This week, the Philadelphia Union signed defensive midfielder Jose Andres Martinez. But that must just be the start as they look to rebuild the team.
The Philadelphia Union were one of the best teams in Major League Soccer last season. While there are plenty of other sides who needed to start over and rebuild, they were not one of them.
And yet, that is precisely what they are doing. Not out of necessity, but based on a desire to better themselves as they look to make a deeper run in the playoffs and establish themselves as an elite MLS force.
The Philadelphia Union are not content with being a decent team capable of making the playoffs. They want to be the best, and even after an excellent season, they are willing to overhaul much of the team that led them to such success.
It started with several major departures. Last offseason’s big Designated Player acquisition, Marco Fabian, will not return in 2020 after his contract option was rejected, while Haris Medunjanin also departed with the expiration of his contract. The defensive midfielder had played every minute of the 2019 season, one of only three players in MLS to do so.
Even more impressively, Medunjanin led all MLS players in 2019 in total passes (2,571), total completed passes (2,182), passes in the opponent’s half (1,521) and completed passes in the opponent’s half (1,217). He was critical to the Philadelphia Union’s set-up. And now he is no more.
This week, however, the Union started to conduct the rebuild. They signed defensive midfielder Jose Andres Martinez for a reported $325,000 transfer fee. In a statement inveiling the signing, sporting director Ernst Tanner stated:
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"“We’re excited to welcome ‘El Brujo’ to the Philadelphia Union. He is an up-and-coming player whose tenacity and athleticism will bolster our midfield going forward. We look forward to welcoming him to the team and an exciting 2020 season."
With Medunjanin no longer at the club, there is an obvious need for a defensive midfielder, and it is clear to see what profile Jim Curtin wants: Medunjanin is a superior passer but struggles when shielding the back four due to his lack of speed and natural athleticism. Martinez, as Tanner details, is not like that. He is industrious, quick, ‘tenacious’.
But as the first signing of the offseason for the Union, there is still much more work to be done. A centre-back is needed, at least one attacking midfielder, a winger, and a DP centre-forward to partner Kacper Przybyllko and aid in scoring goals. Tanner has a lot of money to go out and spend, accumulating a substantial amount of allocation money in recent exits including Auston Trusty, C.J. Sapong and Keegan Rosenberry, but he now has to smartly invest in in the right replacements.
The Union have a busy offseason ahead of them. Martinez is a good start to their spending, but much, much more is required.