Philadelphia Union fans look back on January 9, 2019 as the day Ernst Tanner killed the MLS SuperDraft when he traded away their picks to FC Cincinnati for $150,000 in Garber bucks.
Sadly, the draft still continues to exist for any teams interested in using it — as evidenced by trades like the recent Kei Kamara deal that included a 2022 MLS SuperDraft pick — but the draft trade in 2019 is still an interesting moment. It was the day that the Union made clear their intentions moving forward, even if it was low hanging fruit to pick on the league’s archaic attempt at Americanizing soccer.
While the earned media alone of a team “trading all five of its picks away” was probably worth the move it’s hard to say specifically what the Union got with the $150,000 — and if they got any of the additional $50,000 contingent on performance. Either way, the Union didn’t have much to lose considering they didn’t want the picks anyway (not even Cincinnati bothered with the two later round picks).
FC Cincinnati comes to Chester tonight without any of the three players they acquired from the Union’s picks on their active roster. Tommy McCabe and Ben Lundt are both on loan in the USL Championship and Logan Gdula is no longer with the club. They’ve made a combined six MLS appearances, all by McCabe last season.
One of those draft picks dealt has made a pretty decent impact, however, but he isn’t playing in Ohio or Pennsylvania.
Yes, coming up on two years later, it appears the Chicago Fire may have benefited the most from a trade that feels even more obscure now than it did at the time. The pick that became McCabe first went from the Fire to the Union to acquire the rights to Fabian Herbers.
Herbers has emerged as an unlikely attacking star for the Fire, contributing 4 goals and an assist in his last eight appearances. Interestingly enough, that stat line would rank him ahead of every forward on the Union roster not named Kacper in terms of offensive output this season in regular season matches.
Beyond trivial comparisons, this fact does show two things: that Herbers has been able to find his footing after struggling to produce in Chester and how big of a deal Cory Burke returning to the lineup could be whenever that happens now that he’s finally been able to return to the country.
Patrick McCraney talks about Herbers’ rise in a recent Hot Time in Old Town feature.
On his three seasons with the Union, McCraney summarizes it this way: “After playing 32 games as a rookie, Herbers only made 12 appearances in 2017. He was hurt for a good chunk of the season, and when he came back in 2018, the team had essentially moved on without him.”
Union fans had moved on by the time Herbers was traded (and probably even before then). The announcement that his option had been declined made his trade more of a weird MLS roster rule footnote than anything else.
That the Fire turned out to be a good fit for Herbers is really a win-win for both the player and his former and current clubs and so far has been the biggest win of an otherwise pretty uneventful trade in the end.
Good for Fabi.