Major League Soccer’s summer transfer window closed Wednesday night, and the Philadelphia Union let it happen without any new signings.
“Up to now, the business that we’ve been able to do wasn’t sufficient enough so that [potential signings] would be better than what we have,” sporting director Earnie Stewart said. “So we’ve refrained from that.”
The Union have one spot open on their roster. Stewart confirmed that the team looked at Argentine winger Nicolás Martínez, a 27-year-old from Western Sydney Wanderers of Australia’s A-League; he’s the brother of former Real Salt Lake forward Juan Manuel “Burrito” Martínez. Nicolás came to Chester for a trial, but Stewart said the Union “did not feel for us that it was the right fit.”
It’s hard to avoid noticing that the Union stood pat at a time when deals flew around the rest of MLS. That was especially true for teams that the Union are battling for the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spots.
Columbus reportedly splashed more than $2 million for Portuguese midfielder Pedro Santos.
Orlando also landed a designated player, Peruvian midfielder Yoshimar Yotún.
New England used Targeted Allocation Money to sign French defender Claude Dielna, which means he didn’t come cheap. And right before the deadline, word got out that the Revolution may have landed former Sporting Kansas City striker Krisztián Németh. He’s been in Qatar since leaving Sporting after the 2015 season.
The New York Red Bulls took in Panamanian defender Fidel Escobar on loan, and signed Gambia-born Norwegian striker Muhamed Keita.
Montreal traded for veteran San Jose defender Shaun Francis, acquired Romanian defender Deian Boldor on loan from partner club Bologna in Italy, and brought Quebec-born midfielder Samuel Piette home from the Spanish third division. Piette might make his Impact debut on Saturday against the Union at Talen Energy Stadium (8 p.m., CSN).
Chicago bolstered its defensive depth by trading for Vancouver’s Christian Dean.
Atlanta also shored up its back line by trading for D.C. United defender Bobby Boswell.
And D.C. has made the biggest moves of all, despite being rooted to the bottom of the Eastern Conference. United has signed young Bolivian forward Bruno Miranda; Hungarian national team midfielder Zoltán Stieber; Lancaster native Russell Canouse, who has spent his entire professional career to date playing in Germany; and U.S. national team stalwart Paul Arriola. The last of those moves reportedly came with a $3 million transfer fee and a $1 million salary offer.
(There’s a full list of all the transactions made this year across MLS on the league’s website. And in case you’re wondering, the Union’s naming of their much-hyped chief tattoo artist on the day the transfer window closed is not among the moves.)
Last year, the Union made big headlines with mid-season deals by signing Alejandro Bedoya and Charlie Davies. Those moves, especially Bedoya’s arrival, helped the team hold on for its first playoff berth since 2011.
This year, the Union are chasing the playoffs from below. Stewart is well aware that any summer signing would be expected to make an immediate impact — and that sometimes, such pressure isn’t entirely fair.
“They need to be impactful right away, and if that’s not the case, then let’s make sure that we set ourselves up for the rest of the season,” he said. “I believe that we’re still in position to make things happen with the team that we have, and the faith that we have in the team and the consistency and the structure — and set ourselves up for later on and next season.”
Was that a hint about a possible house-cleaning this winter? Multiple high-profile Union players have expiring contracts and contract options coming up, including Maurice Edu and Roland Alberg.
“Well, the judging started a long time ago already,” Stewart said. “You first let this transfer period go by, because that’s a natural thing that happens. It’s part of the season. Then after this transfer window, we start reflecting — the coaching staff and our scouting staff — to make sure that we make choices for next season.”
A few minutes later, Curtin answered the question more bluntly.
“We have our roster set up now in a way that we have big decisions to make this off-season, for sure — a lot of options, and also a lot of contracts that are coming to an end,” Curtin said. “We have a lot of freedom, a lot of flexibility going into next year, and we still have a group that we believe can get in the playoffs this year.”
Curtin also noted in a conversation earlier this week with the Inquirer and Daily News that the Union have made “a lot of moves that set up for us in this offseason to retool, salary cap-wise, in terms of who comes off the books and that kind of thing.”
And he didn’t fully close the door on potentially bringing another player on to the books. Although the transfer window closes Wednesday night, teams in MLS can still sign players who are out of contract, or bring in players via loans, until the final roster freeze for the year on Sept. 30. At that point, rosters are locked in place through the day after the playoffs end.
“We have space,” Curtin said. “There hasn’t been the right fit, and we don’t want to make a mistake and make a judgment for a significant amount of money where it’s not right for the Philadelphia Union. So we’ve been smart, I think, and sometimes the best move is to not make a move.”