Union Take a Break from Shrewd Foreign Moneyball to Bolster Depth via MLS Trade Market

photos via USA Today Sports

A little more than one year ago, Philadelphia Union Sporting Director Ernst Tanner made a low-risk move in acquiring Inter Miami striker Julian Carranza on loan. Union fans were intrigued but also somewhat indifferent, trusting that Tanner may be able to find marginalized talent within Major League Soccer in the same way he had struck gold with the foreign signings of Kai Wagner, Jakob Glesnes, and countless others.

The Carranza move went on to be a slam dunk, with the 22-year-old Argentina native starting 28 games, playing 2,200 minutes, and bagging 14 goals and six assists for a Union team that went to MLS Cup and lost on penalty kicks. The Union made permanent the Carranza loan and turned a fringe player on a rival roster into a bona fide stud.

Prior to that foray, the Union really didn’t acquire players via trade. They sent some out, like Jamiro Monteiro and Kacper Pryzbylko, but oftentimes went overseas for talent while pulling local kids through the academy. It worked in 2019, 2020, and 2021, so there was no need to deviate, but with the success of the Carranza move, the Union went and made not one, not two, but three trades this offseason, bringing in the following players to bolster the best squad in franchise history:

 

Andres Perea

22 years old, a U.S./Colombia dual national midfielder who played more than 70 games for Orlando City and has one appearance for the United States national team. Acquired for $750,000 in general allocation money, with incentives.

Perea can play multiple spots in the Union’s diamond midfield, a right-footed player who can back up Jose Martinez and Leon Flach, or go over to Alejandro Bedoya’s shuttler position, where he operated in the Saint Louis preseason game this week. The acquisition helps alleviate the glut of lefties, whereas last season the Union found themselves in a situation where Jack McGlynn had to go start on the right side despite typically spelling Flach on the left.

He’s not a goal scorer, you might recall this banger Perea hit against the U in last year’s U.S. Open Cup:

 

Joaquin Torres

25 years old, an Argentina product who spent the last two seasons with CF Montreal. Trade details aren’t yet official.

This guy is a 5’5″ tweener who can back up Daniel Gazdag at the #10 position, or play as a second forward in the Union’s system or a withdrawn attacker in a different shape. He’s a prototypical creative South America, small in stature but with a low center of gravity and good on-ball skills. The Union really have not had this type of player in recent years, so his acquisition gives them a little something different to go to off the bench. Most of the CAMs the Union have used since 2019 are good pressing/running/late-box-arriver type of guys (Gazdag, Brenden Aaronson, etc) but they haven’t had a pass-first assist machine since Borek Dockal was here.

Damion Lowe

A 29-year-old Jamaica native with a green card, Lowe has been on the Union’s radar going back to 2013, when he played for partner club Reading United before going #8 overall in the 2014 MLS draft. Like Torres, trade details are not yet official, though he comes over after one year at Inter Miami that was preceded by stints in Egypt and Norway. His time in Scandinavia coincided with Jakob Glesnes’ years at Stromgodset.

Lowe is this year’s Stuart Findlay, a third CB who will be called upon to fill the glut of games on the schedule. He would start for a decent amount of MLS teams and there won’t be too much drop off  when Glesnes and Jack Elliott aren’t on the field. Damion has 48 appearances for Jamaica and has played in World Cup qualifying and the Gold Cup, and at the club level played nearly 200 games across various levels.

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