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Union introduce new director amid flurry of moves

Earnie Stewart has recently started in his position as sporting director of the Union, and since the Major League Soccer offseason is so short, he has hit the ground running.

Earnie Stewart.
Earnie Stewart.Read more(Steven M. Falk/Staff Photographer)

Earnie Stewart has recently started in his position as sporting director of the Union, and since the Major League Soccer offseason is so short, he has hit the ground running.

The Union made a few trades this week and are also preparing for the Jan. 14 MLS SuperDraft, in which they will be selecting third and sixth overall in the first round.

"There aren't enough hours in the day," Stewart said at an introductory news conference at Talen Energy Stadium (formerly PPL Park).

The Union went 10-17-7 and missed the playoffs for the fifth time in their six seasons. With so much parity in MLS, Union owner and chairman Jay Sugarman has high hopes for this season. When asked whether his goal was for the Union to earn one of the six Eastern Conference playoff spots, Sugarman didn't hesitate.

"Yes, that would be a minimum goal for next year," he said.

It will be up to Stewart, who played in three World Cups for the United States and served as the director of football affairs at AZ Alkmaar in the Dutch Eredivisie since June 2010, to revive this franchise.

Just in the last few days, the Union traded Cristian Maidana, who was second in MLS with 15 assists, and Andrew Wenger who started 22 games, to Houston for the No. 6 overall pick in the draft and targeted and general allocation money.

When asked about trading Maidana, Stewart wouldn't divulge his reasoning.

"I don't want to get into individual names," he said.

The Union also acquired midfielder Chris Pontius from D.C. United for targeted and general allocation money, and on Thursday they traded defender Ethan White to New York City FC for a 2017 fourth-round pick.

Late Thursday, the team announced several moves ahead of Friday's MLS reentry draft.

The Union picked up the contract options of Eric Ayuk, Leo Fernandes, Sebastien Le Toux, Richie Marquez, Vincent Nogueira, Zach Pfeffer, and C.J. Sapong. They will join Tranquillo Barnetta, Andre Blake, Maurice Edu, Raymon Gaddis, and John McCarthy, who were already under contract for the 2016 season.

The Union declined contract options on goalkeeper Zac MacMath, defender Steven Vitoria, midfielders Fred, Eric Bird, Danny Cruz, and Jimmy McLaughlin, and forwards Dzenan Catic, Conor Casey, and Antoine Hoppenot.

MacMath was the Union's starting keeper for most of three seasons before being sent on loan last season to Colorado.

The Union said they were in advanced discussions with midfielder Warren Creavalle, who is eligible for reentry.

Three other players, Fabinho, Brian Carroll, and Michael Lahoud are out of contract and are in negotiations with the Union. Forward Fernando Aristeguieta is on loan until the end of the calendar year and the Union are in discussions with FC Nantes in regard to a possible extension. Goalkeeper Brian Sylvestre remains on loan.

In addition, defender Austin Berry was out of contract and signed with FC Cincinnati of USL.

So there will be plenty of new faces, and Stewart will be the architect. In addition, the Union gave reporters a tour of their new training complex, on the site of Talen Engery Stadium. It's expected to be completed in the spring.

Sugarman says tha,t counting the existing practice fields, the complex will cost "north of $10 million."