Following a wild Monday of movement at Philadelphia Union HQ, technical director Chris Albright held a phone conference with members of the media.
Here's the transcript of Albright's call that touched on roster moves, departures and most notably, the acquisition of former Sporting Kansas City striker C.J. Sapong:
Thanks for joining us on the call today. We obviously had some player movement today regarding our roster. I just want to start off by thanking Amobi [Okugo] for his services to the Philadelphia Union the last five years. Amobi is obviously a guy that I had the pleasure of playing with as well. I have a lot of respect for Amobi as a competitor and want to wish him the best in Orlando. I’m also really excited to add C.J. Sapong today. C.J.’s a guy that we’ve had our eye on as an organization – part of that was me being a competitor against him. And part of that was him being a guy that came up through our PDL system (Reading United) that we were very familiar with through Brendan Burke as assistant coach. When we had the opportunity to make a move for a guy like C.J. we pulled the trigger and we’re really happy about the addition.
On how much allocation money the Union received for Okugo and how much flexibility it gives the Union
Per League policy we’re not going to comment on allocation money amounts. I would say that we’re really happy with the money that we got back in the trade and I would say that we had a good amount of flexibility this offseason to go out and continue to add in positions of need. I think you saw that today with a move like C.J. and our roster will continue to develop as the season continues.
On hoping to reinvigorate C.J.’s career like Andrew Wenger
It’s funny you say that because C.J. and Andrew [Wenger] actually played together at Reading [United]. I think that’s what we’re hoping for. C.J. is a young guy with quite a resume and a lot of experience in our League. I think he gives our attack a real dynamic element with his versatility, athleticism and ability to score goals. One of the things we talked about was to try to get bigger, faster and strong in the offseason and he certainly checks all those boxes. We’re looking forward to him being very productive for us this season.
On the decision to trade Union and getting value back
I think it’s a big plus [to receive value in return]. We have had discussions with Amobi and his representation and we knew that he wanted to test Europe. Frankly that’s a risky proposition when a guy is out of contract and we could come back with nothing in return. So we saw some real value in the deal with Orlando and to be able to erase some of that uncertainty and have some real value in hand to have flexibility in the offseason to address positions of need I think was something we were very happy with.
On Amobi’s possible future in Europe
Without getting into to many specifics on the deal, our deal with Orlando was contingent upon Amobi agreeing with Major League Soccer and Orlando, so I don’t believe Europe is an option anymore.
On what Amobi has meant to the Union
Amobi has been a valuable member to this club on and off the field. He’s a guy that was a competitor that played multiple positions when asked. That being said, I think that Jim [Curtin] and I want to put players in positions that they are happy in going forward, as well. We want to do right by players and we feel that this is a move that does right by Amobi and puts him in a position to be successful going forward.
On why they decided to part ways with Brian Brown
We have difficult decisions this offseason. I think that in Brian’s case it was a loan that we weren’t quite comfortable with the numbers moving forward for next year. We think Brian has a tremendous about of upside, especially around the [18-yard-box], it was something we took a chance with last season and we still think very highly of Brian, I just think budget-wise it didn’t make sense for us to extend that loan.
How much of C.J. Sapong being young, healthy talent do with the move to Philadelphia?
C.J. is unique because he’s a guy with a resume that still has upside if that makes sense…he’s played in 10 playoff games and has won an MLS Cup and I while I think youth is certainly a big part of it, it’s the winning culture that is a credit to [Sporting Kansas City head coach] Peter [Vermes] and his staff in Kansas City that we hope is infectious in our locker room. I know he has good relationships with a lot of guys on our team like Andrew Wenger, Ray Gaddis; guys that are winners as well. He’s an important piece of the winning culture we are trying to build. He understands the sacrifice it takes to win an MLS Cup and he was a big part of that success in Kansas City. He’ll only be 26 which means he’s just entering his prime and we are really thrilled to see what that looks like in Philadelphia.
On decision to decline contract of Conor Casey
Some of these [situations] are still playing out. I would say that per our statement today, there is still ongoing discussions with guys regarding contracts and there are a lot of mechanisms with the League that we have to get through here in the Expansion Draft and Re-Entry Draft that we have to get through here in the next few weeks but there are ongoing discussions with Conor and other guys [on our roster].
On the decision to release homegrown player Cristhian Hernandez
I would start by saying that Zach [Pfeffer] and Jimmy [McLaughlin] from the homegrown side are guys that we have come to terms with an agreement with going forward here, so that’s exciting from a homegrown side that we are still producing. In Cristhian’s case the roster is a numbers game. we are looking to improve from a number of positions and I think Cristhian is a guy that we know well, [head coach] Jim [Curtin] certainly knows well from his days at the Academy and he’s still very young and has a bright future. We wish him the best.
With acquisition of Sapong does technical feel forward corps is complete?
We are far from completing our roster, we are looking at help from multiple positions and that’s both international and domestic. I have been traveling quite a bit in the last month as my wife will tell you; but we are far from complete. To the fan base as I can tell you what it’s like to be a fan in this city, is to evaluate our roster come March as there is a lot to be done [in the immediate] and a lot that can still develop.
Thoughts on fan reaction to Okugo move?
We feel that we got excellent value in the situation were in given the uncertainty that there was. Again, it’s value that we now have that gives us flexibility to add in the positions where we need to add. As far as fan base reaction, look Amobi has been here a long time and that is going to be an obvious reaction. We are operating in the best interest of trying to win next year and we saw an opportunity to get value in an uncertain situation and we decided to move on that.