CHESTER, Pa. – Philadelphia Union manager Peter Nowak and Montreal Impact head coach Jesse Marsch go way back, having played together with the Chicago Fire from 1998-2002.
But on Wednesday, when the Impact select 10 players in the MLS Expansion Draft, Nowak doesn’t expect any favors from his old pal.
“My friends in Montreal, we had a good time together,” Nowak said recently. “But business is business. We’ve got to figure out what the deal is and how we can protect most of our guys and not lose anyone important.”
When the Union’s protected list was revealed Monday evening, one of the biggest surprises was the exclusion of Freddy Adu, the one-time prodigy who came to the club in the middle of the season amid much fanfare.
Adu never got completely on track in 11 games with Philly, but Nowak indicated he was playing hurt for much of the year and that he was excited to see what he could do with a full training camp and season. The Union manager was not available for comment after the list was revealed but the thought is that Adu’s high price tag might make him undesirable for Montreal.
There are a handful of other players the Union could also lose. Full-time starters Justin Mapp and Veljko Paunović were left exposed, as was promising midfielder Kyle Nakazawa.
The Union coaches have gushed about Nakazawa’s potential in the past but the second-year midfielder’s playing time waned toward the end of the season. The 27-year-old Mapp was a regular on the wing throughout the season, playing more minutes (1,861) than all but six other Union players this season. He finished with three goals and four assists.
And Paunović, while adding a boost to the attack as a midseason acquisition, is 34 and had been out of professional soccer for three years before coming to Philly.
Needing to keep at least three internationals on their protected list, the Union went with four: goalie Faryd Mondragón, defender Carlos Valdés and midfielders Roger Torres and Keon Daniel.
Valdés and Torres were no-brainers but some seemed surprised to see Mondragón (only because he’s 40 and has a high cap number) and Daniel (because he missed the end of last season due to visa issues) on the list.
The Union were fortunate to have four players exempt from the Expansion Draft: Mondragón's back-up Zac MacMath (Generation adidas), midfielders Amobi Okugo (Generation adidas) and Zach Pfeffer (Home Grown), and forward Jack McInerney (Generation adidas).
But striker Danny Mwanga’s graduation from Generation adidas forced the club to leave some intriguing players exposed.
Now, a year after losing two players in the expansion draft – Alejandro Moreno and Shea Salinas – the Union can only hope they aren’t saying good-bye to another player heading into the franchise’s third year.
“Obviously it’s an unfortunate part of the business,” Union assistant coach Rob Vartughian said. “We hope we don’t lose anybody. Obviously we got bitten in the process only being a second-year club last year, losing two guys. Hopefully this year we get through it and we don’t lose anybody. But you never know.”