The Union announced Monday that veteran defensive midfielder Warren Creavalle and left back Fabinho will remain in Chester in 2019, along with reserve striker Kacper Przybylko.
Creavealle had been out of contract, and the Union had declined existing 2019 options on Fabinho and Przybylko to negotiate new, and likely cheaper, deals.
“All three are important depth pieces for us,” Union sporting director Ernst Tanner said in a statement.
Przybylko’s return isn’t surprising. Though he didn’t play for the Union after arriving last year because he was still recovering from a long-term foot injury, the Poland native was brought here by Tanner. The Union had been in negotiations with him for a few weeks.
“We are encouraged with Kacper’s progress in regaining full fitness,” Tanner said.
That the two veterans are back is surprising, given that Tanner wants more of the Union’s younger players to get more playing time. Creavalle plays the same position as Derrick Jones, and Fabinho plays the same position as Matt Real.
Last month, Tanner gave the impression that Creavalle wasn’t coming back when he said the 28-year-old already had a contract offer elsewhere. But that evidently wasn’t a judgment on Tanner’s view of the player.
“Warren’s ball-winning skills fit well under our tactical philosophy,” Tanner said.
As for Fabinho, that deal seems to be more about his presence in the locker room than his presence on the field. The 33-year-old Brazilian is the Union’s longest-tenured player.
“Fabinho is such an important leader for our club, a valued player and person who truly is the heartbeat of our locker room," Tanner said.
Creavalle and Fabinho each earned $153,000 last year. Presumably, they took pay cuts in their new deals. We’ll find out when the MLS Players Association releases its next round of salary data in the spring.
Major League Soccer unveiled a sweeping overhaul of its playoffs on Monday, doing away with two-leg, aggregate series in favor of one-game knockout rounds throughout. The league also expanded the playoff field from six teams per conference to seven, in conjunction with FC Cincinnati becoming MLS' 24th team next year.
The new format will see three matchups in the first round -- 4 vs. 5, 3 vs. 6 and 2 vs. 7 -- with the No. 1 seed getting a bye. The conference semifinals will then be 1 vs. 4/5 and 2/7 vs. 3/6.
This style of playoffs has been championed for years by those who back the drama that one-game rounds can bring. Detractors feared play-to-lose soccer -- and lower-seeded team owners feared losing the money and exposure they got from home games in the old format.
But both in terms of talent and finances, MLS is at a point where this format should be a success. And one of its more subtle benefits shouldn’t be overlooked: Instead of dragging the playoffs out for a month and a half, the whole thing will be done in three weeks.
MLS will end the regular season before the FIFA window in mid-October, start the playoffs the weekend after the break (giving teams ample time to rest players and sell tickets), and finish the playoffs before the November FIFA window. The November window was a headache for years, as it cut off momentum and took high-profile players away from their club teams at the height of the postseason.
In 2019, the first day of the playoffs will be Oct. 19, and the MLS Cup final will be played on Nov. 10.