The Union have patched their defensive hole.
In a move to replace traded Jeff Parke on the back line, the Union have acquired 25-year old center back Austin Berry from the Chicago Fire in exchange for allocation money.
“Austin is a talented central defender that will add quality to our back line,” Union manager John Hackworth said. “He already has a lot of MLS experience and we think he is the right fit to help strengthen our central defense. We’re happy to have a player of his caliber and look forward to him joining the team.”
Listed at 6-foot-2, 188 pounds, the former ninth-overall selection in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft was a steady cog on the Fire’s back line during his first two seasons, winning the MLS Rookie of the Year in 2012 and playing in all 34 matches in 2013.
Berry then fell out of favor despite a fantastic defensive campaign with the Fire, who acquired Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Patrick Ianni this offseason. Hurtado beat Berry for a starting spot and is expected to begin the season as a starter next to former Union defender Bakary Soumare.
The roster situation, along with the Fire’s salary cap crunch, made Berry expendable.
Though he has room to improve his game, Berry is a solid fix for the Union, who were in desperate need of a quality and experienced center back. Since Philadelphia-native Parke was traded to DC United in mid-January, the combination of Ethan White and rookie Richie Marquez has traded reps on the Union back line. However, Hackworth never showed confidence that either was an opening-day possibility, as he waited for someone like Berry to shake loose from an MLS roster.
The Union’s offseason is the most active and impressive in team history. Along with Berry, the Union picked up Maurice Edu, Cristian Maidana, Vincent Nogueira and the first-overall selection in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft, goalkeeper Andre Blake.