MLS Insider: Tom Bogert

Kacper Przybylko craves "new chapter" in Chicago, holds no grudges to Philadelphia

Kacper Przybylko arrived in Philadelphia in September 2018 under little fanfare or expectations.

The striker was without a club for a few months and joined as the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs neared, the first of a few consecutive "best-ever" seasons for the Union as they kept lifting the bar. There was no focus on him and he did not make his debut. Ahead of 2019, he was a little-known forward on the depth chart with a difficult name to pronounce (and spell) to most fans. Before long, he won the starting job and became a fan favorite.

Przybylko leaves after becoming an integral part of a Supporters' Shield-winning side, Philadelphia's top goal-scorer and the top goal-scorer from the 2021 Concacaf Champions League. He had 35 goals and 14 assists in 83 regular-season games with the Union, appearing in every one of the club's 57 scheduled matches over the last two years, putting to bed foot-injury nightmares in Germany that preceded his time in Philly.

Then Przybylko was the subject of a sizable trade offer this winter and looking for a new contract, so the Union accepted $1.15 million in General Allocation Money from Chicago Fire FC. With that price tag, Przybylko's Chicago arrival assuredly comes with big fanfare and expectations.

“[Sporting director Georg Heitz] called me and said he wants to build the team around me," Przybylko told media on a virtual press conference Tuesday. "He wants the team to be connected… It was nice to hear he said he wanted to feed me with as many passes as they could. I just need to finish them off. It was nice to hear that, it’s a huge value.”

The 28-year-old former Polish youth international wasn't in the mood to look back or be too nostalgic. He's grateful for his time in Philadelphia and says he left on good terms, though he broke the news of his potential exit, giving an interview in which he revealed Chicago's trade offer (and subsequent offer to give him a new, long-term contract) as well his own frustration at not having a guaranteed contract. Przybylko said in that interview that he hoped Philly would accept the trade.

"So you want to know more than what I said already?" Przybylko joked when asked to open up on his departure.

“I don’t hold a grudge to anyone in Philly, I had good conversations with everyone," he added. "They all said very nicely goodbye, and here everyone welcomed me so nice. It's a new chapter for me, and I'm just really happy being here right now."

It's a new chapter for the Fire, too.

Przybylko is Chicago's marquee acquisition so far this offseason, though they're in the market for potentially two Designated Players. The Fire wrapped up another disappointing season in 2021 and named Ezra Hendrickson head coach this offseason as they went into another roster rebuild.

The center forward will be among Hendrickson's key players, alongside fellow new acquisitions Rafael Czichos (center back from FC Koln) and Jhon Duran (forward from Envigado FC). They'll complement South American midfielders Federico Navarro and Gaston Gimenez, as well as homegrowns Mauricio Pineda and Gabriel Slonina.

“My style will obviously change," Przybylko said. "It’s a new coach, a new team. My former teammates had so much quality and there’s so much quality here. My job is to be the one up front finishing goals, holding the ball and making space for my teammates. It’s up to me to adjust to a new style and help the team.”