Analysis / Philadelphia Union II / Transfers

Homegrown striker Pierre loaned away to Sweden

Photo Ben Ross

A second Philadelphia Union roster move became public Thursday, January 11 that attracted less attention than the earlier news about Kai Wagner.

Union homegrown striker Nelson Pierre, 18.8-years old, was loaned away to Swedish second division side Skovde AIK for the 2024 season. Since the announcement did not mention a purchase option, we assume that there isn’t one. We expect Pierre to return for 2025 as his contract with Philadelphia is guaranteed for 2025 with an option for 2026.

It may be that Pierre has not yet shown himself ready to contribute to the first team beyond being a squad player for practice. That inference is grounded in his later 2023 game performances in which he seemed to have plateaued. In addition to not scoring or assisting much, he needed further “engine building.”

A few potential reasons for the loan away to Sweden jump out. The first involves roster mechanics. The next two are mental. Another is physical. And another may involve some sibling dynamics.

  • As the first team gathers to head out for phase one of preseason in Clearwater next week, it was going to have 32 players on its roster – one more than the league’s maximum limit of 31. A season-long loan eliminates the problem, so the loan may be as simple as roster management.
  • Loaning Jose Riasco last fall into Uruguay’s first division at Boston River improved him enough to make him a candidate for signing by the Union itself.  One and a half seasons in MLS NEXT Pro had not done that for the Venezuelan. Perhaps there is hope for a similarly successful stimulus to the young man from central Pennsylvania.
  • Having a player leave the familiar organization through whose academy he has climbed for several years can also be a stimulus, one of difference. Cole Turner, then of Philadelphia Union II, was loaned away for a few months to El Paso Locomotive of USL Championship at the end of 2021.  Turner subsequently commented on how much being on his own in a new place had taught him. Once, back in his academy days when Pierre was in a scoring slump, he was moved to center back as a new, different stimulus. Going to Sweden for a year will be new, different, and require new life skills, not the least of which will be the Swedish language.
  • Pierre’s “engine building” as Earnie Stewart used to call it needs further work and perhaps the Swedish club can provide the minutes necessary. By the end of last season, he was not getting enough minutes in MLS Next Pro, probably because reliable offensive production was sparse. And now, Sal Olivas will need his own chances.
  • The loan could also perhaps involve older brother-younger brother dynamics in some way. Center back and younger brother Neil Pierre turned professional with Union II last summer and will be evaluated for a possible future with the Union itself. We need to respect a family’s privacy and restrain further speculation. The older brother might need an opportunity to succeed in his own right separately and away from the emerging success of the younger.   Siblings can sometimes be complicated.

We have no idea why the loan is to this specific club in this specific league. Perhaps there is an Ernst Tanner connection to a “striker whispering” coach who needs a young, good athlete to absorb minutes.


  1. .
    Compelling rationals Tim. Still find it very interesting.

    • Thanks, El P!
      I was taken by surprise. I had expected a year-long loan to Philadelphia Union II, I was guessing David Vazquez.
      But judging the quality of play in MLS Next Pro at the end of 2023, Pierre is a more logical candidate.

  2. Mark Zolandz says:

    I hope we get more off-season news. So far, it’s been underwhelming. If loaning out Pierre and re-signing Kai are all the team is going to do, at least drop the new home kit to give fans something to get excited about for next year…

  3. Looks like Perea was sold to NYCFC for $800k in GAM. Hopefully the Union have some plans for that money.

  4. Tough to tell. Probably not.
    Orlando got more guaranteed GAM on paper from Philly than Philly got from NYC by $100,000. But Orlando’s take is spread over two years. Whether Philly has to pay 2024’s money even though Perea is traded is likely but unknown.
    It seems fair to assume that Philly did not have to pay Orlando any of the deal’s conditional money since Perea did not play much with Philadelphia. That could be wrong, however, if Perea’s play with NYCFC while on loan counted. Logically it could. We civilians have no way to know.
    The other reason I think Philly probably lost money is that Orlando had a sell-on fee percentage. So they may get get some of the GAM Philly has realized from the sale to New York.
    Without comparing the two actual contracts to each other, answering your good question must be only speculation, Josh H.

  5. Vince Devine says:

    Not sure how you count 32 players. Even with the already loaned out Richard Odada and Pierre and the newly acquired Berdecio, and assuming Bedoya returns, there’s still only 30.

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