Analyzing the offseason comings and goings

Photo: Ben Ross

By Blake Zuschnitt

It’s that time of year again! As the grass in Chester turns from Winter’s frost to Spring’s dew, another season is set to begin on February 25 at the Soob, when the Philadelphia Union take on the Columbus Crew to kick-off the 2023 campaign.

And this season, the club will set their sights higher than any previous season to date as they seek vengeance after one of the most exhilarating (and horribly deflating) MLS Cup games ever played.

Now that the offseason is almost over, the Union look keen to improve upon their accomplishments last season, adding some valuable deep MLS Cup Playoff experience to their tool-belt to prepare them for another Cup run. And some key acquisitions (and departures) made by Ernst Tanner could aid them in their journey to add to their trophy case this campaign. This time, they will have plenty of opportunities to do so, playing in four total competitions.

Who’s departed?

Let’s start with discussing the key departures.  Forward Cory Burke signed with New York Red Bulls, while the club sold Homegrowns Paxten Aaronson and Matt Freese to Eintracht Frankfurt and NYC FC respectively.

To state the obvious, losing players like Cory Burke and Paxten Aaronson is tough. Burke had a valuable, yet unsung, role with the Union as a very reliable striker option off the bench. He was asked to do some heavy lifting last season with Uhre not being 100% to begin the year. His Union career saw him score some very important goals for the Club, and his dependability will be missed.

With Aaronson, the Union are losing a dynamic option off the bench, who saw some important minutes last season. Yet, after seeing the trajectory of his brother’s career after making a similar move to RB Leipzig, it was only the correct choice for his development.

Similarly, Freese was unlikely to play behind superstar keeper Andre Blake, and it made sense for Philadelphia to move him on.


But it wasn’t all outgoings for Tanner and the Union.  The sporting director brought in three players from other MLS sides: Damion Lowe, Joaquin Torres, and Andres Perea.

With these moves, Tanner has delivered exactly what he has stated that he set out to do this offseason. Yet, he has taken a somewhat different route this time around. To help bolster the roster in preparation for the U to play what could amount to 57 games in all competitions in 2023, Tanner has added depth by way of transfers for a varying degree proven talents within the MLS. All three of these signings are poised to become impact players right away for the Union.

Damion Lowe, a 29-year-old Jamaican defender, has 48 caps for the Reggae Boyz and two goals. He appeared in 28 games last season for Inter Miami, and he provides the Union with some critical depth behind Jakob Glesnes and Jack Elliott.

Joaquin Torres joins from an impressive 2022 CF Montreal side, where he had 31 appearances, 3 goals, and 7 assists in all competitions. The 25-year-old Argentinian is a creative attacking midfielder that excels in the wide areas and the space behind the forwards. He is also very solid in tight-quarters, with good vision and will add another threat to this increasingly vibrant Union attack. Stylistically, he offers what Paxten Aaronson provided, with more polish and versatility.

Perhaps the most impactful move Tanner made this offseason was bringing in defensive midfielder Andres Perea from Orlando City. The 22-year-old Colombian and American dual “nat” provides the Union with an additional option at the 6 behind Jose Martinez. He can also afford the Union some increased flexibility in the midfield.

What can these arrivals do?

These offseason moves present the Union with much needed depth for their run at four competitions in 2023: The MLS Cup, US Open Cup, CONCACAF Champions League, and the newly expanded Leagues Cup. With the new additions, we could also see manager Jim Curtin and company become a bit less rigid. As opposed to sitting in the good old fashioned 4-4-2 diamond with the same exact XI every single match, these moves could allow them to become more tactically flexible, an area that has hindered the Union from reaching their full potential in recent years.

For starters, the idea is toyed with every season, but with the addition of Damion Lowe, playing three at the back is a possible reality.  The obvious deployment would be Glesnes, Elliott, and Lowe as the back three, but there are a multitude of variations. Could we see a player like Nathan Harriel in the RCB with Olivier Mbaizo as a RWB? Or maybe even Kai Wagner in the LCB with Leon Flach as a LWB? However, Curtin had opportunities last season with Stuart Findlay to run with three at the back and chose not to. Thus, the possibility is there, but whether it will happen is another question.

The addition of Perea adds so much to the equation that is the Union midfield. Besides the extra depth, it affords a different option than Alejandro Bedoya and Flach at either side of the diamond. His vision, distribution ability, and ball-winning capability could fit right in with the style of Curtin’s attack.

Another way we could see Perea deployed is as a double pivot with Martinez in a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-2-2-2, with fellow addition Torres at either winger position. In games where possession and heavy midfield play is required, can I interest you in a 3-5-2? With a combo of Perea, Martinez and Jack McGlynn in the middle of the park? Oh the possibilities! Clearly, akin to the flexibility the club projects defensively, the variation and multiplicity the Union can run out of their midfield is intriguing.

This season is truly one where the Union can reach new heights. The opportunity is there for Curtin and the Union. We shall see very soon how these acquisitions and departures fully affect and contribute to the Union’s success.

Blake Zuschnitt is a follower of all things sports, especially those sports in the Greater Philly region. He has a specific passion for soccer in Philadelphia, and a newly found passion for writing about it.


  1. Chris Gibbons says:

    Torres is the outlier here. If he’s half of who he’s been described (Ilsinho or Roger Torres), then the team suddenly has their second half adjustment or “kill the game with possession” player and a guy who can beat the whole league off the dribble. Huge, huge get.

  2. The Union Jack says:

    I’m sure its just an oversight, but won’t the Union want to try for the Supporter’s Shield?

    • The main reason for that is home field advantage for the cup, but it is not absolutely necessary. We got it in ’20 now we need the Cup!

  3. Brandon Craig will also factor into a 3 man backline as well.

  4. Ernst had an A+ off season… and the transfers that did not happen only strengthen us.

    The one thing I question is that the draft pick goalie must be ‘something’. To enter the season with Bendik as back up, well, no disrespect to Joe, but we need additional options with over 50 potential matches thia season.

    Can’t wait for Feb 25th!

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