Photo by Michael Janosz/ISIphotos.com
By AVI CREDITOR
The Philadelphia Union have a plan, and they're sticking to it.
The club purchased the full rights to 20-year-old Colombian midfielder Roger Torres from America de Cali, which had been loaning him to the Union for the last two seasons. The financial haul from Tuesday's trade of Sebastien Le Toux to Vancouver provided more flexibility to make the move and keep Torres as a part of the club's young and growing nucleus, an aspect that is emerging as the highest priority for the club's front office even if it comes partially at the expense of a fan favorite and the club's leading scorer.
"It's all around the future, it's not around one player," Union manager Peter Nowak said regarding the team's recent moves on a conference call with reporters Tuesday afternoon. "In the past two years we've built a good foundation to express that and to build it toward the future. It was important to keep our philosophy, and the moves we make confirm that."
Used mostly as a spark off the bench the last two years, Torres provides quickness, technical skill and playmaking abilities in the midfield. He'll be pushed into a larger role with the departures of Le Toux, Veljko Paunovic and Justin Mapp, among others, while rejoining the other key young players on the club such as Freddy Adu, Amobi Okugo, Zac MacMath, Jack McInerney, Zach Pfeffer, Josue Martinez, Danny Mwanga, Chandler Hoffman, Sheanon Williams, Kyle Nakazawa and Gabriel and Michael Farfan — all of whom are 23 or younger.
"We want to invest in the future," Nowak said. "We have a very good foundation with the youth pieces, and we have faith in them that they will develop the right way like they've showed in the past."
As a result, capitalizing on the chance to sell Le Toux became necessary. Nowak said that after Le Toux returned from his trial at Bolton without an offer, Vancouver stepped up with "a very strong approach," one that ultimately could not be turned down.
"If you want to be in a sustainable, competitive advantage, then you have to create the room," Nowak said. "We don't have like the NBA's luxury tax or salary cap, where you can blow the team out of proportion.
"It's not an easy part for any of us. We have a couple of guys on the roster right now that we want to improve their contracts."
While Nowak singled out Williams, a U.S. Under-23 right back, as one of those players, securing Torres for the foreseeable future also falls into that category, and the pressure is on those young players to deliver at a higher, more consistent level.
The Union were three points shy from a first-place finish in the MLS Eastern Conference a season ago. Even though veterans like Le Toux, Paunovic and departed goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon were integral in helping the club improve immensely in its second year, it is that youth movement that is going to be looked upon to push Philadelphia to newer heights.
"Experience is vital, but over the last couple of years (Le Toux and Mondragon) give the group very good confidence," Nowak said. "They showed them how to win the games and how to be professionals. I think we have all the faith and confidence in this group we have right now."