It’s still early in the offseason and the Philadelphia Union are likely to make many more moves heading into the 2012 campaign, but the club's coaches feel like they got off to a good start when they acquired Nizar Khalfan in the MLS Waiver Draft.
Khalfan, they believe, has the potential to immediately plug the hole once filled by Justin Mapp, who went to the Montreal Impact in the Expansion Draft.
“He has a chance to come in and at least take the spot where Justin left,” Union assistant coach John Hackworth told MLSsoccer.com. “He certainly has a lot of tools that could allow him to be a very good player in the future.”
Hackworth admitted he was “very surprised” when the Vancouver Whitecaps waived Khalfan, a 23-year-old Tanzanian midfielder who came through the Whitecaps system as a Home Grown player. Last season, he scored a goal and had four assists in 1,066 minutes.
“Him being waived, as a Home Grown player, seemed pretty strange,” Hackworth said. “It was truly not a risk on our part. With a new head coach and a new staff coming into the team at Vancouver, I don’t think they had the opportunity to be around him and really realize his potential.”
Aside from losing Mapp and acquiring Khalfan, the Union also parted with ways with defender Juan Diego González and goalkeeper Thorne Holder. Those moves, though, were not too surprising, since neither saw any official action last season and González had a large salary. At 31, González was also one of the oldest players on the club.
“When you’re retooling, you have to make sure you’re managing the roster and the salary cap,” Hackworth said. “We’re not necessarily trying to get younger; we’re trying to get better. And we’re going to look at every avenue do that.”
The Union also made veteran midfielder Stefani Miglioranzi and reserve 'keeper Chase Harrison eligible for the Re-Entry Draft. Neither player was selected by another team in Stage 1 and, according to Hackworth, Philly may look to retain them both.
A Union original, Miglioranzi has played 43 games for Philly over the past two years.
Stage 2 of the Re-Entry Draft will take place next Monday. Last year, the Union lost two players – Chris Seitz and Fred – in that stage.
“Stefani has been such an important part of our team on and off the field, and we don’t want to lose him,” Hackworth said. “The Re-Entry process gives players a little more leverage to negotiate. We’re very hopeful we can keep both Stefani and Chase with us.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at email@example.com