Yesterday morning, the Philadelphia Union's roster looked like this:
- Goalkeepers: Andre Blake, John McCarthy, Zac MacMath
- Defenders: Warren Creavalle, Maurice Edu, Ethan White, Richie Marquez, Steven Vitoria, Ray Gaddis, Fabinho, Austin Berry
- Midfielders: Vincent Nogueira, Brian Carroll, Cristian Maidana, Michael Lahoud, Eric Ayuk, Jimmy McLaughlin, Zach Pfeffer, Fred, Tranquillo Barnetta, Danny Cruz
- Forwards: Conor Casey, Sebastien Le Toux, Andrew Wenger, CJ Sapong, Fernando Aristeguieta, Antoine Hoppenot
Now, it's down to this:
- Goalkeepers: Andre Blake, John McCarthy
- Defenders: Maurice Edu, Ethan White, Richie Marquez, Steven Vitoria, Ray Gaddis, Fabinho
- Midfielders: Vincent Nogueira, Michael Lahoud, Eric Ayuk, Jimmy McLaughlin, Zach Pfeffer, Tranquillo Barnetta, Chris Pontius
- Forwards: Sebastien Le Toux, CJ Sapong, Fernando Aristeguieta
At first glance, the Union are in desperate need of help on the wings. If the Union are going to the 4-3-3 that's rumored to be coming (and the alleged reason Cristian Maidana was sent to Houston), they need to bolster the flanks. The current options on the wings are Eric Ayuk, Sebastien Le Toux, and Chris Pontius - and all three have questions about their abilities (Ayuk lacks experience, Le Toux is serviceable but his age could be a detriment, and Pontius can't seem to stay healthy). They're also a bit suspect up top, with CJ Sapong running hot and cold in 2015 and Aristeguieta being an unknown - if he even returns.
Defender is also a position of need, with everyone having significant questions - Marquez looked great but is still a bit green, Edu has been solid but prone to taking bad fouls, White has looked suspect at times, Vitoria looked suspect most times, Fabinho looked great offensively but was exposed defensively, and Gaddis had a down year from a stellar 2014.
The good news is that the Union finally have a true number-one goalkeeper in Andre Blake, as well as a great midfield link between Tranquillo Barnetta and Vincent Nogueira. It's not much but it's a decent core to build around, and the Union should have plenty of money to spend to try and rebuild the team. The Union freed up almost a half a million dollars in salary by dealing Maidana and Wenger to Houston, however bringing on Pontius at a reported $420,000 only net the club about $80,000 - however the club did get General Allocation Money and Targeted Allocation Money for the duo. If Vitoria is sent back to Portugal (and there's been zero indication that he'll be back next season), that's another $400,000 the Union will have. If Aristeguieta goes back to France (this isn't as sure a bet as Vitoria leaving), that's another $220,000 off the books - and this isn't including the $570,000 in contract options that weren't picked up by the Union that we know about (as of the time of this writing the Union still haven't officially released their list of contracts that were declined or lapsed). All in all, the Union could be sitting on approximately $1.3 million in cap space to build with next year, however the actual number will be somewhat lower when raises for current players are factored in.
While I'm not totally convinced that the Maidana and Pontius deals were good ones for the club (that's a whole 'nother article), I am willing to wait and see how things turn out before passing judgement on the Great Roster Purge of 2015.