Let’s be clear. None of the players mentioned below are in anyway linked to the club, but with more and more contract decisions being made around the league, there is a strong sense of who may be available this off-season.
With the lack of forward depth, loss of Tranquillo Barnetta, and struggles of Ken Tribbett, there are plenty of questions to be answered in Earnie Stewart’s second year in Philadelphia. With clubs announcing returning and departing players on what seems to be a daily basis, there is a handful of players that would make sense for the Union to bring in for the 2017 season.
It is important to know that the majority of the players out of contract are eligible to be picked in the MLS Re-Entry Draft on December 13, just three days after Atlanta United and Minnesota United participate in the 2017 Expansion Draft. A handful of players currently without a club will also be eligible for free agency in its second year of existence, but without further ado, let’s take a look at a few players that seem at the very least a feasible possibility for the Union to sign.
Steve Neumann, Midfielder
The three-year pro had his best season in MLS thus far as a rookie. In his first season in New England, Neumann managed to get onto the pitch 23 times for 538 of his 744 career minutes. Since 2014, the versatile midfielder has gotten the nod from head coach Jay Heaps just 13 times.
Neumann played his college ball at Georgetown University, netting 41 goals and handing out 34 assists. After accumulating a pair of NSCAA All-American honors, being named a 2012 Herman Trophy finalist, and the 2013 BIG EAST Offensive Player of the Year, Neumann heard his name called at the 2014 MLS SuperDraft when the New England Revolution selected him with the No. 4 pick.
Wow… Bet there are plenty of teams interested is signing #SteveNeumann— Brian Dunseth (@BrianDunseth) November 28, 2016
Despite Neumann finding playing time hard to come by thanks to a logjam in New England’s midfield, many teams are likely to be interested in landing the 25-year-old’s signature. As a Pennsylvania native, Neumann may seek a move home to jump-start his career.
Neumann would be a solid depth piece for a roster that lacks a true back-up to Chris Pontius, and while he was able to stay healthy in 2016, everyone knows his history.
Chad Barrett - Forward
Barrett is the ultimate depth piece at the forward position. With Charlie Davies’ future still very much up in the air, the Union could do a whole lot worse than adding a forward that has won an MLS Cup with plenty of postseason experience to boot.
The 31-year-old has yet to start in ten or more matches since 2011, when he helped lead the Los Angeles Galaxy to an MLS Cup victory. His production had yet to show many signs of slowing down despite making his mark off the bench.
After stints with Chicago Fire, Toronto FC, LA Galaxy, and New England Revolution, Barrett joined the Seattle Sounders for 2014 and 2015. In just 17 starts, he netted 12 goals.
His lone season with San Jose Earthquakes was a bit underwhelming with just two goals in 531 minutes, but given the decrease in minutes he has seen since the 2011 season, Barrett still has enough miles left in his legs to be effective in the league. Whether Davies returns or not, adding Barrett would allow C.J. Sapong to get more rest and hopefully stay consistent over the case of a full season.
Chris Wingert - Defender
Much like the previously mentioned Barrett, Wingert is another established veteran. Wingert however plays a much different role as a left back. The 13-year pro was a crucial member of a Real Salt Lake team from 2007-2014 that saw plenty of success, including two MLS Cup Appearances.
New York City FC used the final pick of the 2015 MLS Expansion Draft to bring Wingert to the Bronx. After a single season at the club, the 34-year-old returned to Salt Lake City.
20 appearances later and Wingert’s future is uncertain once more as he is out of contract following the 2016 season. Fabinho had a fairly consistent season for the blue-and-gold, but after putting in over 2,500 minutes, adding an experienced player to relieve some of that physical beating would likely make Jim Curtin a happy man.
The biggest knock on Fabinho has been his tendency to make crucial defensive mistakes, leading to far too many goals conceded. While he seemed to have made huge strides in that area this season, Wingert is a proven and established defender, even able to fill in as an emergency center back. Wingert’s crossing ability may not be as deadly as the attack-minded Brazilian’s, but it is certainly still a rather big part of his game.
Veteran experience, leadership, and consistency are all things that Philadelphia lacked along the back line in 2016. With players such as Keegan Rosenberry and Josh Yaro playing crucial roles at a young age, another presence to guide them along the development process would do a whole lot more good than harm.
As a final reminder, these players are not being linked to the club at the moment. This is purely speculation based upon team needs, spending tendencies, and other variables. There are clubs that have yet to announce their early off-season personnel moves, and with that said, there will likely be other players that would be sensible signings.