Part of a series reviewing the Philadelphia Union’s 2016 season.
After the Philadelphia Union hired Earnie Stewart to take the job of Sporting Director, the first question in Union fans’ minds was: Will Stewart keep Jim Curtin as manager, or will Stewart will want to replace Curtin with “his” guy? It was a valid question, as the Union had a disappointing finish in 2015. But that question was quickly answered the day after Stewart was hired when Union principal owner Jay Sugarman declared, “Jim is the coach for the 2016 season.” Whether that was Stewart’s decision or Sugarman’s is unclear, but it did enable the new era of Union football to start without the uncertainty that would come from a head coaching search.
With the head coach position settled, the next step was to build the roster of players that would be available when the MLS season started in March.
Before adding players, the team needed to purge some. As December 2015 started, they announced that Eric Bird, Antoine Hoppenot, Austin Berry, Danny Cruz, Fred, Jimmy McLaughlin, and Steven Vitoria would not return.
The Union went on to make the following transactions over the course of the next two months:
- Chris Pontius was acquired from DC United in exchange for targeted and general allocation money. The Union agreed to pay Pontius what we would have gotten if DC had picked up his contract option. The Union got a player who was a proven goal scorer, but prone to injury.
- Cristian Maidana and Andrew Wenger were traded to the Houston Dynamo in exchange for Houston’s first round SuperDraft pick along with general and targeted allocation money. Maidana had a successful 2015 season, with 15 assists (second highest in MLS) while playing the number 10 role. The Union evidently thought Maidana was expendable with Tranquillo Barnetta on the roster. Wenger had a very disappointing 2015 season which drained him of his confidence. A change of scenery was the best move for him and the Union. Maidana was reportedly not happy in Philadelphia, and getting him off the books gave the Union some welcome cap flexability.
- Brian Carroll and Fabinho were re-signed.
- New York Cosmos midfielder Walter Restrepo, was signed. At the same time, they Union loaned Michael Lahoud to the Cosmos.
- Ethan White was traded to NYCFC for a fourth round selection in the 2017 SuperDraft
- Dzenan Catic was put on waivers.
- Options were picked up for Eric Ayuk, Leo Fernandes, Sebastien Le Toux, Richie Marquez, Vincent Nogueira, Zach Pfeffer, and CJ Sapong.
- Zach MacMath was traded to the Colorado Rapids (where we spent the 2015 season on loan) for a second round pick in the SuperDraft.
- Brazilian centerback Anderson Conceição was acquired via loan from Brazilian Serie C side Tombense.
- In the first round of the 2016 MLS SuperDraft, the Union selected centerback Joshua Yaro, centerback Keegan Rosenberry and forward/midfielder Fabian Herbers. In the second round they picked left back Taylor Washington. They rounded out the draft with defensive back Mitchell Lurie and winger Cole Missimo. Yaro was chosen with the second overall pick, which the Union received from Colorado in exchange for Zach Pfeffer and general allocation money.
- Dutch midfielder/forward Roland Alberg was acquired from Eredivisie side ADO Den Haag in exchange for targeted allocation money.
There were also many reports that Scottish Premier League veteran James McFadden was going to sign with Philadelphia, but that never materalized.
Along with the roster changes, the Union also announced they were building a 16,000-square-foot, two-story training complex. The complex would be inside the old power plant building next to the stadium in Chester. The state-of-the-art training complex should make Philadelphia a more attractive desitnation for potential free agents in the future.
Earnie Stewart had done his job revamping the roster. Now it was time to see them play in actual matches as preseason training begins.