CHESTER — The majority of the Union’s signings in the last two windows have not worked out.
Both players signed last summer, Richard Odada and Abasa Aremeyaw, never played a game. Aremeyaw is gone. Odada is away on loan. The three acquired in the winter have had their moments, but only Damion Lowe remains a regular contributor.
Part of the struggle, sporting director Ernst Tanner said last week, is the narrow needle he has to thread, seeking substantial impacts in limited opportunities from players arriving on modest fees.
“For the money we are signing, all the transfers are risky transfers,” Tanner said. “That’s what I told ownership.”
Most of the moves were sealed with general allocation money, a use-it-or-lose-it mechanism, which required the casting of a wider-than-usual net. One of the struggles Tanner faces in identifying talent is that few (though an increasing number of) teams employ the transition style the Union prefer, extending the acclimation period. An example is Jesus Bueno, who in his third year is finally clicking.
The need for depth hasn’t met preseason fears. Wednesday’s 2-2 draw in Charlotte was the team’s 42nd game, on the way to 50-plus. The squad has avoided long-term injuries, and Jim Curtin is resistant to rotating his squad, so opportunities haven’t been there. The starters are well established – as Tanner put it, expecting Odada, on a transfer fee of a reported $200k, to displace Jose Martinez is a tall ask.
“The purpose was always to strengthen the roster depth in order to be more competitive in order to rotate more,” Tanner said. “Everyone was telling you at the beginning of the season and at the end of preseason that we have the best bandwidth in our roster we’ve ever had, and that was the purpose. If it turns out to be not applicable because we do not rotate, they do not play.”
One consequence is a modest loan army. Andres Perea made just one start, though he scored a league goal and added a pair in CONCACAF Champions League. After 146 MLS minutes with the Union, he’s up to 478 on loan with New York City FC.
Odada is on loan to Danish side Aalborg, where he’s scored a goal in three appearances and has worked back into the Kenyan national team.
Tanner left the door open to a future for Odada and Perea, both just 22 years old, in Chester.
“If they can come back and they have more trust in themselves, they have minutes and they get more confidence, then they can try again,” Tanner said. “Why not if they’re doing good? That’s the purpose of a loan.”
Things haven’t worked so well for Brandan Craig, the United States Under-20 center back on loan at Austin, which then plucked veteran Matt Hedges from Toronto FC’s fire sale. (Austin was bounced two-and-out from the Leagues Cup, so there were no minutes there.)
Tanner targeted Austin so Craig could play. Tanner would’ve preferred Craig play for Union II instead of sitting the bench in Texas, but Craig felt differently, and the Union accommodated the player’s wants.
“It’s a ride on the edge of the razor blade because you never can predict if someone is doing well when you loan them out,” Tanner said.
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One player who has continued to grow, literally and figuratively, is Jack McGlynn. Tanner is in no rush to sell the midfielder.
McGlynn came back from the CONCACAF U-20 Championships like gangbusters last year, leading to 23 appearances and nine starts. He has 21 and nine in league play already this year.
Last year, he produced a goal and three assists in 1,008 minutes. This year, in all competitions, he has three goals and four assists in 2,098 minutes. He’s been an unused sub just once and has played a part in all 19 games since returning from the U-20 World Cup in June.
He is also, Tanner said, still physically growing from his measured 5-11 frame. (He has an older brother who is 6-4 and only turned 20 in July). His exquisite left foot is matched by evolving defensive aptitude.
So Tanner isn’t in the mood to offer discounts to a European suitor when he’s perfectly happy to keep reaping the on-field benefits of McGlynn’s growth.
“In this moment, I don’t think another season in MLS will harm him, and then we will see how he is doing,” Tanner said. “ We can develop him as long as he’s challenged in our league, as long as he likes it. He’s an increasingly more important player for us.”
Source: Berkshire mont