Union trade striker Le Toux to Vancouver

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Union trade striker Le Toux to Vancouver

Forget England, Union star Sebastien Le Toux has been traded within the MLS.

Just days after returning from a fruitless trial with Barclays Premier Leagues Bolton Wanderers, the Union simply had no room for their leading scorer, as they traded him to the Vancouver Whitecaps on Tuesday for allocation money.

Just got traded to Vancouver! Le Toux said on his official Twitter, @SebastienLeToux. Saddest day for me in my Philadelphia Union story.... Still can't believe it.

For Union coach Peter Nowak, the move was all business.

Feelings are not included in my job description, Nowak said. I have to ensure the team is good and they have a goal set up in front of them. Its my job to make sure that the team will have a future. I have to see the overall picture and how the pieces fall into place.

Nowak added that the move was made to create space and had nothing to do with Le Touxs position or a specific formation the coach was trying to implement.

We have a commitment, said the coach. This is about the team. If you want to have a competitive sustainable advantage, you have to create room. We have to be secure for the future and have a group that can develop over a couple of years.

Its not about one player, its about the team.

Shortly after the Le Toux trade was finalized and made official, the Union purchased the full rights to midfielder Roger Torres from America De Cali. It was a re-investment of the teams future, something Nowak wanted to accomplish by moving Le Touxs money and getting some back in return. Nowak also mentioned extending the contracts of current players with the extra payroll.

I believe that we have to understand that the soccer part is completely different than other sports in the US. Soccer is different, Nowak said, alluding to the fact that international teams often lose top players. We made it no secret that were looking to build a franchise around the entire team. A championship team isnt about having the best players, its about having the best team. Thats our philosophy.

A fan favorite and productive striker, Le Toux was a Union original, picked up in the teams inaugural 2009 expansion draft from the Seattle Sounders. From there, the 28-year-old scored 25 goals and 20 assists in 62 games over two seasons, pacing the Union in nearly all on-field records.

His success made him the face of the franchise. Always spending extra time with fans, Le Toux was an integral part of carrying the unknown expansion franchise into the Philadelphia main stream.

From the beginning, he was very recognized and associated with our franchise, thats no secret, said Nowak. He represented our club in a good way, theres no question.

The shocking move comes just one day after the Union lost goaltender and captain Faryd Mondragon, who dissolved his contract with the Union to return to his hometown club in Colombia, Deportivo Cali (see story). But as Colombia takes, it also gives.

The Union are rumored to be in the process of acquiring striker Lionard Pajoy out of Colombian first division club Itagui Ditaires. Pajoy would join Danny Mwanga, Jack McInerney, Josue Martinez and first-round draft pick Chandler Hoffman up front for the Union.

Were going to work toward finding the right guys and providing competition up front, said Nowak. Well let them figure out what to do, help them develop and get ready for the season. Its too early to see who will take control. I dont work in hypothetical world. Im sure they will fulfill the responsibilities and develop.

Le Toux will return to PPL Park on March 31 when the Union host the Whitecaps.

E-mail Ryan Bright at ryanbright13@gmail.com

CSN, TCN to air 25 of Union's 34 games in 2017

CSN, TCN to air 25 of Union's 34 games in 2017

Twenty-five of the Union’s 34 games in 2017 will be featured on CSN and TCN, as Jim Curtin’s club vies for a second straight playoff berth.

Twenty matches will air on TCN, while five can be seen on CSN. The nine others will be appear across 6ABC, ESPN and FOX Sports 1.

The Union’s season opener on March 5 at the Vancouver Whitecaps will broadcast on TCN and the team’s home opener on March 11 against Toronto FC will air on CSN. The next three games — March 18 at Orlando City SC, April 1 at D.C. United and April 8 vs. the Portland Timbers — will be shown on TCN.

The Union are coming off an 11-14-9 season and their second-ever trip to the MLS playoffs in which they suffered a first-round exit to Toronto FC.

For the Union’s full 2017 schedule, click here.

Union Notes: With Yaro sidelined, 'Gooch' poised to be a starter

Union Notes: With Yaro sidelined, 'Gooch' poised to be a starter

It’s been roughly two years since Oguchi Onyewu last played a professional soccer game. But with Joshua Yaro out for at least the next three months after dislocating his shoulder, Onyewu will likely be the team’s opening day starter when the Union’s 2017 season begins in Vancouver on March 5. 

“Gooch has been really good in the preseason,” Union head coach Jim Curtin said after the team wrapped up a training session from inside the Penn Park Bubble on Monday. “Him and Richie (Marquez) have established themselves as the guys that, at least at this stage, we’ll go with going into this final phase between MLS games.”

Ken Tribbett, who started 19 games a rookie last season, is also “pushing for minutes,” Curtin acknowledged. And 18-year-old Auston Trusty is an intriguing option to perhaps make his MLS debut at some point this season.

But no matter what the Union plan to do, the injury to Yaro will certainly be a big blow. The second-year player, who battled injuries and concussion problems last season, was prepared to make a big leap in 2017 and show the kind of promise that made him the No. 2 overall pick in the 2016 draft.

“Josh is a starter,” Curtin said. “When he’s healthy, he’s established himself as such. It’s a big loss, a speed loss on the backline. It will call upon guys to step up in his absence. Hopefully, we get him back sooner rather than later.”

Calling the injury both “tricky” and “painful,” Curtin knows the recovery process can’t be rushed though. Yaro actually dislocated the same shoulder last May in a game vs. Orlando but the team decided at the time that surgery wasn’t necessary. This time, after Yaro dislocated his shoulder in a non-contact drill about a week-and-a-half ago, they decided to go the surgery route, which they hope will prevent any more issues.

“It’s tough because he plays so aggressive and physical,” Curtin said. “So to be out there a little wounded and already a little undersized is difficult. We thought it was best to get the surgery taken care of. He’s a really important piece we’ll miss but everyone else has to step up.”

For what it’s worth, Onyewu seems more than ready to fill the void. A former US national team star, the 34-year-old center back confidently stated when he was signed: “My ambition and my goal is to start every minute.”

“Looking at things in reality, I’m 34 years old, so I’m not gonna play for another 15 years,” Onyewu added at the time. “But if the question is, ‘Do I have more left in my tank?’ I definitely do. You’re gonna see that this season.”

From New York to Philly
It’s been an interesting last couple of months for Adam Najem, a star player at the University of Akron who bypassed this year’s MLS draft because his homegrown rights were owned by the New York Red Bulls … who then traded those rights to the Philadelphia Union … who then signed him last Wednesday.

But now that a little bit of the uncertainty has passed, he’s ready to make Philly his new home. 

“I grew up a Red Bull fan,” Najem told reporters Monday. “I played there since I was 12 years old. But my heart and everything else is with the Philly Union. I’m gonna give everything I can to the organization. That’s all I’m thinking about right now.” 

Perhaps the most interesting part of Najem’s move from New York to Philly is that his brother, David, is part of the Red Bulls' system.

Might the two siblings face off in a rivalry game down the road?

“We grew up playing against each other all the time — one-vs.-one battles in the backyard,” the Union midfielder said. “It will be fun to see him on the other side of the field.”

The Bosnian has arrived
It’s been nearly two weeks since Haris Medunjanin was signed but the Bosnian midfielder just arrived in Philly this week after working to attain his visa.

Medunjanin, who’s expected to be a major piece in the Union midfield, didn’t practice with the team at Penn on Monday but will fly out with them to Florida on Tuesday for the third and final phase of the preseason and should be available to play in the next three preseason games at the Suncoast Invitational.

In the meantime, he took a physical on Monday and enjoyed a tour of the Power Training Complex, which he told Curtin was better than many training centers he’s seen in Europe.

“He’s excited,” Curtin said. “He really wants to fit in well with the group, which we know he will.” 

Union look to add resident tattoo artist 
The Union’s roster may be just about complete as they prepare for their start of the 2017 season but they are still looking to fill at least one position … a chief tattoo officer.

Wait, what?

Yes, Union vice president of Marketing Doug Vosik announced on CSN’s Philly Sports Talk on Monday that the team would be the first professional sports organization to make such a hire with the person acting as a resident tattoo artist for players and staff.

All interested tattoo artists may apply for the position by emailing portfolio images to tattoos@philadelphiaunion.com.

“This is an exciting initiative for all of us here at Philadelphia Union as we look to provide a revolutionary service for our players and front office, particularly those new to the area,” said Vosik, who will be the first to get a Union tattoo. “Our hiring process begins immediately; we are looking for a partner with a wide variety of talents and skills, and someone who can offer a broad range including American traditional, as well as Japanese, realism, new school and more.”