Big fee, depth key to Trusty deal

After the Union’s record-setting 2019 season, Ernst Tanner was clear: This was only the beginning. To remain a perennial playoff team, the club would need to use their academy to both produce talent that could help the team win and become a valuable resource that could be bundled and, with the benefit of analytics and good scouting, turned into an even more formidable roster.

That model sometimes leads to hard decisions, and today Tanner made one such difficult choice when the Union acquired a club-record return in allocation money for homegrown defender Auston Trusty. The Union will receive up to $750,000 in allocation money from the Colorado Rapids, a number that far exceeds the $500,000 maximum they could end up with from Columbus as part of the David Accam trade last season.

$300,000 in TAM arrives in 2020, $300,000 in GAM will transfer in 2021, and an additional $150,000 in GAM — considered more valuable than TAM league-wide — if Trusty hits performance incentives laid out in the deal.

Additionally, key to the agreement, the Union will receive 30% of the sell-on fee Colorado gets if they transfer Trusty outside of MLS before the end of 2022. If Trusty is moved after that date, Philly still receives 25% of Colorado’s return.

Picking up a sizable fee now and part of any future fee Trusty garners is precisely in line with how the Union believe they can value and a competitive edge through their academy. Since player development is neither linear nor easily aligned with a first team’s positional holes, it will sometimes result in a young talent emerging at a position of need — see Brenden Aaronson in an attacking role and Matt Freese as backup goalkeeper — and other times result in a logjam of talent all strong enough to start in MLS — see Anthony Fontana and Matt Real. This latter situation is exactly where the Union find themselves at center back. So, true to his word, Tanner responded by moving Trusty to Colorado for a record return. The young player can continue to progress while the Union receive resources they can immediately pump back into the first team.

Signed in 2016 out of the academy, Trusty established himself as the starting left center back in 2018 but struggled to retain his fine form in his second season as a starter. Jim Curtin, who, like Tanner, never shies away from tough decisions, recalled Mark McKenzie to the lineup for a treacherous run of home games in August. The Union grabbed seven points and McKenzie locked down the starting role ahead of his fellow homegrown.

Notably, McKenzie only slid over to the left center back position because Jack Elliott emerged as one of the league’s better central defenders on the right. The Union finished the season with a glut of talent — all developed by the club — at center back. Trusty, McKenzie, and Elliott are all talented and ambitious, but Trusty made the best trade candidate as he entered the final year of his contract.

Now the Union move forward with the aim of solidifying their 2020 roster as the league deadline to pick up player options approaches. Tanner and his group have a lot of big decisions still to make, and now they have even more assets to use to acquire the talent necessary to challenge once more for the top of the Eastern Conference.

And after establishing himself with the Union, Trusty moves to Colorado with a chance to start, and to prove that he’s capable of helping a team looking to follow in the Union’s footsteps in bringing playoff soccer back to their home stadium.

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