Union

Unwilling to alter contract, Adu dismissed from Union

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Unwilling to alter contract, Adu dismissed from Union

WAYNE, Pa. -- The Union gave Freddy Adu an ultimatum.

Renegotiate your contract, abide by certain team rules and stay with the Union for a third season, or start looking for a new home. And as the Union began training camp on Monday at YSC Sports without Adu, the players choice was clear.

We presented Freddy with a couple scenarios, where we felt comfortable with bringing him back under certain conditions, Union coach John Hackworth said. Freddy came back and said he would stick with his current situation. He made it very clear. He knew that if he made that choice, he would not be coming back as part of this team.

Basically, what we did was say was 'If youre ready to renegotiate and come back under some different guidelines, well be happy to talk. If you dont want to do that, we want you to clearly understand you wont be back with us next year.' He knew that. Freddy and I have had enough conversations, communication was very clear between he and I and his representatives.

Adus dismissal from the club does not come as a surprise, as the 23-year-old midfielder never fully conformed to the Union under Hackworth, who took over for Peter Nowak in June of 2012. There is some surprise that the decision to move on without him wasnt completely financial. Adu made nearly 500,000 for his lackluster performace last season.

When it comes to the contractual part, it was financial, Hackworth said. But a lot of it had to do with the role Freddy would play within our team. Especially, when you compare him and his stature in our locker room relative to the guys who were in there.

He has talent, there is no question about that. But how he puts that all together is up to Freddy. For us, it didnt amount to what we expected, not for what we want for this team going forward and not for the philosophy that this team was founded on.

Although its unclear what exactly Adu did to sour the Union, money and performance certainly played a part in his demise. One of the biggest and most intriguing names in American soccer, Adu, since he was 14, has carried with him huge expectations -- a great realization of his immense talent. But his skill, and more importantly his paycheck, have never seemed to match his on-field production.

Freddy is a very talented young man and Ive said it many times. I dont think people have an appreciation for Freddy like I do, as far as what he can do on the field and what he is capable of, Hackworth said. But he certainly didnt meet the lofty expectations placed on him with our team. And that was ultimately what it came down to.

Since joining the club in Aug. 2011, Adu managed seven goals in 35 games. However, in the 34-game 2012 campaign, Adu was an unused sub in 10 of the 24 games in which he was on the roster. When asked if the signing was an error from the beginning, Hackworth said it wasnt his choice to make at the time, but that Adus contract length and value handcuffed the team.

Being honest, he is on a long-term contract that makes it hard in this league with salary cap restrictions, to do some things, to have a player like that who doesnt fit into your plans, he said.

He was given plenty opportunities to play and play a significant role for us and be the player we expected him to be when we signed him. That didnt happen. You can look at numbers, stats. It didnt happen for us as a team or for Freddy. It didnt work.

But with regards to an official transfer, where does Adu go from here?

Were trying to make sure we find a solution thats good for the Philadelphia Union and Freddy, said Hackworth. We want him to go on and have a very successful career -- hes only 23. He has a lot of front of him. At the same time, it has to be something that works for us, as well.

Weve been working on this for a long time and we will continue. Right now, the international window is open and its a continuing process. From our side and Freddys side, were working on it.

With his dismissal from the Union, Adu is moving to his ninth different professional club since 2004, making him a tough sell. Hackworth, however, seemed to have the sales pitch down.

There are lots of teams around the world who are interested, said the coach. He certainly has a name that has a lot of value and coaches look at the types of things he is able to do as a player.

E-mail Ryan Bright at RyanBright13@comcastsportsnet.com

Union acquire electrifying winger in major trade

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Union acquire electrifying winger in major trade

The Philadelphia Union didn’t make a pick in the first two rounds of the MLS SuperDraft on Friday at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

But the hometown team still made one of the biggest splashes of the day.

Between the first and second rounds, Paul Tenorio of ESPN FC reported that the Union had a trade in place for electrifying winger David Accam, sending a palpable buzz through the ballroom. Not long after, the move was officially announced and the Philly fans in attendance finally had something to cheer about after a quiet-to-this-point offseason.

“I know there was some impatience with the timing of things,” Union head coach Jim Curtin said. “But this is a special player we added — one that changes the whole dynamic of our team.”

The move wasn’t cheap as the Union dealt $1.2 million in allocation money to the Chicago Fire in exchange for the Ghanaian speedster, who’s bagged 33 goals and 15 assists over the last three MLS seasons.

But if he can stay healthy and keep producing at the rate he has been, the Union think it can be a bargain.

“A David Accam on the open market is significantly higher than what we paid today,” Curtin said. “I can tell you with confidence if we shopped around for someone of David’s quality and production, we’d spend a heck a lot more money than we did today.”

Accam will likely start on one of the wings opposite fellow burner Fafa Picault with leading scorer C.J. Sapong up top. That still leaves a hole in attacking midfield that the Union need to round out their offense — a position which Curtin and sporting director Earnie Stewart said the club is still searching for.

“With Fafa, with Accam, with C.J. Sapong, those guys will create a lot of space for whoever plays in that No. 10 spot during the course of the season,” Curtin said. “That’s something that makes other teams worry. When we get off the bus, you have to account for David Accam. So that’s a real positive.”

Accam has a unique backstory, playing at the Right to Dream Academy from 2004 to 2008 in his native Ghana, before moving to England on a student visa and playing for Ledbury Town and Evesham United. After taking part in “The Chance” competition, a Nike event to find undiscovered soccer talent, he moved to Swedish club Ostersund in 2012 and then to top-flight side Helsingborg later that year.

After starring for both clubs, he was signed by the Fire as a Designated Player and has been a consistent goal-scoring threat in Chicago. Since he came to MLS in 2015, Accam is one of just six MLS players to total at least 33 goals and 15 assists in league play, along with stars Sebastian Giovinco, David Villa, Diego Valeri, Ignacio Piatti and Kei Kamara.

“As we said a while back, we’re trying to find some difference-makers for our team to help us over those humps in certain games,” Stewart said. “We believe a couple of difference-makers can help that. And once David Accam came around, it was really clear to us that was a target that we wanted to make sure happened. And we as the Philadelphia Union made sure we stretched ourselves to make sure this player came aboard. We’re just very pleased that we were able to accomplish this.”

The Union also made a couple of other smaller moves leading up to the draft, signing defenders Matt Real and Mark McKenzie to Homegrown contracts.

Signing both players when they did was a good indication that the Union valued them both as much, if not more, as any guys they may have been able to draft had they not previously dealt away their picks.

And it’s even better than both Real and McKenzie came through the Union Academy and are more familiar with the club than a kid coming out of college would have been.

“Everybody has a different path,” said McKenzie, an 18-year center back from Bear, Delaware. “All of these guys that got drafted today are great guys. … But myself, coming through the academy and when I was at the pre-academy when I was 11 and 12 and worked my way up to the U-14s to the U-18s to the [Bethlehem] Steel, it’s been an absolute honor and a blessing. I’ve been pushed and challenged at each level, and I’m looking forward to the future and what that holds.”

“It’s a big moment for me,” added Real, an 18-year-old who played for USL affiliate Bethlehem Steel FC last year. “These last couple of weeks for me have been surreal. I’m still kind of soaking all this in.

“Mark is my brother. Me and him have been playing together since the academy started. We graduated together, we’re on the [U-20] national team together. So this couldn’t be any better for me to share a moment like this with him.”

Union reward Andre Blake with multi-year extension

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Union reward Andre Blake with multi-year extension

Updated 4:52 p.m.

Andre Blake will backstop the Union into the future.

The 27-year-old goalkeeper inked a multi-year extension Wednesday. The deal is expected to make Blake one of the highest paid goalkeepers in MLS and was completed using Targeted Allocation Money. 

Further details were not released.

“I am ready to lead,” Blake said. “I’ll definitely try to lead by my performance on the field and the way I carry myself off the field.”

While the extension was a no-brainer for the Union’s on-field success, the move was also an important one off the field. Historically, the club is known for its roster turnover and lack of continuity. Keeping Blake on the books for years to come gives the Union a well-respected face of the franchise that fans can appreciate. 

“It is a priority for us to build and secure the foundation of the Philadelphia Union, and Andre is as big a part of that foundation as any player,” Union sporting director Earnie Stewart said. “Ensuring he will be here for years to come is an important step for our club. We’re delighted to sign him to a new multi-year contract and would like to thank him for his dedication and hard work.”

Blake, a former first-overall pick in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft and 2016 MLS All-Star, earned the 2016 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year honor and claimed the runner-up spot for the award in 2017. He has proven himself to be one of the most exciting and productive goalkeepers in MLS, with 220 saves and 17 shutouts over 65 career matches.

Because of that success, and his heroics, while captaining the Jamaican National Team, Blake is viewed as someone who could transition to a European club. But despite the prospects and rumors, the Union claim there has never been a serious offer for the goalkeeper, making this extension a possibility.

“Right now my main focus is Philadelphia,” said Blake, who has never shied away from his interest in a European move. “I’m not worried about the future. I’m gonna live in the now and continue to work hard and make my performance speak for itself.”