Kacper Przybylko was not on the field for the Union’s practice session Thursday, and manager Jim Curtin confirmed afterward that a trade may be imminent.
Przybylko recently told the Kanal Sportowy show in his native Poland that he has a trade offer on the table from the Chicago Fire, and he’d like to take it. The 28-year-old’s contract with the Union guarantees him this year, with an option year for 2023. Chicago’s offer, he said, would land him a three-year deal. The Fire would pay the Union $1 million in allocation money, split over two years.
That would be a plenty big return for a player whom Union sporting director Ernst Tanner signed in September 2018 as a depth piece. Przybylko came here while recovering from a foot injury and did not play until early 2019.
Once he got on the field, Przybylko became much more than a depth piece — he became the team’s top scorer. He scored 40 goals in 96 games across all competitions: 15 in 2019, eight in 2020 and 17 in 2021, including five in the Union’s run to the Concacaf Champions League semifinals. He delivered 16 assists, too, and was a major threat at pulling opposing defenses apart to create space for teammates.
Unfortunately, he was as prone to cold streaks as he was to hot streaks. A nine-game scoreless drought last August and September was particularly frustrating.
Przybylko also told Kanal Sportowy that he has interest from teams in Russia and Turkey. But Chicago’s offer seems more likely to be taken. New manager Ezra Hendrickson is seeking more attacking punch for one of MLS’s most underachieving teams, and the Fire have put a lot on the table.
“Obviously, there’s rumors swirling right now — I’m not going to hide from any of it, a lot of it is factual,” Curtin said. “We’ll do what’s best for our club at this time, but nothing is official yet. No real exact terms or anything or trades to confirm, but obviously things are certainly in motion and that’s the reason Kacper wasn’t in training today.”
Nor did Curtin hide from the fact the Union’s desire to sign another striker before the season starts has been accelerated by Przybylko’s likely departure.
“We have a pretty good chest of allocation money right now, as it stands today, and possibly even more coming in,” he said. “We’re certainly going to use that to really upgrade the roster. If you’re asking me are things done and is this the final roster, just like every other MLS team, I’d say, ‘Right now, absolutely not.’”
Replacing Przybylko won’t just be about signing another striker, though. The Union like to play with one big forward and one smaller one in their two-forward lineup, and the 6-foot-4 Przybylko has been No. 1 on the big side. Curtin confirmed that the team will pursue a like-for-like replacement.
“We have, obviously, in Cory [Burke], a good target, and in Sergio [Santos], you have a slasher that will run in behind and stretch a defense. [Julián] Carranza brings a little bit of both — he can hold the ball, but his movement is really to get in behind in and stretch things. … That other one [to be signed] will probably be a target type of guy.”
Curtin has only gotten to see Carranza for a few days so far, but he likes what he has seen in the new striker.
“You can certainly see his talent, the way he moves in and around the goal — he has natural goal-scoring instincts,” Curtin said. “He really attacks the ball when there’s service in the box. … “We’re a team that puts a lot of balls into the penalty area, so any striker in our system, if we’re doing our job, is going to get on the end of things and get on the end of crosses.”
» READ MORE: Union sign striker Julián Carranza from Inter Miami
Curtin also said he’s seen Carranza carrying a chip on his shoulder after being loaned out by Inter Miami, which had to dump millions of dollars in salaries after breaking MLS roster rules. Carranza was a $6 million signing before the start of Miami’s debut season in 2020 but fell down the depth chart when Inter signed former Argentina star Gonzalo Higuaín.
“There still will be an adjustment period, obviously, because of the defensive work” required of forwards in the Union’s high-pressing system, Curtin said. “I think he’s learning that now. But he’s been very eager to learn, working hard off the ball, and he’ll get caught up to speed in our environment and with the different principles that we want out of our strikers.”
Curtin revealed that academy-bred left back Matt Real, whose contract expired after last season, is back with the team after accepting a new offer during the offseason. He’ll compete with rookie academy product Anton Sorenson, who is highly regarded by scouts, to be Kai Wagner’s backup. And if the Union end up selling Wagner to a team in Europe, as he hasn’t been shy about wanting, Real and Sorenson will battle to be the new starter.
“The end of the year didn’t go exactly how Matt wanted, but I’m always a guy who can have a good meeting at the end of the year with you [and] forgive, forget different things,” Curtin said of Real. “I think we’re both on the same page, and he’s come in, looks really sharp in training … He’s still a very young age  and has a lot of experience under his belt already.”
Sergio Santos and Jakob Glesnes aren’t on the field yet because of visa issues. Curtin said the Brazilian Santos might take a little while longer, but Glesnes might be on the field Friday. Curtin also hinted that the Norway-born Glesnes is getting a green card, which would free up an international roster spot.
Staff photographer Tyger Williams contributed to this report.