With less than two weeks remaining in the MLS offseason, the defensive makeovers have continued for two Eastern Conference clubs trying to work their way back to the playoffs.
As the 2014 campaign rapidly approaches, the Chicago Fire sent Austin Berry, the 2012 MLS Rookie of the Year, to the Philadelphia Union in exchange for allocation money the clubs announced Monday.
At just north of $78,000 in guaranteed compensation in 2013 (according to MLS Players' Union documents), Berry did not eat up a huge chunk of cap space, though that number would seem likely to grow in Berry's third season. Forward Federico Puppo, who spent 2013 on loan at LDU Quito, cost the club $125,000 in 2013, though. The extra $200,000-plus in cap space, in addition to the influx of allocation money, could pave the way for a more lucrative deal for forward and reigning MLS MVP Mike Magee, who reportedly has been holding out from preseason training in hopes of securing a new contract commensurate with his status.
“Parting ways with Puppo allows us to get closer to cap compliance,” new Fire manager and director of soccer Frank Yallop said in a team statement. “We wish Federico well. ... It’s part of a number of difficult moves which help our team going forward.”
The move is the latest signal of shakeups across the back line for both clubs. The Fire had acquired central defenders Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Patrick Ianni from the Seattle Sounders in exchange for Jalil Anibaba earlier in the offseason, and their presence, plus that of Bakary Soumare, gave Yallop enough freedom and cause to part ways with Berry.
The Union parted ways with Jeff Parke in the offseason, acquiring young center back Ethan White from D.C. United in a trade for him. The club also traded up to take goalkeeper Andre Blake No. 1 overall in January's MLS SuperDraft. Between Berry, White and Amobi Okugo, the Union boast a young nucleus in the heart of their defense. “Austin is a talented central defender that will add quality to our back line,” Union manager John Hackworth said in a team statement. “He already has a lot of MLS experience and we think he is the right fit to help strengthen our central defense. We’re happy to have a player of his caliber and look forward to him joining the team.”