Thanks to some draft day deals at the MLS SuperDraft, the Philadelphia Union came away with just about everything they wanted.
On January 14, Jim Curtin, Earnie Stewart, and the rest of the Union coaching staff along with a busload of Sons of Ben supporters made their way to Baltimore, Maryland in what was sure to be an eventful draft day. After having traded away all first-round draft picks in the 2015 draft, the Union were set up nicely by entering the day with the number 3 and number 6 overall selections. After losing some of last year’s starters due to a lack of resigning, trades, and loans, the Union were in search of two talented players who could fight for the starting role.
While boasting about the strength of the current draft class, Coach Curtin had this to say to Dave Zeitlin of MLSSoccer.com:
“I think it’s a deep class, which is good to have two picks in. There maybe isn’t the sexy striker that everybody looks for, the goal-scorer, but there is some real talent there. Earnie has already mentioned that he’s been impressed in what we’ve seen, so we are pretty confident that however this shakes out, we’re going to get two very strong players at three and six.”
And that’s exactly what they did – but not before trading up for Colorado’s second overall pick in a draft day trade. Specifically, the Union sent allocation money and homegrown product, Zach Pfeffer, to the Rapids. Though he was not a starter, the 20-year old helped secure the Union’s first win of the season with an extra-time goal. The kid showed a lot of potential to be great player and ultimately, the Union got good value for him.
With the second overall pick in the draft, the Union went ahead and drafted Georgetown centerback, Josh Yaro. And in an admittedly very strategic move, the Union drafted fellow Georgetown defender, Keegan Rosenberry. Both Yaro and Rosenberry have played with each other in the past as they were positioned right next to each other at Georgetown. Sporting Director Earnie Stewart, had this to say about the decision to MLSSoccer.com:
“That’s major for us in what we want to do. We want to be together, we want to be a team, and two players that have played together in the past and for the next coming years are going to play together, that’s going to be fantastic.”
After securing their much needed back line, the Union’s next selection at No. 6 would go to German attacker, Fabian Herbers. Herbers is a player with a natural goal scoring ability and with the Union’s record last year, a goal scorer was in high demand.
The last pick of the night for the Union came in the second-round where they picked up George Mason leftback, Taylor Washington. Washington was a good selection due to their depth issues defensively. As a left back, Washington can hopefully try and fight for the starting role against current starter, Fabinho.
So what does this all mean for the Union…?
Well there were pickups made defensively which was a necessity. The Union already have a CONCACAF goalkeeper of the year nominee in Andre Blake, and with the signing of Tranquillo Barnetta last summer and the addition of Chris Pontius from DC United this offseason, the midfield will be strong (especially if team captain, Maurice Edu, moves from defense to defensive midfield next to Vincent Nogueria), and after a breakout year, having C.J. Sapong up top with the possibility of re-introducing Sebastien Le Toux as a forward (and, barring formation, have Herbers be a rotation player). It’s already shaping up to be a half-decent year.
Lastly, Curtin had this to say on the team’s decision to enter the draft defensively minded:
“We know we needed to strengthen the defense. We’ve given up too many goals in the past two years, so that was a priority. It’s important to stress that the defenders we all drafted can play with their feet too. They’re not physical, bruising guys. They can all pass out of the back and be the first line to start our attack and start our possession.”
So in the spirit of embracing change, lets hope that this is the beginning of the road for our championship run.