If you thought at the end of the season that Fafa Picault’s time with the Union was over, you’re right. But if you presumed he was headed abroad, you ended up wrong.
As a result of what was effectively a sign-and-trade deal, the Union sent Picault to FC Dallas on Tuesday for $300,000 in money usable on next year’s player salaries. Dallas will kick in an extra $75,000 for 2021 if Picault meets performance targets next year that were not made public.
Whether or not he does, the sum is big enough to make the deal worthwhile.
Picault was out of contract at the end of this season, and the presumption was his next stop would be abroad. The Union made him an offer anyway, which in MLS’ complex rulebook allowed the team to retain rights to him should he return to the league some day.
It turns out he is not leaving the league, thanks to this deal.
Picault was widely popular with Union fans, thanks to his relentless hustle on the field and an outgoing personality off it. The 28-year-old Manhattan native brought a good bit of man-about-town flair to the locker room, serving as its restaurant expert and best dancer.
And that wasn’t just for show. His fluency in a slew of languages made him a key conduit to integrating the team’s diverse roster.
He also had some family history here: his father Leslie was briefly part of the indoor Philadelphia Fever in the early 1980s.
On the field, Picault was an effective attacking force, with blistering pace and a good enough scoring touch to deliver 22 goals in three years here. The last of them was the equalizer at 3-3 in the Union’s epic playoff win over the New York Red Bulls, the team’s first ever postseason victory. He registered 13 assists, including the cross that led to Marco Fabián’s winner that day.
In all of those regards, he will be missed on and off the field. But his departure has been likely for a while, and it was no secret to insiders and outsiders alike.
Because Picault is a winger, he was an imperfect fit in Union sporting director Ernst Tanner’s preferred 4-4-2 system. Picault played well on the flank in the 4-2-3-1 that the Union used as their secondary formation, and he tried his best to adapt to the 4-4-2′s different requirements. Everyone knew it wouldn’t work in the long term.
“It’s a bittersweet feeling as I say goodbye,” Picault wrote on Instagram in a farewell message to Union fans. “I gave you my heart, my passion, my body, my soul, and you returned the love. ... I know now that it’s best for me to move on, and I’m beyond excited to get the show on the road in Dallas.”
Between this deal and last week’s deal of Auston Trusty to the Colorado Rapids, the Union have banked $600,000 to put toward next year’s payroll.
“We thank Fafa for his time served with the Philadelphia Union,” Tanner said in a statement. “His charisma on and off the field produced many notable moments for the club. Given our confidence with our roster at the position, this is the best move for club and a great opportunity for the player.”