Three Takeaways from opening day of Union pre-season camp

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

Matej Oravec officially joins the club

Oravec is a Slovakian 21-year defensive-minded midfielder. He signed a long-term contract that will keep him with the club for the next three years with a club option on a potential fourth year with Philadelphia. The club declined to disclose the transfer fee.

Oravec will occupy an international roster spot and joins the Union from FK DAC 1904 Dunjaska Streda of the top flight Slovak Super Liga. With FK DAC, Oravec played almost every match last season making 17 appearances including two key starts in the Europa League Qualifiers and Slovnaft Cup – the main knockout cup competition in Slovak soccer.

At just 21-years old, the Union is aiming to cultivate Oravec’s skills and hopefully, in time, sell him as an asset down the line for a significant return on investment.

“He’s fitting exactly what we are looking for,” said Union Sporting Director Ernst Tanner yesterday. “Despite that he is young he is quite experienced playing almost 200 competitive games. Matej did great in the club. He speaks English already. He likes the USA and wanted to come over.”

Oravec will play mainly as a holding midfielder according to Tanner. He will have big shoes to fill in replacing Haris Medunjanin. But it will mainly be a collective effort.

“We need to replace Haris. That’s difficult enough,” said Tanner. “We were looking for a more defensive orientated player in holding mid as we try to reduce our goals against. With 50+ goals against you won’t really win anything and I think I’ve added a few pieces to our roster to make us more stable.”

Expectations may be high, but Alejandro Bedoya takes it as a positive

Last season marked a number of firsts for the 10-year old franchise. First playoff win, highest point total, etc. These superlatives of last year are now going to focal points for fans as a way to gauge the team’s progress in 2020. Can they meet those marks?

“This year should be different,” said Bedoya. “We don’t have the type of players that we lost from last year… but every year is a different year. We’re still going to have a good mix of you with experience and veteran guys.”

For Bedoya, as team captain, his main role is keeping all players on the same page in terms of expectation and motivation levels. He remains up to the task.

“I think it’s good when expectations are higher,” said Bedoya. “I would hope that guys can handle it mentally and it motivates them and that it gets them going. The fact that expectations are higher because of the season we had last year and to try and surpass that, I think is a good thing and guys should be able to feed off that.”

Bedoya mentioned the way in which the season ended as yet another motivating factor for him and his teammates as pre-season gets underway.

“There should be a bitter taste in guys’ mouths from that loss. If we all compete together like we did last year we can hopefully be as good or even have a better season than last year,” said Bedoya.

Where is Ilsinho?

Only one question was asked regarding the Brazilian midfielder/winger. Ilsinho, the 34-year with fancy feet and an incredible knack for creating and scoring goals in the final third, is still without a contract. The club offered a deal months ago but no news has surfaced since. Until yesterday, when Delco Times reporter Matt De George lobbed one Tanner’s way.

Tanner provided a brief answer on the matter. “He just needs to put his signature on the contract. There’s no space for negotiations, he knows it. I think we’ll get him,” said Tanner.

But yesterday afternoon provided some fans with a bit of drama via twitter. It seems simply placing a signature on the contract could be a bit more of a hassle than expected.

With the results Ilsinho provided last season in his limited time on the pitch, it may be a fair expectation to receive an increase in pay. But the official amount offered to Ilsinho months back has not and most likely will not be disclosed to the public. It’s never a positive sign to see family members airing their grievances on social media platforms when talking about contracts. So for now, Tanner and Union fans will hope things smooth over and the creative Brazilian, who may not be a great fit tactically, can rejoin the club for one more season.

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Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union