Even though 2021 is only two days old, the start of the 2021 season is quickly approaching for the Philadelphia Union. The MLS season is set to kick off in March, but CONCACAF Champions League will likely kick off as soon as February. This means the Philadelphia Union’s 2021 roster will need to be filled out sooner rather than later. So where does the Union stand on their 2021 roster build?
Philadelphia Union’s 2021 roster build
With an earlier start to the 2021 season, the Union will need to have a handle on their team to get a sense of cohesion. CONCACAF Champions League will be demanding, and should the Union progress past the round of 16, they will likely have to balance the start of the MLS regular season along with this international competition. The roster’s cohesion and depth will be crucial to doing well in both of these competitions.
Who’s staying? Who’s leaving? Who could be coming back?
The Union has 18 players already rostered for the 2021 season and picked up options for seven others. That makes 25 players on the 2021 roster. Of these players, five of them are new homegrown players!
The only players from the 2020 roster that won’t be back with the team are Joe Bendik and Aurelien Collin, who are out of contract, and Warren Creavalle, Michee Ngalina and Andrew Wooten, who had their options declined. For a better look, here are breakdowns of these moves.
Players under contract for 2021: Paxten Aaronson (new homegrown), Alejandro Bedoya, Cory Burke, Brandan Craig (new homegrown), Jack de Vries, Jack Elliott, Matt Freese, Jakob Glesnes, Nathan Harriel (new homegrown), Jose Martinez, Jack McGlynn (new homegrown), Mark McKenzie (soon to be sold to KRC Genk), Jamiro Monteiro, Matej Oravec, Kacper Przybylko, Sergio Santos, Quinn Sullivan (new homegrown) and Cole Turner.
Options Exercised: Andre Blake, Anthony Fontana, Matt Real, Ilsinho, Raymon Gaddis, Olivier Mbaizo and Kai Wagner.
Players out of contract: Joe Bendik and Aurelien Collin.
Option declined: Warren Creavalle, Michee Ngalina and Andrew Wooten.
While there are still some holes to fill in the roster, sporting director Ernst Tanner already has the number of players on the 2021 roster that the club had in 2020. The Union’s process of developing their own talent can be seen in this roster, but there is still room for improvement, and holes to fill.
What type of players can we expect to be brought in?
We know that the Union is set to bring in $13 million dollars from selling Brenden Aaronson and Mark McKenzie. It’s a bit farfetched to think that the Union will use all of that money to buy new players for 2021. However, they now have more than enough resources or sporting director Ernst Tanner and head coach Jim Curtin to find players to round out the roster.
The team needs a third goalkeeper, and a depth centerback, but are there any other spots that could be added?
With Brenden Aaronson leaving, the attacking midfielder role looks to be filled by fellow homegrown’s Anthony Fontana, or Brenden’s younger brother Paxten Aaronson. Do the Union look for another 10 that could possibly come in and start right away instead?
The Union’s striker tandem of Sergio Santos and Kacper Przybylko with Cory Burke off the bench proved to be good enough to win the Supporters Shield. Are those three good enough to carry the Union in 2021? Does a portion of this incoming money go to a more top-rate striker?
There are so many options now with this influx of money. The Union are truly in a spot that hey are not used to being in. Luckily, they have a wizard for a sporting director.
In Ernst We Trust
Ernst Tanner will look to bring in more players to fill in the 2021 roster. While the Union now have more money at their disposal, that doesn’t mean Philly will buy a big-name star. Tanner has a track record for finding diamonds in the rough. I’d expect the Union to buy some 2-3 players whose value is around $1-3 million dollars. This has paid dividends in the past few seasons. With Ernst at the helm, this could put the Union in a great spot heading into 2021.
The Philadelphia Union’s 2021 roster build goes on. Only time will tell when the Union will sign new players ahead of their 2021 season. But now that we are in 2021, time is of the essence. Tanner, Curtin and the rest of the Union front office will be working overtime to make this team a contender. This is a must not only for the 2021 MLS season but for the fast-approaching CONCACAF Champions League Campaign.
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Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire
Philadelphia Union Editor of Soccer Content
A passion for the beautiful game drives me.