Updated 12:50 p.m. Friday: During Tranquillo Barnetta's introductory press conference, Union technical director Chris Albright said Barnetta will be eligible to play Saturday, but refused three times to answer questions about how that is the case. On the fourth attempt, Albright finally acknowledged that injured midfielder Vincent Nogueira will be temporarily loaned to Harrisburg to clear space until another move can be made.
The Union finally sealed the deal on signing Swiss national team midfielder Tranquillo Barnetta on Wednesday.
Barnetta is among the highest-profile players the team has ever acquired, right up there with Freddy Adu, Carlos Ruiz and Faryd Mondragón.
He will not count as a Designated Player, even though he'll command a big salary, because the Union paid his salary down via Major League Soccer's recently-unveiled "Targeted Allocation Money" mechanism. That was an infusion of cash from the new collective bargaining agreement which allows teams to reduce salary cap hits for players who would otherwise count against the three-DP-per-team limit.
Before joining the Union, the 30-year-old Barnetta played for German powerhouse Schalke 04. At the international level, he has played for Switzerland since 2004, including at the 2006 and 2010 World Cups. He was on the roster for the 2014 World Cup, but did not make it on to the field.
Barnetta can play in a range of midfield positions, both centrally and out wide. For the time being, he seems most likely to slot into the left wing role that has recently been Andrew Wenger's. Barnetta could make his debut as soon as Saturday night's game against the New York Red Bulls at PPL Park (7 p.m., 6abc).