Before I get into the meat of this article I just want to take a minute to thank Sebastien Le Toux for everything he did for this team, the community, and all of the fans. Le Toux will forever be the heart and soul of The Union, whether he plays for someone else or not. Le Toux was one of the reasons I first started following the Union, and I really can never thank him enough for that. His passion for the game and for this city is an inspiration. Merci, Le Toux. Tu vas nous manquer.
As sad as I am about Le Toux's departure, I am going to try to set aside my emotions and analyze these transfers in a cold, clinical, detached way. If I didn't, you'd just be reading a series of onomatopoeia of the sounds of me sobbing into the keyboard.
So... what happened? Let's start with the basics. What did the Union bring in, and what did they send out? Here's what we know for sure:
- Alejandro Bedoya
- Charlie Davies
- General Allocation Money (amount unknown)
- New England's 3rd Round Selection in the 2018 Super Draft
- Sebastien Le Toux
- General Allocation Money (amount unknown)
- Targeted Allocation Money (amount unknown)
- First Round Pick in the 2017 Super Draft
- First Round Pick in the 2018 Super Draft
- Discovery Rights on an Unknown Player
1) Alejandro Bedoya
This is the move that Union fans are probably most excited about. Arguably the biggest signing in the team's history, Bedoya brings many things with him. He's spent his entire professional career in Europe. He's a staple of Jurgen Klinsman's USMNT. He's an incredibly smart, hardworking player with great passing ability. He's got the versatility to easily plug into a number of positions. The list goes on.
There are, however, some lingering questions about this signing. While Bedoya's versatility is certainly an asset, it does open up questions as to where exactly Jim Curtin intends to deploy him on the field. Recently he has been featured as a wide and central attacking midfielder for Nantes. He's played similar positions for the USMNT, but has also seen some time in the role of box to box midfielder in a 4-3-3, along with a shuttler in a 4-4-2 diamond. So, the question is... What is Alejandro's best position? And perhaps more importantly, does that position fulfill a need?
Well, if you ask Alejandro, he would say that he likes playing the #8 best.
Formations are overrated but I'd say as a number 8 in a 4-3-3. https://t.co/3EdNQhNn9Q— Alejandro Bedoya (@AleBedoya17) December 3, 2015
Alejandro tweeted that out in response to a fan who asked him what his favorite position to play is. Now, a player's favorite position and their best position aren't always the same, but I think it's fair to assume that if the Union feel the need to deploy Bedoya at the #8 he would be ready and willing to step in and do the job well.
There is some debate here, but I think most would agree that one of the Union's biggest needs to address this transfer window was replacing Vincent Nogueira. Many have said it before, but I'll say again, Vincent Nogueira was the engine that made the Union run. He was the guy to collect the ball out of the back, provide an easy outlet to the fullbacks and wingers, and switch the point of attack with long, beautiful, diagonal balls played across the field. He could dribble and pass out of tight spaces, and he ran his butt off for 90 minutes almost every match. He may not of have scored many goals, but he was a very important part of the way this team played, and they have missed him desperately since his unfortunate departure. The team was 6-3-5 before Nogueira left, and have gone 2-5-1 since.Bringing in Alejandro Bedoya should go a very long way towards replacing the work that Vincent did for this team. They're not the same player, but Bedoya has a similar work-rate and is also a very smart passer of the ball. He is perhaps a little more attack-minded a player, but he doesn't shy away from defensive work either. Having played at some of the highest levels in Europe, he's no stranger to technical play in tight spaces. Assuming that Alejandro will be filling in at that #8 role, he frees up Tranquillo Barnetta to move back into the #10 spot, which I think we all agree is a better position for him. In terms of a fit for team needs, I think Alejandro is probably about as good as the Union could have hoped to do, given that they don't have an international roster spots left.
Moving on to the mechanics of the acquisition, the Union did have to give up a pretty penny to get him, if all of the figures being reported are correct. In order to sign him, the Union had to move up from the #2 spot to the #1 spot in the allocation order, which meant a trade with Chicago. They had to give up Allocation Money (both of the General and Targeted varieties), a first round draft pick, and discovery rights to a player yet to be named. That seems like an awful lot to give up just to move up once spot, but it's honestly really hard to judge without knowing the exact figures of allocation money being transferred. On top of what we had to give up to Chicago, it is being reported that the Union paid a $1 million transfer fee to Nantes, which is the most the team has ever paid to acquire a player. Moreover, it has been reported that Bedoya's salary will be around $1 million. That's the highest salary the team has ever paid to a player. There was a pretty big investment in Alejandro Bedoya, to say the least.
Overall, I like this signing. The Union only had one Designated Player on the roster, and as much as I love Maurice Edu, he has been unable to play even one minute so far this season. Bringing in a big name and a big talent may have cost the team a lot, but I believe it will be worth it in the end.
2) Sebastien Le Toux
Ugh... I know I said I would be emotionless but...
Thank you very much Philly Fans!!— Sebastien Le Toux (@SebastienLeToux) August 4, 2016
It's been a pleasure playing for you and always having your support!#Merci ⚽️
I MISS HIM SO MUCH ALREADY! *CRIES UGLY TEARS*
As much as it pains me to admit, Sebastien Le Toux is not immortal. He is going to turn 33 in January, and his contract is up at the end of this season. Moreover, he was making ~$300,000 to be a back up winger. If the Union weren't planning to keep him around, the time to trade him was now, while he still has some value as a veteran presence and a tireless attacker.
It's entirely possible that the Union needed to clear some cap space to make room for Bedoya's hefty salary, which meant they were going to have to trade somebody. It's also possible, that they needed the GAM acquired in this deal in order to pay Chicago to move up in the allocation order. It might even be that both of those things are true. If that is the case then... on paper this seems like a really good business decision. The Union already have a ton of attacking midfielders, and they desperately needed to fill other holes on the team. Moving Le Toux may seem heartless to the fans, and it is heartless to an extent, but it makes a whole lot of sense.
Overall... Sigh... I don't know if I can say I like this move. My brain understands it, but the pain is still too fresh for my heart to agree. Lets just call it a necessary evil and move on.
3) Charlie Davies
Now on to the next chapter in my career. I couldn't be more excited to be joining the @PhilaUnion! Thank you for the warm welcome!— Charlie Davies (@CharlieDavies9) August 4, 2016
This signing will probably fly under the radar, but I feel like this is a good bit of business from Earnie Stewart. It wasn't nearly as emotional as Le Toux leaving, or as exciting as bringing in a star like Bedoya, but it addresses a clear need, and it was done without having to give up too much.
The Union only had two strikers on the roster, something that many, many people have pointed out as a problem. That came to light in the Houston game where both Fabian Herbers and CJ Sapong were injured and they needed to start Roland Alberg as a loan striker. Certainly not an ideal situation.
Adding Charlie Davies provides much needed depth at the position at a very, very reasonable price. Davies only makes about ~$100,000, very modest for someone who managed to bag 10 goals and 4 assists in 2,163 minutes last season. He's been absent this season after recently announcing that he was battling cancer and is now in remission, but obviously Earnie & Co. think that he can return to form quickly and provide much needed speed and skill off the bench.
In order to bring Davies over from New England the Union had to give up yet another first round Super Draft pick and more GAM and TAM. Without knowing the amounts of GAM and TAM, it is again hard to judge how the Union did on this, but my gut says it was a good deal.
Obviously, one major concern is the fact that the Union, barring any future trades, do not have a first round draft pick until 2019. Personally, I am not bothered by this. I think this, plus the recent home-grown signing of Derrick Jones, proves that the oft-praised Union Academy is finally starting to bear fruit for the first team. Earnie Stewart sees that, and recognizes that the home-grown process is a better way to sign young talent, financially speaking. The fact that home-grown players do not count towards a team's cap hit, and that we don't have to compete with other teams to sign them makes it a much better deal for the organization. With a first-rate academy in place, and a USL team to continue young player development, giving up draft picks seems like a no-brainier.
Given all of that, bringing in Charlie Davies might have been the best move, business wise, the team made this week. They filled a much needed hole, didn't give up much of value to do it, and managed to do it without using up much cap space. All in all, a very good piece of business.
Summing It Up
Putting all of these separate pieces together, I think it's safe to call this transfer window a win for The Union. They managed to address the teams two biggest needs, and they also managed to sign a player which will bring national media attention to the team while they were at it. Alejandro Bedoya may not be a Super Star like Sebastian Giovinco or Didier Drogba, but he's a recognizable name for any U.S. Men's National Team fans, and I dare say he'll sell more than a few jerseys.
Losing a team legend like Le Toux is a tough pill to swallow. There will be a bitter taste in a lot of Union fans' mouths, but winning cures everything, and I truly believe that the Union have acquired the pieces they need to win games for the rest of the season.
Earnie Stewart made one thing very clear during this transfer window: The Union are not going to settle for just barely making it into the playoffs. They want to try to compete for silverware, and they want to do it right now.