Stage 2 of the MLS Re-Entry Draft was nothing short of frantic, with 10 teams scooping up unprotected players in the first round. Philadelphia Union weren’t among the active clubs, deciding to pass with the third overall pick. The Union lost two players, Chris Seitz to Seattle (later dealt to Dallas) and Fred to New England.
There was plenty of talent still available when Philadelphia were on the clock, including Juan Pablo Ángel, Jeff Cunningham and Frankie Hejduk, among other high profile names. Some may wonder why the Union sat tight, but in the end it came down to roster composition for Manager Peter Nowak.
MLS rules stipulate that a drafting club will be required to make a genuine offer to an out-of-contract player within seven days of the selection. Thus, the technical staff presumably determined that they weren’t interested in any of the available players at a salary level they believed would be accepted -- at least not more so than their interest in alternative domestic or international options.
“We have a certain number of players we’re looking at right now,” Nowak explained on a media conference call after the draft. “Entering at this stage of the Re-Entry Draft … if there’s someone interesting who is going to fulfill our requirements in the salary cap, the money we have at our disposal, then we are going to be interested, but we don’t want to tie our hands up right now on December 15th.
“We still have a long transfer window to make the best selections possible. … We believe that we have time to find the right guys for our team, and make sure they are the right guys we really want and they are going to help our team. … But you have to be careful how and what, and make sure our books will be in the right position not only for today and tomorrow, because it’s easy to spend all of this money and then try to figure out later what’s going on.”
In addition to the recent loss of Alejandro Moreno and Shea Salinas in the Expansion Draft, Nowak must now figure out how to fill the voids left by Seitz and Fred.
“It’s difficult to lose players,” he explained. “We have to move on and find the necessary replacements and make sure the quality will be the same or better. As of now we have a lot of resources and we’re going to improve the roster even though we lost those four players in the past month.
“We’re going to make this roster better. … Of course the strategy for the combine and SuperDraft is we’ll see what’s available for us, what we can make work for us, but (we will) also pursue a lot of overseas players to make our roster better.”
[inline_node:288359]One avenue available to the club is targeting a Designated Player. Much like his position on the Re-Entry Draft, Nowak preached discipline and the overall structure of the roster.
“A Designated Player was never not an option,” he said. “It was always something on our mind and we’re looking and proceeding with many options. (We’re looking for) the right guys with the right price. It’s easy to throw money out the window.
“The most important thing is we want to structure a team where every position has two guys, and good guys … the competition makes the team better. We’re going to assemble the team this way. We’re going to make the necessary acquisitions to make this team better.”
Philadelphia's Re-Entry Draft strategy also re-emphasized the club’s commitment to the long-term, a continuation of trading for two additional first-round draft picks in the 2010 SuperDraft.
“We need to look at this asking what our future is going to be,” Nowak said. “We need to get guys who will fulfill roles today but also in three years. Some day Peter Nowak and all these guys aren’t going to be there, but the team will need to be there in place and structured the right way so that we’re not going to go every single year needing $100,000 here or $100,000 there, allocation money, and needing to sell players. That’s not going to happen at the Philadelphia Union – this is the way we are going to do business.”
At this stage, it’s hard to judge Philadelphia's decision to be prudent during the Re-Entry Process when so much of the club’s offseason strategy has yet to unfold. Far more will be known when First Kick rolls around, but even then the final verdict won't be delivered. It's clear that Nowak and the technical staff have a plan, and evidently selecting one of the players available in Wednesday's Re-Entry Draft wasn't a part of it.
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