After the second stage of Major League Soccer's re-entry draft this afternoon, Union mananger Peter Nowak discused the day's events and a number of other subjects with reporters on a conference call.
Here's a transcript of what Nowak said, Usually, I post transcripts in the chronological order of the conversation, but this time I am going to do it by subject because there's a lot to go through.
On the Union's financial situation, including the potential signing of a designated player:
We have a certain perspective about our team. We believe that the way we are structuring this team and building the team is in some capacity, the older guys, sooner or later, we need to replace them. Fred entering the Re-Entry Draft as a free agent, we accepted that we might lose him.
It's a combination of things. The rosters expanded, the money only got a little bit bigger. I'm wondering – you've got three big guns in L.A. right now [Juan Pablo Ángel, David Beckham and Landon Donovan] – how are you going to accommodate three players with over $1 million [salary each]? Are the rest of the players going to be on peanuts?
I don't think this is the way to do the [roster] structuring. It's not my business, but I'm looking at my books and looking at everybody's books and I'm scratching my head as to how it's going to happen… It's not just about quality, but you also have to be realistic with your expectations.
We have a certain way we want to build this squad and we need to make sure we're going to keep our books clear and look toward the future – not look to what's going to happen today, tomorrow, or next month.
We need to look at this asking what our future is going to be. We need to get guys who will fulfill roles today but also in three years. Some day Peter Nowak and all these guys aren't going to be there, but the team will need to be there in place and structured the right way so that we're not going to go every single year needing $100,000 here or $100,000 there for allocation money, and we need to sell players. That's not going to happen at the Philadelphia Union – this is the way we are going to do business.
It's a process of seeing things and making necessary contacts about players around the world, and seeing what's available for us over there – from a designated player to a player that can help our team moving forward. There's a long transfer window, and we have enough resources to make a lot of good moves. From that, we've got to be careful how and what, and make sure that our books are in the right position not only today but tomorrow.
It's easy to spend all this money and then try to figure out later what's going on. Many teams are doing this stuff today. But as of now, we have a lot of resources and we're going to improve the roster even though we've lost four players in the last month.
The strategy for the Combine and SuperDraft is we'll see what is available for us, what we can make work for us. But also we will pursue a lot of overseas players and options to make our roster better.
The Designated Player was never not an option. It was always something on our mind that we were looking at and proceeding with many, many options. It's about the right guys at the right price – it's easy to just throw money out the window and say let's do this. From the experience we have around the league over the years, a lot of expansion teams just throw money left and right, and all of the sudden the second year comes and the third year comes and they have empty pockets. We want to avoid that.
We have good resources and we are very good under the salary cap right now to make the necessary changes. I'm looking at allocation money rankings and allocation money that other teams have at their disposal and we are probably in the top three right now, including the expansion teams.
We have a lot of resources and we feel that when the player who can come along and can help our team, can be great in our community, in the soccer community, and help our franchise move forward and be recognized as our player, then it's going to make sense to make this move – and we're going to make it. It's not a question about money, it's a question about the right positions and the right guys for the composition of the team dynamic, because that's more important than anything.
Even in the domestic market, right now everyone is going a little crazy with all these moves here and there. The transfer window is very, very long, and you never know what deals will come your way. So we have to deal with every possible situation. The most important thing is that at every position we want to have two guys, and good guys.
Right now, with the reserve league, we have to look at domestic players and homegrown players and the whole youth system as well. We have to make a connection to the youth market, to the teams around us. They're going to help us and we're going to help them. I believe that in the last 17 months we've created a very special connection with those teams, with those clubs, and it's going to be beneficial for all of us.
Of course we are looking at every possible option. I know that there have been rumors and some stuff coming back and forth about a certain player coming our way. When this happens, then it's going to happen. Nothing has been established right now. Brad Knighton is with us, and we're looking at options not only on the goalkeeper side but also up top and in the midfield. We're looking to improve at every position.
We're looking to add guys so that at every position there will be double [i.e. two players], and then there will be competition.
We're not going to comment on any players who are currently under contract*… All I can say is we're looking not only at this position [goalkeeper] but also looking, for many different reasons, to improve our roster in the best way possible – including the designated player. We're going to inform you as soon as we know more – there's not going to be any hiding, or guys from around the world sending rumors.
We just want to make sure that before we announce anything, we have to complete the paperwork, we have to complete all the visa applications for foreign players, and make sure we have the contract in our hands. Then we will make it official. Even with those players in the Re-Entry Draft, it's just the rights. The negotiation part is difficult.
Brad had some good games, but what is the next step for him? He needs to answer that question for himself, and with our help, needs to improve as well.
* - Nowak is referring to Faryd Mondragon, of course. According to The Sports Network, Mondragon's contract with FC Koln will officially be terminated at the end of December. Eurosport has a story stating that Mondragon "is leaving the club in January to join MLS side Philadelphia Union," which is about as official as it gets right now.]
On losing Chris Seitz and Fred:
Both of those players bring certain qualities to our team and that's why we selected those players in the first place. It's been a good learning experience for all of us – we've lost four players in the last month. So we've got to make sure that we get in the market and find those players that are going to replace those guys.
We believe that with the transfer window right now coming up and everything else coming in place, we'll get those players in our team, and make sure we're going to get the right ones.
I just hope that - as with Alejandro Moreno at that time [the Expansion Draft], that teams are selecting players and not trying to make some shaky deals behind the scenes, trying to be smart.
It's a learning process for all of us, and for Chris it was a difficult year. Because of his [Generation Adidas] status last year, he wasn't on our books, so we invested a lot of time and patience and we believed that at the end of the day, he would stay with us. Next year is his last year in his contract so we'll see what will happen. It could happen that he will be in the re-entry draft again next year if he doesn't come to the expectations everybody is putting on him.
I think overall we've been very happy with Fred. He was great in the locker room and a lot of players were very friendly with him. He will make a great presence in the [New England] locker room. He believes in his way of playing – sometimes you need to understand and dig deeper a little bit to understand where he's coming from and how he sees the game.
But he had a couple of great games, and even in the last game against New York he was the man on the field who you would like to see every single week.
On passing in the Re-Entry Draft, and on the draft's structure:
I think we have a certain number of players who we're looking at right now. Entering this stage of the re-entry draft, if there's going to be someone interesting that is going to fulfill our requirements in the salary cap and also the money we have at our disposal, then we're going to be interested. But we don't want to tie our hands up right now on December 15. We still have a long transfer window to work with to make the best selections possible.
We all know these players and what they did in the past. We know what they can add to the team and we believe in our structure from the beginning, and our road going forward with the squad. We believe that we have the time to do it and to find the right guys for our team and make sure there's going to be the right guys who we really want and who are going to help our team.
The whole point of this draft is that the players' rights were picked. It doesn't mean that players need to re-negotiate contracts. It's not really that you're signing the players. The players belong to nobody. The players are in position to hold the clubs hostage, because their rights are there and the clubs need to play some amount of money that is required.
That might complicate the salary cap and the structure of the team. That, in some capacity, could tie your hands up. We want to avoid that make sure that with all our resources in place, we will be ready for a long transfer window.