Okugo’s Future With The Union Murky, As Team Has Yet To Offer New Contract

I think my tweets on this story were mostly missed by the general fanbase, so I’m re-posting them here:

#DemandMore – Time for the Union to Do More & Move on from Nick Sakiewicz

The following is my first written piece on this site since the passing of Eric Shertz, a friend and Philadelphia Union fan. This editorial will be partially in Storify (click here) form, as what I wanted to say I tweeted out somewhat tonight on my personal account (@scottdkessler). The following will be a statement/editorial, then the Storify (click here) containing the rest of my thoughts.

The latest failure by the Philadelphia Union – a 3-2 loss that came after a 2-0 lead in a game that meant everything for the Union’s playoff hopes – is yet another poor result in a long line of ugly events for the five-year-old franchise. At the helm of the club has been Nick Sakiewicz, the team’s soccer guy in the ownership group.

Since coming onto the scene in Major League Soccer as an award winning executive with the Tampa Bay Muntiny, Sakiewicz has overseen three teams in some form and has not a single trophy to his name (he became president of the Mutiny the month after the club was awarded the Supporters Shield in 1996). In five years with the Union, Sakiewicz has directed but a single year of uninterrupted positive play and results.

The CEO/President/a lot of other titles allowed former head coach Peter Nowak to roam free of restraint, which ended up in a lawsuit in the federal court system. Sakiewicz was there for the bungling of Michael Orozco-Fiscal, who since leaving the Union has started multiple times for the United States Men’s National Team. He was there for what Orozco-Fiscal said were illegal profits for the coaches/management from player acquisitions and departures.

He was there for the sale of Carlos Ruiz, which may have been linked to the Guatemalan striker’s child support payments, to sketchy Mexican second division club Tiburones Rojos de Veracruz 2.0*. He was there for events that made Faryd Mondragon choose to return to Colombia. He was there for team’s PR mishandling of not-even-on-the-team-yet Lionard Pajoy’s CONMEBOL ban from years beforehand.

He was there for the attempted forced march of Sebastien Le Toux, a fan favorite and franchise leader in nearly everything, to Bolton, which saw the striker trial in England while recovering from injury and without the want to move. He was there for the somewhat hasty trade of Le Toux to the Vancouver Whitecaps after his value diminished due to the poorly managed try at the aforementioned Bolton transfer.

He was there for the training water incident that led to the trades of former no. 1 overall pick Danny Mwanga and former (twice) captain Danny Califf.

He was there for Nowak’s rise and fall. He was there for lifting former interim/head coach John Hackworth’s tag too quickly. He was there for the signings of Porfirio Lopez and Fabinho. The return of Fred. The constant decisions to overlook Home Grown Players (Zach Pfeffer – whose contract is up at the end of the year – Cristhian Hernandez and Jimmy McLaughlin).

He was there for the ignorance regarding continually rising academy star Zack Steffen, who stands to move to Europe when he wants. He was there for choices to not give a proper chance at any central midfield position for Amobi Okugo, who has interest from Germany and some from other leagues in Europe as his contract is due to expire.

He was there for the pitiful attempt at appeasing fans by putting in a bid for Michael Bradley that clearly would never win the Union his rights. He was there for the back-and-forth of Carlos Valdes’ consecutive loan deals to South American clubs and failure to negotiate a proper transfer for the center back once he made Colombia’s World Cup squad.

He was there for the firing of Hackworth, perhaps too late. He was there for Rob Vartughian as Technical Director/Assistant Coach. He was there for the “will he? won’t he?” process for Jim Curtin’s job as head coach.

He was there – and perhaps was the person behind the third one in this list – for the choice to draft Andre Blake, anger Zac MacMath and then sign Rais M’Bolhi toward the end of the second MLS transfer window. He was there for when M’Bolhi somehow was of two minds a week ago on Robert Earnshaw’s chipped in goal.

He was there for yet another late season climb to the playoffs after the firing of the head coach. He was there for yet another late season failure to make the playoffs. He was there for what has become the only possible end for the Union – a collapse, both in the standings and the game result.

He has always been there.

It’s time for a change. It’s time to demand more.

The fans – not just the Sons of Ben and other ‘active’ fans – must demand it. The media must demand it. The residents of Chester should demand it.

The team received nearly $90 million from the state/county/city and only had to pay $1.5 million to the city – which they didn’t properly do – and this is the end product. Chester could have used at least some of that money to fix a dying city; an educational system that “failing” doesn’t properly describe; and a business base that has all but dried up beyond Boeing/Harrah’s/and now the Union. The city of Chester is full of basketball fans who don’t identify with a soccer team that has never sought to include them beyond the part time jobs that the stadium needs to fill. Financial stuff was his realm. Team direction his, as well. Decision making at the soccer level all his within the ownership group structure. Hires – Nowak, execs, etc – were all good ol’ boys from his previous MLS days. Chester has to factor into the way the team progresses. It’s not the Union’s fault, but they’re a part of the solution and they’re not helping. The team failing to punctually send payments in lieu of taxes was not the right thing to do, and Sakiewicz’s public calling out of the city multiple times for proposed taxes while his own team didn’t pay their own debts to the city was an equally poor show.

The team is a blight upon the otherwise failing city of Chester.

It shouldn’t be this way. The season that fans watched in 2011 shouldn’t become an afterthought. It should be a regularity.

Email, tweet, call and text about it. Make sure the media that covers the team: the newspapers, the sites, the twitter accounts (etc) know that you’re asking to #DemandMore.

(Now for the Storify of my tweets for the rest of my thoughts, click here.)

To Shertz

A smile.

A simple, large smile.

The most disarming smile in the world, full of love and teeth. Warmness swept forth rather easily from it. People nearby basked in it.

Friendliness flowed from that smile, bringing with it a sense of community.

Whether or not one truly knew Eric Shertz as a friend, his impact upon one’s experience at a Philadelphia Union game was immense.

His influence in games was second to that of his pre and post-game efforts.

Tailgates were not the same without the presence of Shertz, a man who could brighten the room, a fenced in area or a concrete jungle next to an abandoned warehouse with a laugh.

He was a person who was earnest in every interaction he undertook with another human being, from what I could see.

Shertz was also one of the first people I distinctly remember meeting. I suspect it was during my first foray into a Sons of Ben tailgate. If anything, Shertz was at the entrance or close to it, as he always seemed to be when I arrived at tailgates.

A beaming smile would welcome me as I approached the festivities, followed by a friendly hello. Sometimes we’d chat, sometimes we wouldn’t go beyond that greeting.

I knew, however, that at some point that day he’d have time to discuss the game, the team, life or just simply stand around for a beer and a smile.

The beauty of knowing Shertz, at least for me, was that you knew you were getting the opportunity to be around someone who was constantly providing joy unto others.

Looking back on the past four years, it seems as though his smile guided the entirety of an outing at PPL Park, no matter the attitudes of fans based on the end result of a game.

His passing left me with a heavy heart and a sad mind. I love the relationships I’ve built with various people I have met since my original appearance at a game in 2010, but there are certain people who stand out more than others.

Shertz was, and will forever be, one of those special people.

Report: Union Tentatively Agree To Loan Valdes For Six Months To San Lorezno

It may finally be over.

The Carlos Valdes transfer saga will reportedly close today, according to Clarin Deportes, as San Lorenzo will get the center back for half of 2014.

Valdes will go on loan to the Argentine club, which gained popularity last year after it was revealed to be Pop Francis’ favorite team, for six months.

A source told Clarin Deportes that the Union had agreed to the deal verbally, a positive progression in a saga that has lasted nearly two months.

The offer yesterday, brought by San Lorenzo, was approved by the Colombian’s representatives and last night they got the okay of his American club, which agreed verbally.

“Everything is well underway. Tomorrow (today) we would be traveling to Argentina to close everything. We are optimistic, “he told Clarín a source close to the player.

That source also told Clarin Deportes that Valdes turned down multiple offers from a few different countries to head to San Lorenzo.

The defender, born in Cali, arriving on loan for 6 months from Independiente Santa Fe, also played for Real Cartagena, Cali and Latin America. “He wanted to play for San Lorenzo. To get to the Argentine club, he rejected offers from Brazil, Colombia and Ecuador. To him this will be one of the big steps in his career,” the source expanded.

Though Clarin did not disclose whether or not there would be a buy option, there is a high likely hood that Valdes moved to San Lorenzo with one. A Six month loan will put his stay with San Lorenzo to just about the World Cup, where making Colombia’s squad or starting in Brazil will increase his value by a large margin.

The Union traded Jeff Parke, who was acquired in the wake of Valdes’ yearlong loan to Santa Fe last year, for Ethan White, leaving questions about the team’s center back pairing for 2014. Philadelphia is expected to draft a center back high in the first rounder of today’s MLS SuperDraft.

Guest Post: @blogdeMLS Profiles Cristian Maidana

A huge thank you to Brown Lugo (@Philly_brown10), who translated Facundo Trotta’s (@blogdeMLS) writing. Plus a major thank you to Trotta, who wrote this guest post:

Cristian “Chaco” Maidana is an Argentinean midfielder who is 26 years old. We will look over his career and explore his strengths and weaknesses as a player:

Brought up in the lower teams of Banfield , he had his debut in the Primera of the Apertura tournament of 2006. He quickly gained recognition for his technique and his aggressive play. As happens with a lot of young Argentines after a good showing, he got the attention of various European clubs.

Spartak Moscow would sign him in 2008.

His stop in the Russian league was largely affected by adaptation problems, and as a result, the team sent him on loans twice. He first went on loan with Recreavitio de Huelva, of Spain, in 2009, where he played very little and ended up losing his strength. Maidana returned to Moscow and ended up series of injuries which didn’t help him, leading to him being sent on loan again in 2011.

With Huracán, in Argentina, he again showed poorly and had discipline problems, which made the coach separate him from the team. The season ended in the worst way, with the team descending to Nacional B.

Maidana was freed from his contract in Russia, and in 2011 he signed for Rangers de Talca, in the second division of Chile. He went back to his level of play from his earlier years and helped his team go up to the Primera . His level of play was so high that Atlante, from Mexico, decided to buy his rights.

In Mexico, he played for a weak Atlante that had to fight to stay in the top league. Maidana’s playing time was irregular and he participated in two tournaments and had only three goals in 2013, leading to him looking for a new club.

That club was Argentinos Juniors, which had a coach who preferred strong players or technically gifted ones. However, he was in the similar position as in Mexico, with just five games played, pushing him to once again seek a new team.

He can play like an offensive midfielder, is a good passer and has great individual style. If he can adapt to the language and the North American lifestyle (which the writer says he debuts) and without the worries of going into a lower division, then maybe he can play better than he has in the past couple of years.

Official: Union Sign Argentine Midfielder Cristian “Chaco” Maidana

The Philadelphia Union captured their second signing of the offseason, as Cristian Maidana was officially acquired by the club today.

Maidana, 26, will be able to join up with the Union once his P-1 Visa is received. Philadelphia already possesses his International Transfer Certificate.

Though terms of the deal were not disclosed by the Union or MLS because of long standing policies, Kessler Reports has learned that Maidana signed for two years with an option for a third season.

The source could not reveal the salary terms prior to the publishing of this article. Philadelphia stated in the team’s press release that Maidana would be a Designated Player.

The midfielder last played for Argentinos Juniors before his contract with the club ran out this month. He has also played previously for Spartak Moscow, Atlante, Rangers (Chile) and Recreativo (Spain).

Kessler Reports will have a profile of Maidana up tonight.

Carlos Valdes Transfer Saga: San Lorenzo Lodge A Bid, Barcelona (Ecuador) Interested

Here’s your daily Carlos Valdes update (I’ll do them once a day until something truly major happens, i.e. he signs with a team):

  • San Lorenzo is most definitely in for Valdes. His agent said as much today. The Argentine club is the closest to signing Valdes at the moment and for a good reason: they’re playing in Copa Libertadores this season and can afford him, contrary to previous reports.

“We’ve had discussions back and forth to San Lorenzo, the player’s interest is great because it’s one of the big 5 in Argentina and their coach, Bauza, contacted the [Union] coaching staff of the team to make some inquiries regarding San Lorenzo in 2014 and it seems that everything is defined in the next 24 hours, “he said.

  • Barcelona Sporting Club, of Ecuador, is also in for Valdes, although not with an official bid. Their interest comes on the heels of Millonarios essentially falling out of the race and Atletico Paranaense disappearing, as well. Barcelona is well behind San Lorezno in the hunt to capture Valdes’ signature, though.

Pachon added that “there is also interest from Barcelona of Ecuador. They were significantly hurt due to the injuries of Reinaldo Rueda and Jayro Campos… Barcelona immediately contacted us by my friendship with President Antonio Noboa and coach Carlos Ischia, with whom I have friends for many years ago, but the player is closer to San Lorenzo.”

Jeff Parke Traded For Ethan White, Union And DCU Swap Allocation Order Spots

In a trade reminiscent of the offloading of Shavar Thomas*, the Philadelphia Union sent Jeff Parke and the sixth overall allocation order spot to DC United for Ethan White and the first overall allocation order spot.

The first word of the trade came from ESPN’s Marc Connolly, and then followed up by the Washington Post’s Steven Goff (Soccer Insider). Official word may be delayed, as pointed out by The Goalkeeper’s Johnathan Tannenwald, due to a meeting of all Major League Soccer PR staff today.

The general consensus was that the Union had made off in the deal, having traded an aging veteran center back, albeit one of the bright spots in 2013 for Philadelphia, for a young center back with potential and conceivably a recent member of the United States Men’s National Team.

Maurice Edu is expected to be the next player affiliated with the USMNT to either return to or come to MLS. The latest player was Michael Parkhurst, who followed Michael Bradley, and previously Clint Dempsey, to MLS.

The addition of Edu would signal an end to Brian Carroll’s time with the Union and an extension of the curse of the Philadelphia captain’s armband. As reported by Kessler Reports earlier this month, Carroll may have been put on the trade block prior to these events being set in motion.

*In the Shavar Thomas trade, the Union acquired two second round SuperDraft selections that later became Carroll, in a trade, and Raymon Gaddis.

Fabinho Update: He’s “Planning To Return” Says Dave Zeitlin

Kessler Reports previously reported, citing articles out of Brazil, that the Philadelphia Union’s left back, Fabinho, was moving to Serie B. According to Union beat writer Dave Zeitlin, Fabinho  wants to come back to Philadelphia.

@scottdkessler hey #KesslerReports, you have the wrong Fabinho. The Union one is still planning to return to Philly.

For the initial report, I reached out to a few Brazilian reporters/outlets to make sure I was writing about the correct Fabinho, since there is also a Fabinho Alves (the Union Fabinho’s name is Fabio Alves Macedo, which is rather close to Fabinho Alves’ real name, Fábio da Silva Alves), who plays striker.

Unfortunately, perhaps due to the language barrier, it appears that the other Fabinho Alves is the one mentioned in the reports used in my own article.

I apologize for the mistake and will work harder to prevent these problems in the future.

Carlos Valdes Transfer Saga: Millonarios Are Close Or Haven’t Placed A Bid? San Lorenzo out?

Here are three updates from this morning:

  • Millonarios remain close to signing Carlos Valdes. Their attempt to acquire Valdes could come to an end today, with outlets in Colombia choosing to expand Antena 2’s “few hours” time frame from yesterday. Millonarios are the crosstown rivals of Santa Fe, where Valdes came to the Union from and eventually was loaned back to for the 2013 season. Santa Fe’s failure to retain Valdes stemmed from their request to pay his transfer fee in one payment, instead of in installments. The Bogota club wanted to  buy out the Union, who own 60 percent of Valdes, despite Philadelphia stating in official press releases they have purchased his rights in a full transfer.
  • Millonarios may not have put in a formal bid, however, which would make the previous bullet point completely useless. According to Ivan Gutierrez, a reporter with MARCA of Colombia, tweeted this morning that Millonarios haven’t tabled an offer for Valdes.
  • Valdes’ salary and agent bonus demands may have ruled San Lorenzo out of the chase for his signature. A tweet by Colombian reporter Luis Felipe Lucero stated that “high economic demands” had forced San Lorenzo to drop out of talks. That would leave Millonarios, Brazil’s Atletico Paranaense and possibly Santa Fe as the only teams still linked to Valdes.

Philadelphia sports news, analysis and commentary.


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