Philadelphia Union end of season roster moves announced

It’s been three weeks since the Philadelphia Union season ended with another one and done playoff appearance. All of the work that the best Union team in the history of the franchise was gone in a puff of smoke. Now it’s Ernst Tanner’s time to take an axe to the existing roster, and make this Union team his own.

Union players left to right: Cory Burke, Ray Gaddis, CJ Sapong, Fafa Picault and Borek Dockal lineup before taking on Minnesota United FC.

On Monday, the Union announced their end of season roster moves. The organization announced the players who are still under contract, the players who had options picked up, the players who had options declined, and the players who are out of contract.

Players staying:

The Union have 10 players who have guaranteed contracts for 2019. They are:

Goalkeepers (1): Andre Blake.

Defenders (3): Mark McKenzie, Matt Real and Auston Trusty.

Midfielders (5): Brenden Aaronson, David Accam, Alejandro Bedoya, Anthony Fontana and Haris Medunjanin.

Forwards (1): CJ Sapong.

In this list there are starters and players who will be working to getting more minutes for the Union in 2019. Young guns, Matt Real, Anthony Fontana, and Brenden Aaronson will be looking to make their mark in the new look Union side next season. CJ Sapong and David Accam will look to bounce back after down years. Andre Blake will be in-goal for the Union yet again; in front of him will be the young talented center back pairing of Mark McKenzie and Auston Trusty. The midfield duo of Alejandro Bedoya and Haris Medunjanin will also be back for 2019, however they may take on different roles.

This is a good foundation of players to have, but much of the Union’s 2018 roster had options to either be picked up or denied for the 2019 season.

Player options picked up:

The Union have picked up the options of seven players:

Goalkeeper (0)

Defenders (3): Jack Elliot, Olivier Mbaizo, Keegan Rosenberry.

Midfielders (3): Ilsinho, Derrick Jones, Fafa Picault.

Forwards (1): Cory Burke.

We see some important players kept for the 2019 season. The name that really sticks out is Keegan Rosenberry. The Union’s starting right back is back for another year, and hopefully longer. Jack Elliot will also be back to continue after his two positive seasons. The Union also exercised their option to keep Oliver Mbaizo the young versatile defender. He had a great year playing with Steel FC last year, now he’ll be fighting for a spot in the Unions 18.

In midfield Derrick Jones will return. He has progressed very well over the last two seasons, with a shift in the way Philadelphia play give him the opportunity to become a starter? We’ll have wait and see. Ilsinho will be back for another year, likely to relinquish his role as dangerous super sub. If he can get more fit, we could see him even more in 2019. Fafa Picault will also come back to build off his great 2018 season. His role might change as he could be a viable option to be a second striker.

At forward the union opted to bring back Cory Burke. His breakout 2018 season gives the Union a good option at forward. However, his role may change depending on what the Union do this offseason. If Burke is moved to bench player because of a higher caliber striker is brought in, he would be a great attacking sub for the Union.

The options picked up help the Union keep some vital pieces. The players who had their options declined include some names no one would have thought would be there in the past.

Player options declined:

Eight players have had their options declined by the Union:

Goalkeeper (1): Jake McGuire.

Defenders (3) Richie Marquez, Josh Yaro, Fabinho.

Midfielders (3) Marcus Epps, Fabian Herbers, Adam Najem.

Forwards (1) Jay Simpson.

Many of the guys who had their options declined by the Union were apart of their youth movement from the last few seasons. Defenders Richie Marquez and Josh Yaro were supposed to be the center backs of the future in Philadelphia their decline over the last two years, coupled with the rise of Mark McKenzie and Auston McKenzie, has forced them out of Philadelphia. The same types of things happened with a trio of midfielders.

Marcus Epps, Fabian Herbers and Adam Najem all had their options declined. Epps showed promise when he was on the pitch, showing a knack for scoring goals, however it’s likely he wont fit the Union’s system moving forward under Tanner. The same can be said about Fabian Herbers. This time last season he had his option picked up by Philadelphia, but didn’t take advantage of any oppertunities given to him. These two lauded young pieces are gone now, along with Adam Najem. Najem was brought in two years ago to develop as an attacking midfielder. The emergence of homegrown attacking mids Anthony Fontana and Brenden Aaronson Najem slid further down the depth chart.

Jake McGuire has had his option declined as he does not look like a valuable backup goalkeeper for the Union moving forward. The Jay Simpson experience is now over as he will not be back with the Union in 2019. Of course now that he is gone, the Union discuss the possibility of playing in a two striker system. The most surprising denied option may be Fabinho. While he has had a diminished role over the past year, he is a great leader and depth option. Because of this the Union are trying to negotiate to bring him back under different circumstances.

Players out of contract:

Five Union players are out of contract heading into the 2019 season:

Goalkeepers (1): John McCarthy.

Defenders (1) Raymon Gaddis.

Midfielders (2) Warren Creavalle, Borek Dockal.

Forwards (1) Kacper Przybylko.

Let’s start with the player that sticks out like a sore thumb from this group, Borek Dockal. The 2018 MLS Assists king will likely not be returning to Philly. His loan has expired, and Chinese club Henan Jianye likely want him back. Dockal also expressed his interest of going home to the Czech Republic and being where his family will be most comfortable. While this is sad for Union fans, it seemed to be inevitable, getting it out-of-the-way in November is better than losing him in January or February.

Defender Ray Gaddis, and Midfielder Warren Creavalle both are out of contract and have negotiations ongoing with other clubs, so it is unlikely they will be back in Philadelphia. I’m sure the Union would want to work a contract offer or Gaddis, but he should have the chance to start at his natural position right back with another club.

Philadelphia’s own John McCarthy, is out of contract and while he would love to stay in his hometown, he also wants to play more. Therefore, it is unlikely he’ll be back with the Union. He has shown enough over the years that he can be an MLS starter. I’d expect him to be on another MLS roster starting in 2019.

The odd name on this list is Kacper Przybylko. The striker did not play for the Union in 2018, but has been a great model for the teams apparel on social media. The club may bring him back in 2019, but only if they don’t find another striker this offseason.

Current Roster:

With all of these moves made, there are currently 17 players on the Union’s roster. Here’s a breakdown of those players:

Goalkeepers (1): Andre Blake.

Defenders (6): Jack Elliot, Auston Trusty, Mark McKenzie, Olivier Mbaizo, Matt Real, Keegan Rosenberry.

Midfielders (8): Haris Medunjanin, Derrick Jones, Alejandro Bedoya, Anthony Fontana, Ilsinho, Brenden Aaronson, David Accam, Fafa Picault

Strikers (2): Cory Burke, CJ Sapong.

Obviously, there is room for improvement in this squad. Players will need to be added to round out the roster. A few DP signings would be nice too!

Time to go to work:

Ernst Tanner has said that he and the Union staff are going to scout now to find more players to fill the roster. I’ll have more on that in a look at Ernst Tanner’s end of season press conference.

The Union will look different in 2019, the personnel that stay will have to show their quality to keep their place. Now Tanner, Curtin and the front office will have to get to work to make this team actually look like an MLS contender. They are climbing a steep hill with the resources offered to them by ownership. Should they be able to find and acquire quality players fans may actually stay onboard, fail to do so and it’ll be abandon ship for many who have followed this team since before they even played a game.

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Peace out Union fans!

Mandatory Credit:

Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

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