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A Philadelphia Union blog hosted by Christopher A. Vito and Matthew De George

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Preparing for Re-Entry: Sizing up the Union's possible targets

The theme of the Union’s offseason thus far has been departures – via trade and via the expansion draft. Thursday, the club has its chance to add players via the second stage of the Re-Entry Draft.

This mechanism, which allows players meeting certain criteria who haven’t had their options exercised or are out of contract to be selected by other clubs, is the closest thing that MLS 2.0 (or 1.0 or whatever.0) has to adding via free agency.

Last year, the Union were silent in this phase of the draft – after plucking Corben Bone in the first stage – despite the increased flexibility picking clubs have in negotiating new deals. The Re-Entry Draft, as proven by Eastern Conference champs D.C. United last season, could be the way toward competing in MLS if you find the right pieces.
Colorado's Marvell Wynne could be an option
for the Union in Thursday's Re-Entry Draft. (AP)

First, the Union have 23 players currently on their roster. Of those, 22 (excluding Maurice Edu and the possible renewal of his loan deal) are under contract for next season. Of the 20 on-budget spots, by my reckoning, 17 are spoken for. (That’s assuming that new options for Homegrown Players Jimmy McLaughlin and Zach Pfeffer that Sporting Director Chris Albright hinted at last week move them on-budget, if they weren’t already.) That, coupled with the fact that they possess one second round SuperDraft pick and no first-rounders, gives them some flexibility.

So, let’s throw out some possibilities:

Hendry Thomas. The Union need another holding midfielder, a position where the only two definites for next season are Vincent Nogueira and Michael Lahoud, despite some reported interest in players overseas and Edu. Thomas has international experience with Honduras, will be 30 when the season starts and provides plenty of steel in the midfield, which would free up Nogueira to do more distributing. He’s an injury question mark after ACL surgery in July, but with the performance of 22-year-old Victor Ulloa, I’m not sure he has a job waiting for him in Dallas.

Martin Rivero. Rivero fit in Colorado in 2012, then didn’t quite work in 2014 to the point where he was loaned out to Chivas. Rivero is 25, was paid $50K last year and reminds me an awful lot, in his skillset and descriptions, of what Michael Farfan was hoped to become. The young Argentine seems like a good secondary option to Cristian Maidana, or the kind of change-of-pace player to bring on when you want to transition from counter-attacking to possession-oriented. There has to be a reason – beyond his injury history and fact that “he needs games” – that no one bit on him in the Dispersal Draft.

Sanna Nyassi. The Union could use options on the wing, and who better than MLS’s go-to winger help. Try to ignore the fact that the 25-year-old Gambian has played for four teams in seven seasons. He’s a true winger, a speedy, stapled-to-the-touchline type who can open space for the Union’s playmakers in the middle. His $154,625 price tag isn’t outrageous for his experience level.

Kalif Alhassan. The 24-year-old Ghanaian is an interesting case. He appeared to take step forward in Portland’s stellar 2013, scoring three goals and three assists in 30 games. But last season, he got just 15 games and only five starts. At a club where “winger” has always meant “short forward,” Alhassan could shift the discussion and give the Union a true wide option, plus he’s got the speed to be a terror in the Union’s counter-attacking style.

Marvell Wynne. The Union could use more help at the back, as long as their top option to pair with Carlos Valdes is potentially not returning and playing out of position anyway. Wynne provides a veteran hand who has won MLS Cup but still isn’t that old at 28. He doesn’t solve the lack of a true left back, but he could be a successful mentor to Ray Gaddis if he can be had for less than the $285,000 he made last year. Plus, the lure of playing with old friend Conor Casey from their Colorado days might help.

Oswaldo Minda. I’ve stated before that Minda should be an option for the Union. The Ecuadoran is a year old than Hendry Thomas and made less last year at $168K. Like Thomas, there’s no mystery what you’re getting from Minda: He’s a midfield destroyer, and if both Amobi Okugo and Brian Carroll are gone, then the Union need reinforcements in that area.

Bobby Convey. Let’s be clear: I think Convey, with his global soccer experience, should be a person the Union targets to be part of their organization in some capacity sooner rather than later. Whether that’s as a player, I’m not sure. He’s only 31, but his body has many more miles than that on it. His last three MLS seasons have resulted in 53 appearances and two goals in Kansas City, Toronto and New York. He doesn’t appear to have much left in the tank, certainly not enough to warrant his $147,500 salary. If the Union feel they have a niche role for him in a system, though, they could get him.

Chandler Hoffman. The former first-round pick didn’t leave the Union on the best of terms. But he tore it up in USL Pro last year, he’s 24 and made $48,500 last year. Even with the retirement of Landon Donovan (because there’s sure to be an expensive replacement in the offing), Hoffman’s path to the Galaxy’s first team isn’t clear. Plus, let’s be honest: Doesn’t Hoffman, in terms of potential, bring more to the table than either Antione Hoppenot or Aaron Wheeler?

Atiba Harris.
The Union don’t have the premier starting center forward that they want yet, and though Casey is rumored to be interested in staying in town, there are serious questions about his durability and ability to perform in a substitute’s role. So why not Harris? He’s mobile, and at 6-3, he’d become the most physical forward the Union have, offering a remedy to the team’s set-piece impotence. And he’s knows MLS, playing for six teams (all in the West). He’d have to come down off his $189K salary figure, but I don’t know if anyone is willing to pay him that.

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