In his first chat with Philadelphia-area media, new Union striker Sergio Santos said he focused on both style of play and potential for development when he chose to make the move to Major League Soccer from the Chilean Primera division.
“I’ve spoken with a few different players around the league — some in Philadelphia — and some that I’ve known from Brazil, and they describe it as a great opportunity,” Santos said from Brazil on Friday.
A native Brazilian, Santos has been in Chile since age 19 pursuing professional soccer opportunities. The striker had a breakout season in 2018, knocking in nine goals in the Clausera and one goal in the Copa Sudamericana. He speaks Spanish and Portugese, and used Spanish to communicate with media.
“He likes to be the player that makes the difference for his team,” the translator explained. “He is also a player that likes to go and put a lot of pressure on the other team, and pressure their defense when they have the ball.”
This description fits extremely well with the Union’s style of play last season and the increased emphasis on pressing and transition that Ernst Tanner has highlighted in his own press conference Friday.
“I think he’s the perfect fit for our future playing style and can cover quite a lot of positions in attack,” Tanner said.
Santos’ move from Brazil to Chile meant he did not receive the academy-driven training that many young players receive. Yet he has managed to grow into a dangerous attacker for Audax Italiano, and he now sees the need to augment his natural ability with the type of training and tactical work the Union offer.
“I think one of the things that really drew me to the United States and MLS is that it offered me great opportunities to become a better player and become a very distinct player in how I play the game,” he said.
Tanner and Technical Director Chris Albright apparently sold Santos on Philly’s project by emphasizing the opportunity for development and the positive atmosphere within the club. “The Union front office came down to see me in Chile to understand and get to know me as a player, and I thought that was very interesting that they took the time to come all the way down there and see who I was as a player and get to know me a little bit,” Santos said. “They explained to me a little bit about the United States: Good economy, being a family at the club — we’re a family down at my club in Chile — and that really appealed to me, to be a family up there in the United States.”
Santos also emphasized that the success of other South American players in MLS made it clear that he would have a stage to showcase his talent as he refines his game.
“I think that MLS is in a really good spot right now; it’s a great league and it’s in the public eye right now,” he told the media. “Philadelphia’s in a great situation right now with the style that they play, able to get forward and hopefully play to my strengths. It’s a great opportunity for me to be in Philadelphia and the United States as a whole.
“It’s a great opportunity for us as players to come in and better ourselves as players and get some more experience and raise our station as players and the possibility of advancing our careers is always a great opportunity,” he continued.
In the end, Santos seemed excited to move to a club that would allow him to use his pace and energy to impact the game on both sides of the ball.
“I hope I can score a lot of goals and win some championships and bring a lot of happiness to the club,” he concluded.
Union fans, of course, will be hoping for the exact same thing.