Before the 2012 season began, the Philadelphia Union signed four players from South America and Central America – Lionard Pajoy, Gabriel Gómez, Porfirio López and Josué Martínez – and plugged them all into the starting lineup for the team’s first game.
With this week’s announcement that the club had waived Gómez and López – following the midseason trade of Pajoy – it’s fair to say those acquisitions did not exactly pan out.
But that isn’t stopping Union manger John Hackworth from continuing to dip into the Latin American market. This past Saturday, in fact, Hackworth returned from a weeklong scouting trip to South America with the Union’s new director of international player development, Ricardo Ansaldi.
“I can see a really likely possibility we will have a signing based on that trip and based on our scouting in South America,” Hackworth told MLSsoccer.com by phone on Tuesday.
The Union manager did not want to put on record which players they were scouting or even which country they were in, but noted that the familiarity and expertise Ansaldi has in the region made it a very productive trip.
“We did a lot of driving between soccer fields and got stuck in a lot of South American traffic jams,” Hackworth said. “But we saw an awful lot, which is excellent because we had a long list of targets. Now we’ve got to make some decisions.”
Hackworth dismissed the idea that the failings of last season’s Latin American signings would affect the way the club scouted in the future, pointing to the success of Colombian Carlos Valdés, the club’s captain and all-star center back, and countryman Roger Torres, who the team locked up to a long-term deal before the 2012 season. (When asked if Martínez would be back next season, he declined comment.)
“It has nothing to do with where they’re from or their ethnicity,” Hackworth said. “It has to do with the individual and if the players fit into what we need. When you look at the individual guys, Carlos Valdés is really important to our team. A guy like Roger Torres is coming back because we think there’s something there that Roger can give us and that he can hopefully reach the potential we all think he’s capable of.
“We just went to South America for a reason. It’s because there are some really good players there.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Philadelphia Union for MLSsoccer.com.