WAYNE, Pa. – After the Philadelphia Union faltered down the stretch to fall out of the MLS Cup Playoffs, manager John Hackworth knew his midfield needed serious improvement heading into the 2014 season.
He also knew exactly what type of player he wanted and where he wanted to look.
The result – after weeks of excruciatingly long negotiations that tested the manager’s patience – was Monday’s acquisition of Maurice Edu as a Designated Player on a one-year loan from Stoke City.
“We were trying to monitor a number of US national team players that were coming back,” Hackworth told MLSsoccer.com following Edu’s introductory press conference Tuesday. “And we had a couple of specific targets – guys that were central midfielders, guys that were playing in Europe and guys that were in their prime. Mo checks all of those boxes.”
But Edu is just one piece to a midfield that is getting a major overhaul this offseason. The Union also welcomed Designated Player Cristian “Chaco” Maidana two weeks ago and are now set to sign Frenchman Vincent Nogueira in the coming days.
“I said last week we were close to being at the finish line for Maurice’s deal,” Hackworth said. “Now we’re in the same place for Vincent Nogueira. We are hopeful we will have a deal in place very soon. But it’s not done yet. And as I said last week, until it gets done…”
Hackworth trailed off, but his point was obvious.
While the manager couldn’t detail much of the salary negotiations with Stoke City and Edu’s camp, he did make it clear that getting the deal done was a complicated process that seemed close to being finished on a couple of different occasions before it finally came to fruition.
He also said that the reports about MLS potentially nixing a deal because Edu sought an especially high salary stalled the process even further.
“The light I can shed on that is that don’t believe everything you read on Twitter,” Hackworth said. “A lot of that complicated this whole process, to be very fair. I get it – people have an idea and hear something and it gets out there. But in today’s social media, it almost runs away with itself like wildfire.”
As it was, it took a lot of maneuvering to bring Edu to Philly. Hackworth said that when he and technical director Rob Vartughian started discussing it as a possibility, the first thing they needed to do was talk to league officials, who told them they needed to have the No. 1 allocation ranking to acquire a player of that stature.
The Union did that when they shipped off Jeff Parke to D.C. United, which allowed them to begin to work with the league to negotiate a deal with Stoke City and Edu’s agent, Lyle Yorks. Union CEO Nick Sakiewicz credited Yorks, Vartughian, Edu and MLS executive Todd Durbin for creating a “win-win-win-win scenario for four different parties.”
Sakiewicz also helped seal the deal himself with a trip to England last week to meet personally with Edu.
“We had dinner in London a few days ago, and what I thought was a one-hour dinner turned into three hours,” Sakiewicz said. “The longer it went, the more I realized that Mo is going to be a terrific addition to the Union.”
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If there was any major surprise about the deal, it was that it was a loan rather than a transfer. But Hackworth would like that to change.
“You go through all different kinds of scenarios on how to acquire a player,” the Union manager said. “Because of different demands, whether from Stoke or the league, you work out situations that make sense for you. I’m hopeful this is a loan that can turn into a permanent transfer.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at email@example.com.