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

Union draft Chris Nanco, Jack Elliott in third and fourth rounds

Union draft Chris Nanco, Jack Elliott in third and fourth rounds

With an eye on potential, the Union selected two forwards and a defender as they wrapped up the third and fourth rounds of the 2017 MLS draft on Tuesday.

With the 55th overall selection, the Union grabbed Chris Nanco, a Canadian-born forward out of Syracuse. The 5-foot-6 speedster, who led his club with 15 points over his senior season, was listed as a second-round talent on some draft boards.

Moving into the fourth and final round, the Union selected West Virginia defender Jack Elliott with the 77th overall pick. Opposite of the diminutive Nanco, Elliott, out of London, stands at a hulking 6-foot-5. Also listed as a defensive midfielder, Elliott showed a twinge of offense and started all 16 games for the Mountaineers in his senior season, playing a part in eight shutouts over that span.

Back in 2015, the Union moved defender Ethan White to New York City FC for the 82nd overall pick in 2017. That trade finalized on Tuesday when the Union selected productive Spanish forward Santi Moar out of Pfeiffer University. Moar scored 14 goals and 19 assists in 20 games with Pfeiffer as a sophomore in 2016.

Although these picks aren’t guaranteed to be with the club by the end of training camp, the Union will heavily utilize USL affiliate Bethlehem Steel to assist in the development of prospects who do make it.

Without a first-round pick, the Union traded up to select Marcus Epps, an attacking midfielder in the early second round. They also added depth at right back Aaron Jones with the 33rd overall pick.

Union trade up in 2nd round to draft Marcus Epps, also add Aaron Jones

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Union trade up in 2nd round to draft Marcus Epps, also add Aaron Jones

With no first-round picks in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft on Friday in Los Angeles, the Union were still able to add what they were looking for. 

“We got two players today that we want to be with the Philadelphia Union for a long time,” Union manager Jim Curtin said.

The club made a splash early in the second round by trading the 42nd overall pick, originally acquired by the Union, sending Zac MacMath to the Colorado Rapids, and $50,000 in 2018 General Allocation Money to the Minnesota United for the 25th overall pick. 

With that selection, the Union plucked Marcus Epps, an athletic right wing midfielder out of the University of South Florida. 

“We didn’t want to wait any longer,” Union sporting director Earnie Stewart said. “We were afraid Marc would go sooner, so we made sure we were ready to do a deal and creep up the board so we could get him.”

Epps admitted he didn’t know much about the Union. He wasn’t in attendance at the draft but was thrilled at hearing his name called over the MLS live stream.

“I’ve been on the phone with family and friends,” he said. “I was huddled around the laptop, streaming in and hoping to hear the good news. 

“I was definitely surprised and excited.”

Epps, listed by MLS at 5-foot-10, is 22 and a native of Jackson, Mississippi. According to both Stewart and Curtin, Epps is an adept one-on-one player and a skillful attacking winger that fits the Union’s style. He’s also right-footed and stated that he has experience on both the left and right wing in the midfield.

“He has speed, he has agility, he’s a big boy,” Stewart said. “The combination of those factors and the philosophy that we have at the Philadelphia Union, we believe we can develop this kid to be something very special. If you have the ability that he has on the ball and the speed that he has, that can create a lot of chaos in the opponent’s half. That’s something we look forward to developing in Marcus.” 

However, while Epps’ numbers at USF aren’t eye-popping, Stewart isn’t worried. The young player spent most of his senior season with an iliotibial band injury but scored eight goals and nine assists in 75 games over four seasons with USF. 

“We bring players in to develop them,” Stewart said. “If they had all the numbers in college or youth teams, they would have gone one or two. He has certain qualities that not every player has. Keegan Rosenberry (current Union right back) didn’t have the numbers other people had at the same time. I think we made a good choice with Keegan.” 

Even with their move up in the second round, the Union still possessed their original second-round pick — the 33rd overall selection. There, they added depth by drafting aggressive 5-foot-9 right back Aaron Jones out of Clemson. 

“I’m delighted to join the Union and excited at the direction that franchise is moving,” Jones said. “I’m extremely proud of what Keegan was able to do last year. It’s [what] I want to emulate in my career. I want to push him and try and play as many games as I can next year. Injuries happen in sports, so if the chance is given to me, I’m going to take it.”

Jones, who hails from Great Yarmouth in the U.K. and claims to be a set-piece specialist, transferred from Georgia State to Clemson for the 2015 and 2016 seasons. Like Epps, Curtin, who noted Jones’ soccer IQ and tenacity, sees the right back fitting in nicely with the Union style.

“He really impressed us,” said Curtin, who noted that Jones will compete with Rosenberry and Ray Gaddis for playing time. “He’s a kid who will compete from Day 1. He wins his one-on-one battles defensively, he embraces the defensive part of the game and he’s a guy that wants to get better every day. He has a Union mentality and will be a guy our fans will be high on.

“He has an impressive skillset.”

The Union will take part in the third and fourth rounds of the 2017 draft on Jan. 17, in which the club owns the 55th, 77th and 82nd pick.