Doop Roundup: Philadelphia Union conclude an eventful beginning to 2018 preseason

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The Philadelphia Union have done a lot in the last seven days. Check out this eventful beginning to the 2018 preseason in this edition of Doop roundup!

2018 MLS SuperDraft

Philadelphia Union’s natural 2018 first and second round picks were traded in 2016 leaving them with little to do for the first two rounds of selections inside the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Center City, Philadelphia on the afternoon of Friday January 19th.

Philadelphia’s first selection occurred in the beginning of the third round when they picked the first of two consecutive players. Midfielder Mike Catalano was selected 54th overall. Philadelphia then selected forward Aidan Apodaca with an additional third round selection. This pick (55th overall) and forward Charlie Davies were sent to Philadelphia from New England Revolution in exchange for allocation money and the Union’s natural first round pick in the 2018 SuperDraft back in 2016 as part of what was then somewhat of a blockbuster deal. New England selected D Brandon Bye 8th overall with that first round slot courtesy of the Union Friday afternoon.

Philadelphia’s 2018 second-round selection was sent to New York Red Bulls (NYRB) in exchange for the Right of First Refusal on midfielder Adam Najem. Najem came up as a homegrown player with NYRB but could not agree to contract terms. Once he declined contract discussions with NYRB, he became eligible to sign with any MLS team. However, to negotiate with Najem the Union had to trade for his homegrown status. Najem then signed with Philadelphia mid-February of 2017 as a Homegrown player. If he had not signed, he would have entered the 2017 MLS SuperDraft where he was projected to go in the early first round. A steal for the Union.

Najem played for Bethlehem Steel FC and performed well. The young midfielder should expect to compete for first team minutes in 2018 with the Union. NYRB selected defender Niko de Vera with the pick exchanged for Najem in the second round of the draft.

The fourth and final round of the 2018 MLS SuperDraft produced Philadelphia’s newest midfielder Matt Danilack with the 77th overall selection.

Union made a trade – and it was a big one

However, the biggest move that came out of the Union camp on draft day was the acquisition of a highly successful attacking midfielder in David Accam from Chicago Fire. The Union front office handed out $1.2 million in allocation money for the 27-year-old speedster during the draft’s early stages. The allocation money was disbursed as follows: $900,000 in General Allocation Money (GAM) and $300,000 in Target Allocation Money (TAM). Chicago Fire will receive $400,000 in TAM initially and that sum will expire at the end of August 2019. Chicago also receives an initial sum of $200,000 GAM which expires at the end of May 2019 in addition to a friendly $100,000 from the league following the 2018 season to be used prior to June of 2020.  Following the 2018 season, Chicago will also see a modest $500,000 boost in TAM to be used prior September of 2020.

Hooray for complicated acronyms and money agreements. A bit more on those allocation categories below.

Allocation money is basically extra cash that a team acquires in addition to its salary budget. The allocation money can be used in two formats: as General Allocation Money (GAM) and Target Allocation Money (TAM). The money structures prevalent in the MLS but nowhere else in the world are mainly in place to promote parity year after year throughout the league.

General Allocation Money (GAM)

Each MLS team receives an annual gift of GAM at the start of each season. In 2017, every team received $200,000 in GAM to start the season. In addition to that annual gift, teams can gain more GAM in a variety of ways.

Failure to qualify for the playoffs is rewarded – each team that missed the playoffs in 2017 received $200,000 in GAM. The Union have been raking in GAM utilizing that method for some time now [Zinger].

While not meeting the mark is rewarded with GAM boosts, succeeding beyond measure is also applauded. Qualifying for the CONCACAF Champions League allowed an increase of $100,000 in GAM. Advancing to the Knockout Stage of CONCACAF also earns a team a GAM present ($100,000 dispersed among advancing teams in 2017). Not as high a sum as completely missing the MLS playoffs altogether but a decent chunk of change nonetheless. Once more, parity is important in MLS.

Teams can see an influx in GAM with the sale of players to clubs outside the MLS – which could be the Union if they ever decide to sell Jamaican goalkeeper and MLS standout Andre Blake or perhaps one of the young talents breaking through to the first team conversation. Expansion teams receive a generous helping of GAM to help get things started. One final way teams can accrue GAM is through the purchase of a Designated Player. In this instance a team receives a limit of $150,000 in GAM to use in purchasing the Designated Player (basically makes the player more affordable for the MLS team to bring in). Designated Players are players whose contract salaries are higher than the maximum salary budget. The Designated Player rule was implemented to increase the pool of talented players while not breaking the banks of MLS teams.

Targeted Allocation Money (TAM)

Each year MLS teams received a specified amount of TAM. Over the past three seasons, TAM distribution has increased each season. In 2015, MLS handed out $500,000 in TAM per club. In 2016, that number went up to $800,000 in TAM per team. And in 2017, that number bumped up again to $1.2 million per club.

TAM can be used in a variety of ways just like GAM has several usages. TAM is used to sign or re-sign a player whose salary exceeds the maximum salary budget. The 2017 maximum budget charge was $480,625 per year. A player would have needed to earn more than that in 2017 for a club to use TAM on his contract. GAM/TAM are used to ‘buy-down’ contracts. Think of GAM/TAM as free money that is used to help clubs compete with expensive and talented players without going over the budget.

One savvy way clubs buy down players contracts is to use TAM to remove a player’s Designated Player classification. By doing this, the club now frees up a Designated Player spot on their roster (each MLS team is allowed three DP slots). Designated Players must earn more than the maximum budget charge to be considered as such. Players like Alejandro Bedoya for the Union are Designated Players. TAM can also be used to sign Homegrown players to their first professional contract. The limit to use on Homegrowns was $200,000.

MLS has a lot of complicated player rules involving money – this should all be a separate post anyway. The full descriptions of all of those rules can be found here – if you really want to read it.

Back to Accam trade

The Ghanaian midfielder is beginning his fourth season in MLS. He moved to the league in 2015 after brief stints overseas in England and Sweden as Philly Sports Network’s Jeff Green detailed last weekend. Since then, it seems the entire atmosphere surrounding the club has seen a boost of positivity. After weeks of fans sitting around waiting and wishing for the Philadelphia front office to do something, anything for that matter, the Union signed two homegrowns as apart of their own draft day prior to the MLS SuperDraft and then landing a creative force in Accam. Relief for now.

Fans are genuinely more excited for the season to begin. There was a dramatic shift in the fanbase’s mood in just a matter of hours after the acquisition of Accam was announced. A few days prior, Union twitter was a vicious place to express an opinion as fans seemed to only acknowledge the organization’s past failings and most had no interest in speaking of the 2018 season until a move was made. Accam is the move the people were waiting for.

Accam’s stats have been well documented since the trade was announced. His career-high in both goals and assists in 2017 is a clear sign of his potential impact moving forward. In 2017, Accam netted 14 goals and created 8 more for Chicago Fire. Since 2015, there has only been five MLS players to tally 33 goals and 15 assists over the last three seasons.

https://twitter.com/m_mcclain15/status/956907448438349824

Accam possesses dangerous speed as well as on-ball composure that makes him a serious threat for opposing team’s backlines. With speed on the ball, Accam can cut inside often and force defenders backward under pressure. A defender under pressure is always vulnerable no matter how many years of experience he has under his belt. Central defenders will now have to account for Accam and Fafa’s speed more so than last year. The added weapon on the wing should allow CJ Sapong to play 90+ minutes of soccer without being blatantly battered around with no help from the referee – which seemed to happen often for the goal scoring forward in 2017.

Union finally reveal new primary kit for 2018

Following the buzz surrounding the blockbuster trade with Chicago, the Philadelphia Union organization capitalized on the moment and unveiled the new primary kit for the 2018 season along with an updated crest, a brand new secondary logo, as well as a custom ‘Join or Die’ patch on the back and a snake image on the front of the jersey. In a press release, the organization explained the updates to the kit and logos including how they decided upon the changes.

Philadelphia Union 2018 Primary Kit

Fan research was conducted in hopes of receiving feedback about the club’s on-field look. The overwhelming response was an outcry for change. Doug Vosik, Union Vice President of Marketing for the Union said, “They [fans] wanted something fresh and unique. To help achieve that goal, we’ve landed on a badge and a kit that are both bold and new for us: brighter colors.”

New Embossed Crest

The Union organization took the fans feedback to heart and committed to a complete redesign of the jersey and logo. A completely new secondary logo was released as part of this redesign initiative. The snake design featured in the center of the club’s crest is the main feature of the secondary logo.

New Secondary Logo

A brighter and subsequently more vibrant shade of gold was used throughout the updated main logo and on the secondary as well. The updated crest and wordmark really does pop and the updates are very noticeable. The redesign looks fresh.

New Woodmark

MLS Preseason kicked off this week

The team began their first day of training January 23rd utilizing the University of Pennsylvania Bubble or more formerly known as Dunning-Cohen Champions Field at the University of Pennsylvania. Players were full of energy as they began the 2018 preseason together. The roster has seen a surge of youth as older players like Maurice Edu, Charlie Davies, and the dinosaur Oguchi Onyewu have since left the club. The signing of Matt Real and Mark McKenzie as homegrown players brings the club’s total to five Academy grads.

The first position battle of the preseason kicked off as well this week. The main position battle taking place is occurring at center back. Onyewu’s departure leaves a sizeable hole in the Union’s backline – literally. Rookie sensation Jack Elliot should hold the upper edge to grab one of the two center back spots given his performances in 2017. McKenzie could easily compete for the second center back spot but given his young age and lack of professional experience the challenge may be too much to overcome. Richie Marquez is just 25 but has already been labeled the ‘veteran’ of the group with five years of professional experience. Generation Adidas player Josh Yaro has shown signs of solid defending coupled in with some nightmarish performances. The second center back spot is fully primed for a great position battle as the team travels to Clearwater, Florida soon.

2018 is shaping up to potentially be an exciting year for the Philadelphia Union and their fans. A much-needed attacking piece has been added to go along with a steady veteran filled central midfield group in Alejandro Bedoya and Haris Medunjanin. Sapong should see more space and less punishment up top as the main goal scoring target with the addition of Accam’s pace on the wing. The organization redesigned their look and roster in anticipation of this new season. Now how about a #10?

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Tim Lovenguth

Matt McClain

Jeff Green

Peace out Union fans!

Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

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