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Finances doomed Union's hopes for Feilhaber

CHESTER, Pa. – When Benny Feilhaber signed with Major League Soccer just before last Friday’s international transfer deadline, many Philadelphia fans dreamed of what their team would look like with the playmaking midfielder in Union colors.

But despite having the chance to bring Feilhaber to Philly with the No. 2 spot in the allocation order, the Union, like Chivas USA, declined the option before Feilhaber fell to New England.

At his weekly press conference at PPL Park on Wednesday, Union manager Peter Nowak explained the club’s reasoning for passing on the talented 26-year-old US national-team midfielder.

“There were a couple of factors we have to take into consideration,” Nowak said. “First of all, we didn’t negotiate the deal in the first place; the league did. Second of all, it was almost at the end of the transfer window period, which made it difficult to adjust because we already made plans for the summer [transfer window]. And the most important thing is the financial stuff.”

Nowak went on to explain he’d rather grow his team with three reasonably priced midfielders like Roger Torres, Keon Daniel and Brian Carroll, whose combined salary, he said, would roughly equal what Feilhaber will make in MLS.

Feilhaber’s high pricetag also would limit the team’s financial flexibility moving forward.

“We don’t have a $5 million salary cap where we can make such a decision,” Nowak said. “You do the math. I’d rather have three guys than one guy. I’ve never questioned Benny’s quality. But if you combine Roger Torres, Keon Daniel and Brian Carroll, those are three players that are pretty good and have some future.”

Nowak may not have questioned Feilhaber’s ability, but he did express doubts about how much of an impact he will make, questioning if the midfielder was even “a big name” despite having played in the 2010 World Cup.

The Union manager then pointed to the club’s marquee offseason acquisitions to prove that he’s not afraid to pull the trigger when the time is right.

“It has to be a balance that if I can get one guy who I really think is going to change the complexion of things, like Faryd [Mondragón] and Carlos [Valdés] and Brian Carroll, and now we got the Fish [Carlos Ruiz] …” Nowak said, “then I might consider.”

“I’m not against it,” he added. “I’m against the artificial, salary cap-crazy stuff that at the end of the day would work for today and tomorrow, but by the end of the year, when we have to make the roster compliance, we’ll say, ‘We have to trade Amobi Okugo or Danny Mwanga or Roger Torres because financially we’re not going to make it.’”

Nowak, who has yet to bring in a Designated Player during his reign in Philly, also added that putting a claim in on Feilhaber only to try to deal him would lack in “decency” and could backfire in the end, especially if they had to add other players as trade bait.

“Everyone has a different perspective on this,” Nowak said. “I believe in the fans’ opinion, but we’re looking at our books, looking at our future and looking what is available for us next year. … It’s not time to do it because Diego Gutiérrez and coaching staff have already made plans for summer, as well.”

Gutiérrez, the Union’s head of scouting and player development, agreed with Nowak’s assessment, saying in particular that the 19-year-old Torres has many of the same qualities as Feilhaber. Gutiérrez also noted that the first-place Union are not desperate to make any more acquisitions, but do have some plans in the works for the summer transfer window, if necessary.

“You don’t want to use all your bullets before you get into the fight,” Gutiérrez told “You have to be in a situation where you can make a move for a player you want.”