The Philadelphia Union has its newest striker! The club announced Wednesday afternoon that they have signed forward Tai Baribo from Wolfsberger AC of the Austrian Bundesliga. His contract will run through the 2025 season, with a club option for the 2026 season. Baribo was in Chester yesterday to make things official and to meet his new teammates; he will be able to join the team on the field once his P1 Visa is processed. Philly has a third high-caliber striker. Can Tai Baribo be the difference in this club’s ambition to win a championship in 2023?
New Union Striker Baribo brings more attacking quality
Baribo is joining a Union attack that is already the most lethal the club has ever had. Mikael Uhre (20 goals,) Julian Carranza (24 goals,) and Daniel Gazdag (31 goals) have scored 75 goals over the last MLS season and two-thirds of this current season, aka 60 games including playoffs. The attack has caught up to the rest of the team’s stellar form, and now with the addition of Baribo, it is bolstered even more!
In a span of 61 games over the last two Austrian Bundesliga seasons, Tai Baribo has racked up 27 goals! Add that to the Union’s attacking core’s crazy totals, and you can see that Philadelphia is adding crazy good quality. 27 goals from 61 games equals a goal every 130 minutes for Baribo. His ability to finish in different ways makes him a quintessential Union player; he can finish with his left foot, and right foot, from his head. Baribo is a fox in the box who will look to be lethal when chances come his way.
Because of this ability, and the production that comes with it, it may be hard to keep Baribo off the field for Philly. With a Leagues Cup run ongoing, 11 games left in the regular season, and the goal of making another MLS Cup run, could we see this new striker taking minutes away from players like Uhre or Carranza? The answer to that question is yet to be seen, but the acquisition by Union Sporting Director Ernst Tanner is an intentional one.
Ernst Tanner has done it again
We all know that Philadelphia has been looked at by clubs from all around the world soccer as a place to find quality players ready to make that next jump to a top-five league in Europe. The next player on that list is likely Julian Carranza as rumors have flown around about him being a hot commodity. The addition of Baribo is a little bit of a 3-D chess move by Ernst Tanner. He needed another quality striker to push the attackers on the roster and add more depth to the bench, Baribo ticks those boxes and allows for no drop-off in the team’s performance should Carranza be sold. Here’s what Tanner had to say about his new signing.
“In just two years playing in the Austrian Bundesliga, Tai has proven himself to be an incredibly dangerous and productive striker. We are continuously looking to add to the quality of our roster, and having one of the top scorers in the Austrian league join us will help build on the success of this team. We look forward to seeing what he’ll contribute the rest of this season and going forward.”Philadelphia Union Sporting Director, Ernst Tanner
Tanner knows that this player will have a huge impact on the squad, and it is another instance where the Sporting Director pulled off his negotiating magic. It is reported that Philadelphia paid $1.5 million for the Israeli striker, Baribo; that is well under the reported asking price for him of $2.7 million. The reported amount makes Baribo the fourth-highest transfer fee the club has paid behind Uhre – $2.7 million, Monteiro – $1.9 million, and Gazdag – $1.7 million. That type of price stage comes with big expectations.
Baribo will be relied on this season for sure, whether that be from off the bench or from the start. Looking at his goal contributions over the last 61 games, it could warrant starting minutes sooner rather than later over a player like Mikeal Uhre. No matter what happens this season, the Union now have four top attacking talents on their roster and could be poised for a run to a trophy!
Is Baribo the missing link to a Union trophy win?
Philadelphia’s trajectory in the Ernst Tanner era has gone up exponentially, year-over-year since 2019. That’s four years of raising the bar of this team; from winning a first playoff match, to now getting to and winning MLS Cup. Philadelphia is hoping that this signing will provide the difference they need in terms of attacking quality to go and win something this season.
Philly fell short in CCL falling to their bogey team LAFC in the semifinals. The club also crashed out of the US Open Cup in their first game in a penalty shootout against Minnesota United. The Union is 11 points off of the Supporters Shield leaders, FC Cincinnati’s pace, with 11 matches to play in the regular season, meaning that trophy may be out of reach as well. Only two opportunities are left to hoist a trophy: Leagues Cup, and MLS Cup. Is Baribo the key to getting one or both?
We will have to see if his visa is processed in time, and if he’s fit enough to feature in Leagues Cup for the Union, their fate in that tournament lies in their Round of 32 match tonight vs DC United. However, Baribo will likely be a big factor in Philly’s MLS Cup hopes.
They were missing that quality player of consequence off the bench in MLS Cup last season. When LAFC brought on Gareth Bale, the Union brought on Cory Burke. That was the difference in winning the Cup ultimately for Philadelphia. Now they are hoping Baribo can be that quality off the bench, or push one of their current attacking stars to be that guy. We’ll have to wait to see if this is truly a championship-winning type of signing, but it feels like it could be just that!
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