Photo: Daniel Gajdamowicz
And now for another edition of “What’s BS, and what’s the real truth?” about Philadelphia Union. PSP readers may know this better as Cheesesteak vs. Roast Pork in the grand battle of great Philly sandwiches, but I’m not going to push that metaphor any further than readers are willing to run with it. (So seriously, if you like it, say so, because I love it.)
In any case, I talked to some folks close to the Union, including manager John Hackworth, to get the rundown. Here’s what I learned.
Carlos Valdes to San Lorenzo — injury history blocking deal?
Reports emerged from South America this week regarding a deal for Union center back Carlos Valdes to go on loan to Argentine side San Lorenzo, with an option to buy the Union’s rights to Valdes for $800,000. Depending on what report you read, the situation is either:
- Valdes had failed a physical due to past knee problems;
- A deal is imminent;
- Involved parties were spreading misinformation about Valdes to gain leverage in driving his transfer value down;
- No deal was happening.
Here’s what’s going on.
Valdes, 28, does have a history of knee problems, but that is almost ancient history for him. Valdes had previously injured anterior cruciate ligaments in both knees, according to Union officials, but his last surgery was in 2005. Since then, he has had no knee problems, and he passed a physical with Independiente Santa Fe.
As far as the center back’s injury history being a legitimate problem, don’t believe it.
“There’s no truth to that at all,” Union manager John Hackworth told me today.
The Union are continuing to try to secure a loan deal for Valdes, which could be finalized any day now, so that he can comply with Colombian national team manager Jose Pekerman’s directive that Valdes should play in South America if he wants to start for the Colombian national team in the World Cup.
Discussions have focused on a loan with an option to buy the 60 percent of Valdes’ rights that the Union hold. However, the Union also want to maintain the flexibility to sell Valdes elsewhere if San Lorenzo (or whichever other team acquires him on loan) decides not to buy him, particularly if Valdes has a good World Cup that hikes his transfer value.
Valdes is under contract through this season, but the Union hold an option to renew his contract for 2015, according to a reliable source close to the Union. So they have time in the long-term.
In the short term, they effectively have to seal a loan or outright sale by Jan. 31. If that doesn’t happen, the default scenario is for Valdes to return to the Union, although another Argentine side, Rosario Central, has emerged as a possible alternative. With Jeff Parke’s trade to D.C. United, the team needs a veteran center back to pair with Amobi Okugo, a role that Valdes would fit perfectly. However, his high salary cap figure — $321,000 in 2013 — would likely necessitate the Union making other personnel moves to make room for him.
Union center back options
The Union are looking to acquire a veteran to pair with Okugo in central defense. They acquired 23-year-old center back Ethan White in the Parke deal and center backs Kevin Cope and Richie Marquez in the MLS SuperDraft, but one of them would have to seriously impress in training camp to provide enough comfort that the back line could adequately shield Zac MacMath or Andre Blake in goal.
“We are looking for a veteran, but we also want to give White, Cope and Marquez a chance,” Hackworth said.
Jeff Parke’s trade to D.C. United surprised many people, but it was something he requested due to personal reasons. He also was the caliber of player that United was demanding in exchange for the top spot in the allocation order, which United knew the Union wanted to use on Maurice Edu.
Nogueira and Edu
The Union are nearing deals for both Sochaux captain Vincent Nogueira and U.S. international Maurice Edu. They have till Jan. 31 to complete both deals.
Edu’s salary would be much lower than the $1.2 million figure that many have reported, one Union official told me. That doesn’t surprise me. When I first heard about Edu potentially joining the Union about two weeks ago, I figured his salary would be somewhere in the area of $500,000 to $700,000. We’ll find out soon enough.
Edu is quite worth signing at that price, and those who argue otherwise are incredibly short-sighted.
Critics dismiss Edu as a defensive midfielder comparable to Kyle Beckerman or Ricardo Clark. That is inaccurate, as I wrote last week. Edu has never played as a mere defensive shield for his past clubs, but rather as a box-to-box, two-way center midfielder, and that is almost certainly how he projects for the Union. Those who say Edu is not even an MLS all-star ignore the fact that he was so good in 2007, when he was MLS rookie of the year and the first pick in the SuperDraft, that he earned a £2.6 million transfer to Rangers in Scotland.
Many focus on Edu’s ill-fated signing with Stoke City in 2012. Yes, he has failed to regularly crack the first team there, although he played well on loan in Turkey last year.
But many seem to forget Michael Bradley encountered a similar situation in 2011 when he played just three games during a half-season loan to Aston Villa. What happened next for him? He went to Italy and played so well that he earned the nickname, “General Bradley,” for his prowess as a midfield general.
If you get the chance to sign a quality 27-year-old center midfielder with European and World Cup experience, you do it. The fact that he’s American is just a bonus.
Don Anding to sign with Kansas City
Last year’s top pick, Don Anding, looks set to join Sporting Kansas City, according to a source familiar with the situation. After Anding cleared the waiver draft, teams were allowed to claim players on a first come, first serve basis. In this case, Kansas City appears to have claimed him first, beating Toronto to the punch. His deal would likely be at the league minimum salary, I’m told.
Anding was picked in the second round last year, as the Union had traded away their first round pick for Bakary Soumare. The Union had taken him with an eye toward converting him to left back. It’s not clear yet what role he would play for Kansas City, who play a 4-3-3 that is very dependent on wide players with speed and crossing ability, both of which Anding could potentially offer.
Union formation in 2014?
We’ll start with the necessary disclaimers: Formation are fluid. Form, injury, and international call-ups can change a lot of things.
But if the Union can close the deals on Nogueira and Edu, they have the midfield pieces necessary to play the 4-3-3 that Hackworth has said he wants to play.
Left winger: Hackworth has said he wants recently signed designated player Chaco Maidana out on the left wing, although he can also play more centrally in the No. 10 role.
Right winger: You have Sebastien Le Toux and Danny Cruz out on the right wing, and each is far more natural in that role than in the true right midfield role each was often asked to play last year.
Midfield trio: Then you have Brian Carroll at the base of a midfield trio playing defensive shield for the back line, with Nogueira in the trio’s more attacking role and Edu playing box to box.
Center forward: Finally, you have Jack McInerney or Conor Casey in the No. 9 role.
Will the Union play a 4-3-3? Time will tell. Without Nogueira and Edu, they don’t have the personnel to excel at it. Also, if Conor Casey and Jack McInerney can replicate their peak 2013 form, it would be tough to regularly keep either on the bench. A 4-4-1-1 seems a good alternative, with a center midfielder (probably Carroll) sacrificed for the additional forward.
Either way, the pieces could be falling into place for a Union team that is very fun to watch next season. Come Feb. 1, we’ll know for sure.