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With McKenzie heading to Belgium, Philadelphia Union bringing in left-footed center back

Sporting Director Ernst Tanner said Thursday there should be an announcement soon

Matt Ralph

Mark McKenzie’s transfer to KRC Genk leaves the Philadelphia Union thin at the back but Sporting Director Ernst Tanner made it sound Thursday like that won’t be for long.

“We will bring in somebody who is left footed that will add another quality to the team,” Tanner said over the phone with media on Thursday. “This is something we are dealing with in the moment and will hopefully have something in the near future.”

Tanner said it was “unfortunate” they no longer have Auston Trusty, a former homegrown center back from Media who was traded to the Colorado Rapids in November 2019. Trusty was traded for up to $750,000 in allocation money after the two sides were unable to reach an agreement on a new contract.

The Union thrived defensively in 2020 with Mark McKenzie as a Best XI performer anchoring the league’s stingiest defense on a back line that included center backs Jakob Glesnes and Jack Elliott. A rotation of three starting level center backs for 2021 will likely be needed considering a schedule that will include the Concacaf Champions League for the first time.

“We have a very strong center back core, you’ve heard us talk about that all season and look we were comfortable using all four of our center backs this year,” head coach Jim Curtin said Thursday. “Three in particular got all the minutes so again we recognize that it needs to be a position that we have depth in.”

Veteran left center back Aurelien Collin is out of contract and there’s some question whether homegrown Brandan Craig, who wore the armband with Union II and played a lot of center back with them, projects as a center back or a holding midfielder at the MLS level.

Matej Oravec, who didn’t play last season, can also play center back — his only appearances in 2020 were as a center back for the Slovakia U21 team — and homegrown defender Nathan Harriel played some center back for the Bethlehem Steel in 2019.