Philadelphia Union "happy campers" after upgrading defense, landing their most coveted targets on busy draft day

BALTIMORE -- The Philadelphia Union went into Thursday’s MLS SuperDraft in a great position, holding the third and sixth overall picks.

Turns out, that wasn’t even enough for them.

With recently hired Sporting Director Earnie Stewart at the helm, the Union added the second overall pick with a draft-day deal and walked away with three of their most coveted targets in Georgetown defenders Joshua Yaro and Keegan Rosenberry and Creighton goalscorer Fabian Herbers.

“We’re pretty happy campers today,” Stewart said.

Stewart admitted he “didn’t sleep very well last night” as he tried to figure out a way to move up because they wanted “Yaro very bad” and knew he wouldn’t last until No. 3.

It was only moments before the draft began when, realizing that Wake Forest’s Jack Harrison would go No. 1, the Union pulled the trigger, shipping out general allocation money and a player to be named later to the Colorado Rapids in exchange for the No. 2 slot.

Drafting Rosenbery with their natural selection at No. 3 was always the next phase of Philly’s plan, in part because of the strong connection he shares with Yaro from Georgetown.

“That’s major for us in what we want to do,” Stewart said. “We want to be together, we want to be a team, and two players that have played together in the past and for the next coming years are going to play together, that’s going to be fantastic.”

Coming in, most people expected Stanford left back Brandon Vincent to go in the top three and for the Union to possibly take Rosenberry at No. 6. But Stewart and Curtin were both adamant that Rosenberry -- who spent time in the Union academy -- would not have been available if they waited.

“We didn’t believe he was going to drop that far,” Stewart said. “For us, he was an asset for our thoughts and our plans of how we want to build our team and build our foundation for a long time to come. I don’t think that was reaching on all. We were very, very keen on getting him, and everyone was in agreement to that position.”

Once Yaro, a center back, and Rosenberry, a right back, were secured, the Union felt comfortable pursuing their favorite attacking prospect in Herbers, who had 15 goals and a school-record 17 assists this past season.

Stewart and Curtin both later said they thought he might have been a top-five pick but had a gut feeling he would drop to them.

“As much as there are secrets and different things going on and everybody has their little hidden thing, we had a pretty good idea of who was going to be there at six,” Curtin said. “We were able to pull the trigger and get a guy that we valued very highly. We’re happy to have him on board. He has a good work ethic and he’s a kid who has a goal-scorer’s mentality, so he’ll have a little chip on his shoulder maybe from slipping to six.”

After their impressive first-round haul, the Union rounded out their defensive-focused day by taking George Mason left back Taylor Washington at No. 23. Although he was unheralded coming into the adidas MLS Player Combine, Washington impressed the Union coaches and could be in line to challenge Fabinho at left back, who is rumored to be re-signing with the club.

“We know we needed to strengthen the defense,” Curtin said. “We’ve given up too many goals in the past two years, so that was a priority. It’s important to stress that the defenders we all drafted can play with their feet too. They’re not physical, bruising guys. They can all pass out of the back and be the first line to start our attack and start our possession.

“It’s gonna be a new style that we’re gonna have and we’re excited to have all of these pieces, Washington included.”

Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at djzeitlin@gmail.com.

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