The Union got something for nothing.
Completing their only transaction at the summer transfer window, Union sporting director Earnie Stewart sold an unused international roster spot to the Columbus Crew for $50,000 in general allocation money, which can carry over into 2018.
The added GAM will give Stewart some flexibility when working around the MLS salary cap next season. One of the many MLS quirks, GAM is a way for teams to lower the salary cap hit of designated players.
And although the move can be considered a smart one for the 8-10-5 Union, it was a result of inaction. Over the last few months, Stewart hosted multiple international trialists to fill the club’s vulnerable No. 10 spot. However, the Union were unable to find a solution, leaving converted right winger Ilsinho and Roland Alberg to split duty until Stewart can find a more permanent answer.
For the Crew, it was a much-needed purchase. Expected to lose long-time midfielder Federico Higuain at the conclusion of 2017, the Crew picked up the slack by snagging Portuguese winger Pedro Santos for reportedly over $2 million. The move forced the club into renting an international slot from the Union for the remainder of the 2017 season.
The Union’s 2018 season schedule was officially released Thursday and it revealed an advantageous start for the club.
After opening their season against the New England Revolution on March 3, the Union will have a week off before hosting the Columbus Crew on March 17. The club then visits the Colorado Rapids on March 31 but returns home to face the San Jose Earthquakes and Orlando City on April 7 and 13.
Five of the Union’s first seven games will be at Talen Energy Stadium, setting them up for important early success, as the team was an impressive 10-4-3 at home last season but went just 1-10-6 on the road.
But the Union’s early fortune quickly turns with five of their next seven games on the road. The team kicks off that crucial run with a three-game road trip starting on May 4 against the reigning MLS champion Toronto FC, and finishing against the Crew and Montreal Impact. That five-in-seven road set also includes the New York Red Bulls and a visit to the irreplicable home confines of Atlanta United.
Notable matches for the Union include the first-ever clash with expansion side LAFC at the freshly built Banc of California Stadium on June 30 and the Union’s first visit to D.C. United’s brand-new Audi Field (expected to open in June). The Union face the Seattle Sounders on Wednesday, Sept. 19 at CenturyLink Field. Minnesota United (2017 expansion team) will make its first-ever visit to Philadelphia on Oct. 6.
As far as national exposure, the Union will be shown on ESPN twice, April 14 vs. Orlando City and Sept. 23 vs. Sporting Kansas City, and on Unimas once on April 28 against D.C. United.
The Union signed forward Cory Burke Thursday.
Burke, who is a mainstay on the Jamaican national team, spent the last two seasons with the Union's United Soccer League affiliate, the Bethlehem Steel. Burke, 25, ranked second on the team with 9 goals last season. The forward will occupy an international roster slot.
“We are pleased to sign Cory to our First Team and reward his excellent performance with Bethlehem Steel FC,” said Union Sporting Director Earnie Stewart. “Cory’s success is a testament to the importance of Bethlehem in developing players within our organization. Under Brendan Burke and his staff, Cory has been playing in our system for two years now. We anticipate a successful transition to the Union, and we are looking forward to see Cory take the next step in his career.”
Burke will likely start the season behind CJ Sapong and Jay Simpson on the forward depth chart. Burke will assume the hole that Charlie Davies' departure left on the roster.