Philadelphia Union announce 2020 roster construction; Tanner sets the stage for the off-season

Yesterday was quite the day for Philadelphia Union news. After their playoff loss to Atlanta United, the questions of who would be staying and who would be leaving the club were up in the air. Now those decisions have been made.

Mandatory Credit: James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

Back at the end of October, the Union announced the players who had garnetted contracts, had contract options and we’re out of contract. Here’s a refresher of where things stood then:

Guaranteed Contract:

Brenden Aaronson, Alejandro Bedoya, Andre Blake, Jack de Vries, Jack Elliott, Matt Freese, Raymon Gaddis, Kacper Przybylko, Sergio Santos, Cole Turner, Kai Wagner, Andrew Wooten

Option Available:

RJ Allen, Joe Bendik, Cory Burke, Warren Creavalle, Marco Fabian, Anthony Fontana, Olivier Mbaizo, Mark McKenzie, Michee Ngalina, Matt Real, Auston Trusty

Out of Contract:

Aurelien Collin, Ilsinho, Haris Medunjanin, Jamiro Monteiro, Fafa Picault

The Union had 12 players on their roster, with 12 having an option for 2020 and five who were out of contract. As offseason official began after Seattle won MLS Cup on November 10th, things began to become more clear.

Earlier this week, the Union put out their players who were protected and left unprotected for the MLS expansion draft, where newcomers Nashville SC and Inter Miami had the chance to pick five players from any MLS team’s unprotected list. For Philadelphia, they left Marco Fabian and Haris Medunjanin unprotected to the surprise of many. They were not selected by Nashville or Miami, but having two of the most impactful players left unprotected tipped the cap to the Union’s eventual plans.

Players not returning:

  • Marco Fabian
  • Haris Medunjanin
  • Fabinho
  • RJ Allen

The day after Marco Fabian and Haris Medunjanin were left unprotected, news broke that they would not be returning to the club. The news broke on Wednesday morning from MLS reporter Tom Bogert, and then the club announced in the afternoon that this was, in fact, the case.

Marco Fabian’s one season in Philly was up-and-down, but his impact was enough to help the Union win their first-ever playoff game as his goal in added extra time secured the win. While he was not the star player everyone wanted to see, he was an important player, and his loss could loom large in 2020 for Philadelphia.

So too, could the loss of the Union’s best passer Haris Medunjanin. While Haris was a great distributor, he had flaws adapting to Ernst Tanner’s desired style of play. Playing at the base of a diamond midfield, he did great as a field general, but at times lacked the ability to cover ground defensively mainly failing to protect his centerbacks when they were overwhelmed. The loss of Medunjanin could be massive as he was the main distributor for this team and helped create/organize their attacks more often than not. The choice to move on from the Bosnian veteran creates a position of need heading into the offseason.

The Union also did not pick up the contract options for long-time Union player Fabinho, and short-term outside back depth player RJ Allen. Fabinho’s personality will be missed, but I’m sure he will end up working with the club in some capacity, possibly as a youth coach. RJ Allen only featured for the Union in their friendly against Pumas and was only brought into the squad because of an injury to Olivier Mbaizo in the middle of the 2019 season. While these players had options declined, the club chose to pick up options for a majority of their players from the 2019 squad.

Players options picked up:

  • Joe Bendik
  • Cory Burke
  • Warren Creavalle
  • Anthony Fontana
  • Olivier Mbaizo
  • Mark McKenzie
  • Michee Ngalina
  • Matt Real

The Union picked up the contracts of eight players! Three of which are Union homegrowns McKenzie, Real, and Fontana. McKenzie is the penciled in starter after the way he ended the 2019 season, while Real and Fontana will look to push for minutes again in 2020.

Mbaizo is back for the Union. The right-back-of-the-future will have his chance to push Ray Gaddis for the starting spot once again in 2020.

Veteran depth players Creavalle and Bendik are back for 2020. Warren could see an influx of playing time with Medunjanin’s departure, while Bendik will be pushing Blake for the starting spot and Freese for a spot in the Union’s 18.

Burke and Ngalina have their options picked up as well, adding their names to a crowded forward position. Pryzblko and Santos look to be the starters for 2020, and Wooten is in the mix as well, now add the size and scoring ability of Burke and the speed and craftiness of Ngalina. The Union looks to be set at the striker position.

The Union was not only showing who they were keeping and not keeping yesterday, but they also made a trade.

Trusty Traded to Colorado Rapids:

Trusty was traded to Colorado before the roster options were made public. It’s unfortunate that the 21-year-old homegrown won’t be in Philly anymore, however, the club was able to get some good value for him. They received up to $750,000 in Allocation Money, a possible $150,000 in General Allocation Money if Trusty meets certain performance metrics, and also a possible 30% of the transfer fee if Trusty is sold outside of the league on or before Dec. 31, 2021 and 25% on or after Jan. 1, 2022. Ernst Tanner had this to say about the move and Auston:

 “Auston has been an integral part of our defensive line since signing with the club in 2016 and his efforts helped lead the team to consecutive playoff appearances. With the depth of our defensive roster, we believe this is the best move for both the club and Auston. As one of our homegrown signings, we are proud of his accomplishments and wish him the best of luck in Colorado.”  

Ernst Tanner via

While The Union decided to trade Trusty and not pick up his option, they are currently in negotiations with three other players from the 2019 roster.

Option Negotiations ongoing:

  • Ilsinho
  • Aurelien Collin
  • Fafa Picault
  • Jamiro Monteiro.

The Union also announced that they are negotiating with four other players.

The Union has offered a contract to Ilsinho, he’d be a great addition as another spark plug off the bench. I’d assume this deal gets done!

Aurelien Collin was also given a contract by the Union. He was a great personality for the team, and since the Union won’t have Fabinho or Medunjanin in the lockerroom, Collin’s veteran presence could be a welcome one.

Fafa Picault seemed to be on his way out of Philadelphia, but it seems the club wants him back as they sent an offer to him. With the forward depth being extensive, this might not make for the best fit for Fafa. The Union has six contracted attackers already, I’d love to see Fafa back in the Blue and Gold, but it doesn’t seem like it makes the most sense for the player.

Philadelphia has given a contract offer to Jamiro Monteiro as well! This is huge news as it means that Monteiro’s club FC Metz must be allowing the Union to negotiate with Jamiro. Did the Union agree to pay a transfer fee for him, or trigger a release clause for Jamiro? Only time will tell, but will Jamiro sign for the Union? It depends on what other offers there are for him, and if he wants to return to Philly or not. All I know is that if I was Ernst Tanner, I’d be doing all I could to sway Monteiro to come back to Philly!

Speaking of Earnst Tanner, it seems like he is ahead of schedule, and has the stage set for his off-season moves!

Ernst Tanner sets the stage for the off-season:

Ignore that I had Trusty in my Union 2020 opening day 18, in his place I’d love to see Collin.

With the moves that were made yesterday, and the contract offers on the table for Ilsinho, Fafa, Collin, and Jamiro, the Union have 20 players currently on their roster and could potentially have 24 players rostered for the 2020 season soon. That is a good chunk of a roster but leaves some room to add some players for needed positions. Ernst Tanner has his plan in place, and will likely start acting on it now to fill the rest of the Union’s roster for 2020.

Tanner set the stage for another successful offseason. With many positions filled, while also having many depth pieces. While it’s hard to predict what Ernst might do, I gave it a shot.

Admittedly, I put out my ideal 18 before the events of yesterday happened, but I stand by them. I think the Union should be highly persuing Montiero, and it looks like they have been as he has a contract offer from the club. He could be a great piece as we saw last season and could play any position in the midfield diamond.

The Union should also be looking for another playmaking number 10. While I am not a huge fan of one-year rental players, I think they should follow that blueprint again for 2020, while Aaronson is still not 100% ready to take that position.

Philadelphia could also use a more traditional number six now that Haris Medunjanin is gone, that may be a priority as well, even with veteran Warren Creavalle coming back.

Only time will tell what Ernst does, but he’s set the stage and know is time for him and the front office to get to work to round out the roster!

Be sure to come back to Philly Sports Network for more Philadelphia Union, Steel FC, and other soccer content!

Follow our writers on Twitter:

Tim Lovenguth | Jeff Green | Matt McClain| Matt Nissenfeld

Peace out Union fans!

Mandatory Credit: James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

Leave a Reply