Monday Madness

It’s been a while. The workload at the new job has really ramped up.  With the off-season underway, I am attempting to right the ship here. What better way to start than by reflecting on a hectic Monday that saw numerous big moves from this team? So let’s break them down.

Amobi Okugo

This is one of the major headlines. Kevin Kinkead, Jonathan Tannenwald, and others have really broken this move down well. In a nutshell, Amobi wanted to move. He preferred Europe, but Orlando was an intriguing opportunity.

Can we blame him for wanting to leave though? He got drafted by a manager who rode him on the bench or kept him out of the 18 for most of his first two and a half years. Then his next manager played him  out of position for the next two years. His third manager moved him back to his normal position only to bench him in a handful of games, including the team’s first ever trophy shot.

The Philadelphia Union ruined his development. Imagine the player Amobi would be right now if we had been playing him at defensive mid since Year Zolo. Once his contract was ended, Amobi seemed set to leave. Again I can’t blame him for wanting to.

For the Union, this left us with two possibilities:

  1. Let him walk for nothing and try his luck in Europe. We all know Amobi wants to go abroad. All the Union would get out of this is ownership of his rights should he decide to return to MLS. That’s a big what if that doesn’t help this team now.
  2. Trade him for what you can. In this case, we got allocation money. While it has long been a running joke to see fan favorites traded for allocation money, it is seriously a useful resource. Allocation money can be used to pay down the salary of a player like MBolhi to prevent him from being a DP, opening up another DP slot for us. The money could be used to buy a player like Edu or a striker. The money could even be used to trade for another player.

In this case, we were stuck with two poor options. Either Amobi walks for nothing, or we trade him to a conference rival for something. As painful as it is to see him play for another MLS team against us, the Union did well to salvage the situation and get something out of it.

Sapong

The Union traded the 10th pick in the 2015 draft for the 10th pick in the 2011 draft. Sapong – a player the Union once tried to sign to a homegrown contract- fits the system well. He is big, strong, fast, and a good jumper. He can hold up the ball up top alone and distribute it to teammates.

Some will look at his stats and rightfully point out a lack of goals (20 in 110 appearances). To be fair to him, Sporting Kansas City attempted to turn him into a wide target man. For some players in this league like Wenger and Kei Kamara, that has worked. For Sapong, that does not seem to be the case. Here in Philly, Sapong will likely be moved back up top to his natural position.

Now saying all of this, I don’t expect Sapong to be our star striker this year. We still need a DP signing up top. However, this is a good start to building the depth we didn’t have last year. When Casey lost steam last year, we had nobody but else to bring on. Hell, we even tried to turn Ribeiro into a striker to give us some depth. This year we will Sapong coming off the bench and rotating in, providing us with an actual impact sub.

As for the first round draft pick, the MLS Superdraft is becoming more and more irrelevant as time passes. The chances of us drafting a player better than Sapong – especially given our track record – are incredibly slim. This trade better positions us to right this ship this season.

Expansion List

By now, we have all seen the expansion list, and it has raised a few questions and concerns. I’ll address the major issues.

The Keepers: Honestly, this was a smart decision. Neither team is going to pick up Mbolhi’s contract and blow a DP slot on him. He is virtually safe. MacMath is likely safe as well as Orlando and New York City both have starting keepers. Even if one is picked, it immediately solves the goalkeeping dilemma. Leaving both exposed helped us protect fringe players like White and Williams.

Fabinho: Poor Fabinho has become a major whipping boy, with some wanting to design a rocket with which they will fire Fabinho into the sun. While many are quick to criticize his faults, Fabinho is a much better left back than given credit. He won’t set the world on fire, but he adequately plays a spot that is one of the hardest to fill in MLS. Fabinho has a higher Castrol Index than players like Chris Korb, Leo Gonzales, Michael Harrington, Chris Wingert, and even Philly Union fan favorite Corey Ashe (Credit to chapka at BigSoccer for doing this research). Looking at the stats (which to be fair are usually subjective), trading for Corey Ashe and cutting Fabinho would be a downgrade.

Pulling it all together

Remember that this is the first week of the MLS offseason. Plenty of moves are yet to come. Don’t expect big transfer news until January. However, we have done well to start this offseason. The Union did well to get some resources from Amobi that can be reinvested in either buying Edu or signing a new striker. We also brought in an MLS veteran who fits Curtin’s system perfectly. Finally, we made some fairly intelligent moves with our protected list to ensure our goalkeeping dilemma does not cost us a valuable player like White.

Should we sign the rumored William Kvist, a DP striker, and some young homegrown depth, this roster will be well set up for a deep playoff run. Believe or not Union fans, but it looks like this team has a plan for once.

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