Philadelphia Union’s Ernst Tanner looking for forward in MLS offseason


Now that the Union playoff adrenaline rush begins to wear off, attention turns to the team’s plans for the offseason.

Later this week, we’ll find out which players have contract options for next year that have been selected or declined, and which players are out of contract the team will want to keep.

Then sports director Ernst Tanner will start his winter shopping. And before Union fans post any personal wishlists on Twitter, they might want to know if Tanner’s matches theirs, especially a position.

“I’m going out and right now I’m dealing with the attacker, that’s clear,” he told The Inquirer on Tuesday. “We will certainly have a very good addition that matches our requirements. This is what we are aiming for.

The Union must increase its firepower, not just to score more goals. Kacper Przybylko has done better this year than some fans believe, with 17 goals and four assists in 43 games in all competitions. He also forced the own goal that briefly put the Union ahead in Sunday’s Eastern Conference final loss to New York City FC.

»READ MORE: The night COVID-19 beat the Union | Mike Jensen

But Przybylko has played in each of those 43 games and played at least 80 minutes in 32 of them. And for a long time at the end of October, in the thick of the playoff race, Przybylko was the only viable striker available while Cory Burke and Sergio Santos were both injured. Even though Burke and Santos missed Sunday’s game, the situation in October was even worse.

Let’s be clear, too, that “viable” is a key word. Matheus Davó was part of the squad, but only saw the field once in an 18-minute appearance against New England on September 3. He wasn’t even on the matchday roster last Sunday, even though he was in good health. There’s little reason to believe the 22-year-old Brazilian will be back after coming here on loan in August and winning a prorated game of an annual salary of $ 253,000.

All of this cannot happen again if the Union is to repeat this season’s exploits next year.

That said, if the Union can keep the core of the squad together this winter and boost the attack, they should be in contention again in 2022. Indeed, with Tanner’s screening and the quality of the academy of the young people, the Union is poised to be one of MLS’s elite teams.

Tanner is rightly proud of the fact that under his leadership the Union has totaled the most regular season points in MLS over the past three years. They also completed their two deepest playoffs and won their first trophy, last season’s Supporters’ Shield, for the regular season points title.

READ MORE: Jim Curtin knew how bad the odds were against the Union – and that his team almost beat them

It’s no exaggeration to say that after sales from Brenden Aaronson and Mark McKenzie and the retirement of Ray Gaddis last winter, the Union has exceeded expectations this year by finishing second in the season standings. regular of the Eastern Conference. They also went to the Concacaf Champions League semi-finals and reached an MLS playoff conference final they would likely have won with a healthy squad.

Tanner is worried about upsetting the strong culture of his locker room. He noted that putting a stack of money into one player can annoy other players, and there are many precedents in MLS and around the world for this. But he also knows like everyone else that the recent success of the Union has raised the bar higher.

“We were spending for players like [Jamiro] Monteiro, we spent for [Dániel] Gazdag, ”Tanner said. “We will now, certainly, go out and [will] spend on an attacker. This is what we do. But it must be reasonable and appropriate, given our environment.

Tanner also knows he needs to move. The start of next year’s pre-season camp is less than six weeks away, with the regular season starting in late February and ending in early November for the fall World Cup in Qatar.

Also, don’t be surprised if the MLS calendar stays that way in the future for better weather at the end of the season.

A late February kickoff has been on the table in league circles for a few years now, and this season’s title game would have been in November had a labor dispute not postponed the start of the season. regular from early March to mid-April.

In other words, the Union’s very first game in December could be the last for a long time, regardless of its record. But if the offseason goes well for Tanner’s search, there should be a lot more playoffs ahead.

READ MORE: Union to start 2022 season against Minnesota on February 26 and open new Nashville stadium on May 1


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