Analysis / Union

Update: The six Union loan aways

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As we approach the end of Europe’s various regular seasons, the Union has six players out on loan in Europe and elsewhere. PSP has tracked their basic performances for 2024. Three of them are just or almost 20 years old, while the other three are noticeably older. It is time for an update on all six.

No longer teenagers

Center back Brandan Craig (20.1 years old) is on loan to USL Championship side El Paso Locomotive. The Locomotive have played 12 matches total. They are 1-8-2 in the league and 0-1 in the US Open Cup. Craig sustained an injury in the third match of the season and missed the next six. He has five starts, and a sixth substitution appearance totaling 345 minutes.

El Paso parted ways with head coach and technical director Brian Clarhaut on Friday, May 17, and by Monday, May 20, former Rio Grande Valley head Wilmer Cabrera was announced as its new head. Cabrera had a 20-year playing career and coached at various levels for 19 more including in USLC and MLS. His 2018 Houston Dynamo team defeated the Union in the final of the US Open Cup. Cabrara’s most recent team, Rio Grande Valley, ceased operations at the end of the 2023 season thus making him available.

The coaching change’s effect on Craig will unfold in the coming weeks. PSP currently assumes that he will return to the Union at the end of 2024 and that his option will be exercised for 2025. The assumption arises from Craig’s presumed status as one of three young, future first-team center backs, Olwethu Makhanya and Neil Pierre being the other two.

Striker Jose Riasco (20.3) has been on loan to Boston River of Uruguay’s Primera division since at least August 2, 2023. He was away in January and early February of 2024 as part of Venezuela’s U23 attempt to qualify for the Paris Olympics, during which they advanced to the final round of four but failed to qualify (on goal difference).

During 2024’s preseason, Boston River changed managers from Alejandro Apud, a Uruguayan, to Jadson Viera, a Brazilian. Having missed Vuera’s preseason, Riasco has had to prove himself afresh to a new manager starting from behind. From March 9 through April 20, he made six consecutive appearances, culminating in one start, but he has not been on the pitch since, although he has dressed twice. He has totaled 131 minutes this season.

Uruguay’s first division plays excellent soccer and has often contributed players to MLS. The fact that Riasco has convinced two different coaches that he deserves minutes is noteworthy, especially since coach Viera had nothing to do with the original loan negotiations. Last December the Union’s Sporting Director, Ernst Tanner, stated that he intended to sign Riasco to the first team, after commenting that he had done well last fall. Unless he was “hyping” Riasco’s sell-on value in December, there is no indication that Tanner has changed his mind.

Since the 31st roster slot remains open at this writing, we assume Tanner will pursue the Riasco signing once the 2024 Uruguayan Apertura is completed, but that is an unconfirmed assumption, both in the fact of pursuit and in the timing. Boston River will not qualify for the Championship playoff in June after the Apertura is completed.

Homegrown striker Nelson Pierre (19.2) has been on loan with Swedish second division side Skovde AIK since January of this year. He started a match in February in the Swedish equivalent of the US Open Cup, and then appeared as a substitute in the next two. He has not yet made it onto the pitch in the eight consecutive league games subsequently but has dressed for the last two. He had 102 minutes in the cup competition but so far has none in his league.

Pierre’s Union contract is guaranteed through 2026.

Mature adults

Homegrown left back Matt Real (24.9) was loaned to the Colorado Springs Switchbacks of the USL Championship on April 18 of this year. PSP does not know which team initiated the conversation. Before Real arrived, Colorado Springs had started the season with five consecutive losses. The match two days after his arrival, which he started and played in its entirety, was drawn. Since then, they have won four in a row.

Colorado Springs’ technical director is former longtime Bethlehem Steel assistant coach Stephen Hogan, and its head coach is former Bethlehem Steel defensive midfielder and captain James Chambers. Hogan coached Chambers, who played alongside Real when he played for the Steel first as an amateur and then as a professional.

Given coach Chambers’ leadership skills, the Switchbacks’ turnaround cannot be credited solely to acquiring his former teammate. However, the data pattern suggests Real’s accession did not inhibit its success.

If Olivier Mbaizo’s option is not exercised for 2025 and if current academy amateur Francis Westfield is allowed to matriculate to Penn State, Real’s 2025 option might be exercised to return him from loan as a depth piece. But his age mitigates against that. PSP suspects that his future is playing as an excellent USL Championship left back.

Midfielder and winger Joaquin Torres (27.3) was showcased during preseason and then loaned to Universidad Catolica of Chile’s first division. In the 13 Catolica games since February, he has been absent from in the gameday squad only once, and has not gotten onto the pitch only four other times. He has started only twice, so should probably be classified as a primary substitute in the midfield. He totals 226 minutes so far out of a possible 1,120.

His loan announcement stated that an option to purchase Torres’ contract was part of it and that the loan itself was for all of 2024. In the event that Catolica does not extend Torres an offer, PSP does not expect the Union to exercise Torres’ option for 2025.

Midfielder Richard Odada (23.5) has been on loan to Aalborg AB of the Danish second division since August 2023. Kenya’s starting defensive midfielder has been a jack-of-all-trades midfield substitute in 2023-24 as Alborg has striven to achieve promotion back into Denmark’s top flight. He has had only two starts since Denmark’s winter break and has totaled 209 minutes in that time. His loan is set to expire on June 30.

Subsequent Union roster moves – Sanders Ngabo’s acquisition and Jesus Bueno’s new contract among them – imply that Odada is unlikely to return to Philadelphia.


Here is the data as of Tuesday, May 21, sos4.

Day Date Opponent Result Min Start

Brandan Craig (El Paso Locomotive)

Sa, 9-Mar Hartford L 1-0 90 Yes
We, 13-Mar Monterrey Bay D 1-1 69 Yes
Sa, 16-Mar Louisville L 1-0 13 Yes
Sa, 23-Mar Las Vegas L 1-0 Not in squad
Sa, 6-Apr New Mexico L 3-2 Not in squad
Sa, 13-Apr Oakland L 3-2 Not in squad
We, 17-Apr Union Omaha L PKs 5-4 Not in Squad
Sa, 20-Apr Tampa Bay D 1-1 Not in Squad
Sa, 27-Apr Tulsa L 1-0 Not in Squad
Sa, 4-May Colo. Springs L 2-0   7 no
Fr, 10-May Loudon W 2-0 85 yes
Fr, 17-May Memphis L 2-1 81 yes

Jose Riasco (Boston River)

Sa, 9-Mar River Plate W 2-1   4 No
Fr, 15-Mar Liverpool D 1-1 16 No
Su, 31-Mar Wanderers W 2-0 21 No
Fr, 5-Apr Defensor D 2-2 stge No
Sa, 13-Apr Progreso L 1-0 45 No
Sa, 20-Apr Penarol L 3-1 45 Yes
Sa, 27-Apr Cerro Largo L 2-0 Dressed, DNP
Sa, 4-May Miramar W 3-1 Not in Squad
Su, 12-May Rampla Jrs. W 1-0 Not in Squad
Su, 19-May Cerro Largo W 2-0 Dressed, DNP
Ppd TBD Racing
Sa, 25-May Nacional

Nelson Pierre (Skovdie AIK)

Fr, 9-Feb Djurgarden L 2-0 82 Yes
Su, 25-Feb Goteborg L 1-0 19 No
Su, 3-Mar Nordic Utd W 1-0   1 No
Mo, 1-Apr Orebro W 1-0 Not in squad
Su, 7-Apr Landskrona D 0-0 Not in squad
Fr, 12-Apr Sundsvall L 3-1 Not in squad
Sa, 20-Apr Trelleborg W 1-0 Not in Squad
Tu, 30-Apr Oddevold D 0-0 Not in Squad
Sa, 4-May Utsiktens L 4-1 Not in Squad
Su, 12-May Gefle L 2-0 Dressed, DNP
Sa, 18-May Ostersund W 1-0 Dressed, DNP

Matt Real (Colorado Springs Switchbacks)

Sa, 20-Apr Indy Eleven D 1-1 90 Yes
Sa, 27-Apr Oakland W 2-0 90 Yes
Sa, 4-May El Paso W 2-0 90 Yes
We, 8-May NYC FC II L 1-0 Not in Squad
Sa, 11-May Hartford W 2-0 90 Yes
Fr, 17-May Rhode Island W 3-1 90 Yes

Joaquin Torres (Univesidad Catolica)

Sa, 2-Mar Palestino W 2-0 Dressed, DNP
Tu, 5-Mar Coquimbo L 2-0 28 No
Mo, 11-Mar Everton L 4-2 58 Yes
Su, 17-Mar Audax Italiano D 0-0 14 No
Fr, 22-Mar La Calera D 0-0 16 No
Sa, 30-Mar Huachipato D 0-0 Dressed, DNP
Sa, 6-Apr Cobresal W 2-0 20 No
Sa, 13-Apr Iquique W 3-2 Dressed, DNP
Sa, 20-Apr Colo-Colo L 1-0 45 No
Sa, 27-Apr Copiapo W 1-0 45 Yes
Sa, 4-May Espanola W 2-1 Dressed, DNP
Sa, 11-May O’Higgins W 3-2 Not in squad
Sa, 18-May Univ. de Chile W 2-1 stge No

Richard Odada (Aalborg AB)

Sa, 24-Feb Sönderjyske D 2-2 18 No
Fr, 1-Mar Frederica W 3-2   7 No
Su, 10-Mar Vendsyssel W 4-3 57 Yes
Sa, 16-Mar Hilleröd W 2-1 12 No
Sa,30-Mar* Sönderjyske W 1-0   1 No
Su, 7-Apr* Vendsyssel D 2-2   7 No
Fr, 12-Apr* Hobro L 2-1 14 No
Su, 21-Apr* Kolding D 3-3 Not in Squad
Th, 25-Apr* Frederica L 2-1 Dressed, DNP
Su, 5-May* Hobro L 3-2 70 Yes
Sa, 11-May* Sönderjyske L 1-0 23 No
Fr, 17-May* Frederica W 1-0 Dressed, DNP

Aalborg AB has qualified for the promotion playoffs*


  1. Tim, thank you so much for the research and follow up on our loanees! Always good to know how they are doing.

  2. Gruncle Bob says:

    I second Frank’s comment. Thank you for the info. It’s note possible to find anywhere else.

  3. +1. I am hopeful that Brandon Craig can recover from injury and play regularly. On the USMNT U-20 squad, he played excellent defense.

    • Tim Jones says:

      That he’s started the last two under the old coach is encouraging.
      But whether the new coach will play him is the key.

  4. Great to hear about Matt Real! Hope he contributed to that turn-around!

    • Tim Jones says:

      He has played every minute available in the league, so far. He did not play in the US Open cup match that they lost.

  5. I hate to say this, but in this day and age we need fast, mobile and physical CBs. Brandon’s tremendous skill on the ball is a plus but unfortunately, not the main requirement for his role. I am pulling for him though! Am very happy for Matt! Hope he has a wonderful career.

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