd (25 appearances between the 19/20 and 20/21 seasons) and more recently with first-division side Metalac G.M. (27 in 21/22).

“Richard is a holding midfielder with positional versatility and a great potential to be a valuable contributor as we continue to develop our roster,” said Union sporting director Ernst Tanner in a press release. “He can play multiple midfield roles as well as center back, and he has the height, speed and physicality we were searching for. We look forward to integrating him this year and encouraging his development for the future.”

Odada will join the Union after securing his International Transfer Certificiate and P1 visa, and will occupy an international roster spot once he does.

Read the full press release from the Union here.


  1. Andy Muenz says:

    I wonder if he can also play center back since that is the position the team seems thinnest.

  2. Vince Devine says:

    2.5 year contract with two option years would make those options for 2025 and 2026.

    • Jim O'Leary says:

      The end of the ’24 season is the start of the ’25 season. It’s a tomayto/tomahto situation.

      • Vince Devine says:

        Uh, OK. But not really. 2.5 year contract covers remaining 2022 season and 2023 and 2024. Two option years would be 2025 and 2026 seasons. Our seasons do not overlap calendar years like NFL/NBA/NHL.

    • Uh, Jim is correct. He states club options at “the end of” ‘24 and ‘25 seasons, which means the 2025 and 2026 seasons. He did not the options are *for* those seasons – they are exercisable after those seasons, which means 2025 and 2026. You are saying the same thing; but he wasn’t wrong.

  3. In his comment in the full press release, Ernst Tanner indicates positional versatility and uses the words “center back.”
    In the immediate short-term the most important phrases in the release are “international transfer certificate” and “P-1 visa.” It took Mikael Uhre about a month to get here, and Jose Riasco even longer, last offseason.
    if I interpret the release’s comments about the contract correctly, the club has an option on Odada for 2026. If so, he is the first player with hints toward that season.
    Reports from Kenya indicate the transfer fee is about $200 K. Transfermarkt’s algorithm valued him at $ 330 K. It lists his contract as expiring January 14, 2023. If that is correct, it helps explain how Tanner got him for a reduced cost. Additionally the club to which he was loaned this season has been relegated for the coming year, so they may have been uninterested in keeping him.
    Other internet sources describe him as a ball-winning defensive midfielder. I found no mention or other indication of center back. If that is the plan, he lacks experience, and we all know how much Jim Curtin values experience in his defenders.
    They risked their current numbers 3, 4, & 5 center backs in a Union II match Sunday night to get each player more experience.

    • Andy Muenz says:

      Huge gap between 3 and 4 on the depth charts (to the extent I was thinking they were playing a 3-5-2 on Sunday with one center back rather than 3).

  4. Who goes in the off-season? Martinez? Flach? Bedoya?
    This smells of long-term planning than immediate needs.

    • I don’t know that anyone goes necessarily because of this signing.
      If you don’t count Anton Sorenson who is on loan, the current first team roster is anorexic in its thin-ness. without double checking I make it 23 or 24, and three of those are keepers.
      They are trying to sign Marcos Zambrano from the Academy as a homegrown. whether other homegrown signings are in the works I do not know.

    • Who knows what Tanner has in mind.
       Jose Martinez (28.0), Leon Flach (21.4), Jesus Bueno (23.3), and Cole Turner (21.3) already total four Union defensive midfielders. Adding a fifth is beyond redundant  when there are only three true CBs and Turner — and possibly Matt Real — is playing CB in practice.
      Martinez and Flach have club options for both 2023 and 2024. Bueno is guaranteed for ’23 with an option for ’24. Cole Turner was brought back on an option for this year and may perhaps be out of contract at the end of the season. (As a homegrown no official future contract information has been made available about Turner.)
      Is somebody switching positions? Is someone being allowed to leave early? Is Odada going to spend the next year or two learning a new position? Only the Sporting Director knows!

      • Is 28 year-old Martinez demanding a raise and a multi-year deal that Tanner is not willing to consider?

    • Jim O'Leary says:

      I won’t give away the full column I’m currently working on, but consider how many of the ten(ish) midfielders currently on the roster you KNOW will be here next season.

      And then consider how signings, especially midfield signings, are always better after they’ve had time to gel with the team.

  5. Looking forward to the first time “Who’s Your Odada?” gets used.

    Love planning for the future, but with the makeup of this current team hope he can be a more immediate contributor as well after he clears visas…

  6. Am I thinking an end of the season Midfielder fire sale.

    A little cashing in a little making room.

  7. According to an article I’ve read, a former coach has given him some time at center back. More as a training exercise than an attempt to convert him to a full time CB. His versatility is a key. He prefers DM, but I think with the way our center backs play, he could fit in nicely if he is willing.

  8. He’s 6’3, 180 lbs, putting him an inch taller and 5 pounds lighter than last I saw measurements for Glesnes. This is a super solid depth move. Bring in a solid defensive player who can cover a couple positions and is only 21 meaning you have a great chance of resale down the road.

    Also, I know a lot of people have speculated about Martinez getting sold. I can’t see it now that he’s 28. But I wouldn’t at all rule out a club coming in for Flach. He’s only 22. I still think Odada is adding depth after the transfer of Findlay, but I would not be surprised if Flach is the midfielder to go sooner rather than later.

    • John P. O'Donnell says:

      He’d probably fetch a good amount of Garber bucks. It’s not like Tanner wouldn’t hesitate to sell him in the league. He might actually be worth more selling him here than overseas.

  9. The Chopper says:

    You are always one Covid outbreak away from being a Center Back.

  10. so this is a first team signing?

    • Yes, it is. It is announced as such. He is listed as such on the club’s own website.
      Highly likely that he will be on the senior roster, since the supplemental one is already full or overfull and the senior one is currently short of the minimum 18 with Santos and Findlay departing.

  11. OneManWolfpack says:

    In Ernst We Trust

  12. This signing definitely does not suck. I have a feeling that there will be demand for our homegrown/young midfielders in the offseason. I think this is forward-looking for next season with anything we get this season a bonus.

    • Section 114 says:

      Probably not this off-season. But they will all be gone for May and part of a June for the U20 World Cup, and then could leave next summer, I’d bank on at least one being gone before the 2023 summer freeze in Europe.
      I still hope we sign a pure CB and another forward for depth. But if they shop the free agent Pike we still have a month to fill those slots.

  13. The other thing the Odada signing does, given his possible positional versatility, is to let both of last year’s U17 center backs, Daniel Kreuger and Gavin Wetzel who are both 2006s, use their remaining eligibiility in the upcoming academy season at the U17 level. They will not need to be rushed.

    • Tim, thank you for sharing your thoughts with us in both your comments and articles. You bring a unique perspective that reveals the amount of time you’ve spent observing and thinking… always appreciated. (Not to diminish any other authors or commenters… so many hat tips are deserved. Thank you, all.)

  14. Deez Nuggs says:

    I watched many minutes of the way-too-long glamour reel for this kid. He has a real talent for getting stuck in on tackles, good feet to avoid getting picked, and plays a good forward ball. Looking forward to seeing him!

  15. I like this signing as a move towards the future, but really hope that a 21 year old player with no MLS experience who has primarily been deployed as a defensive midfielder isn’t Tanner’s only move for a central defender this window.

    But there’s still more than enough time for another move to come through.

    • I have an off-the-wall theory, namely, that they were not expecting to have to compete hard to sign Marcos Zambrano.
      He preseason with Union II in FL, but stayed with the U17s while Nelson Pierre got the MLS Next Pro contract. He had an excellent season. And his post-season was a Jouy 4th fireworks display.
      Tommy Wilson has said they are actively trying to retain him in the organization.
      But I’ll bet they did not anticipate how much competition they are getting. Strikers get paid like NFL quarterbacks and baseball sluggers.
      available for practice as I type, Jim Curtin has 24 bodies and three of them are keepers. and the 24th is not regularly eligible for first team games because he is loaned out on a not-recallable loan.
      I think they are saving every dime possible to try to sign Zambrano.

      • If the rumors about the 18-y/o Ghanaian Center Back were to prove true, he is without a club, a totally free transfer.
        Tanner waited until he could get him without a dime in transfer fees, if the young man in fact comes to the Union, or Union II.

  16. Interesting that this news was not worthy given the “high profile” moves… Good.

  17. GREAT… Now Herr Tanner can transfer Martinez anywhere.

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