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The Union loan Matej Oravec to a team in his native Slovakia after an underwhelming tenure here

He hasn’t played a second for the Union since his arrival last year. It seems he wasn't going to anytime soon.

Matej Oravec (right) dribbled the ball away from Matthew Real during a Union practice last summer.
Matej Oravec (right) dribbled the ball away from Matthew Real during a Union practice last summer.Read moreAndrew Zwarych / Philadelphia Union

The Union have loaned Matej Oravec to Slovakian second-division club FK Zeleziarne Podbrezová until next summer in the latest sign that the once-promising 23-year-old Slovakia native has failed to catch on here.

Oravec was signed from Slovakian first-tier club Dunajská Streda at the start of 2020 for a transfer fee that was never made official but was understood to be in the mid-to-high six figures. He was expected to be the team’s starting defensive midfielder but was beaten to the role by José Andrés Martínez. He was beaten to the No. 2 spot on the depth chart by Warren Creavalle, and Jack Elliott even played the role some last year instead of Oravec.

The Union were hamstrung in their ability to get Oravec playing time with their reserve team in the USL championship at the time because of coronavirus pandemic protocols that restricted how MLS clubs could move players to and from USL teams. The goal was to limit how many other people a player would be exposed to in the course of doing his work, which made ample sense from a health perspective but put a wrench in player development pathways.

This year, Leon Flach has been the backup defensive midfielder and has been very good at it. So the Union have been stuck with a player who wasn’t going to play in MLS and couldn’t play anywhere else last year. Oravec has not played a second for the Union; he was on the bench 11 times last year but has yet to be this year. He played one game for Slovakia’s under-21 team in September, his only live action since signing here.

The club to which Oravec is going is one he knows well. He played for Podbrezová in the first half of 2019, then moved to Dunajská Streda for the second half.

That the loan is for the full 2021-22 European season might raise some eyebrows here because Oravec’s contract with the Union runs through the 2022 calendar year with a club option for 2023. So when he comes back, he’ll be here for only around six months before the team has to decide whether to let him go for good.

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