Kacper Przybylko is on his way of the Philadelphia Union.
Przybylko, who has been with the club since 2018, did not participate in Thursday's training session as the details of a trade with the Chicago Fire get figured out.
"Kacper was not in training today," Union head coach Jim Curtin said during his first weekly press conference of the season. "There's rumors swirling right now. I'm not going to hide from it. A lot of it is factual. We'll do what's best for our club at this time. Nothing is official yet. No real exact terms or trades to confirm, but things are certainly in motion."
The 28-year-old has been linked with a move to Chicago since the start of the week. He trained the last two days, but did not come to Wilmington, Delaware on Thursday.
Przybylko likely leaves a striker room that was added to in December with the acquisition of Julian Carranza on loan from Inter Miami. Curtin noted Carranza's sharpness in front of goal in the early stages of preseason.
"Our group has come in in very good shape," Curtin said. "Our group has come in hungry. I think all the players because so many of them contributed in big ways last year, young, old, have all come back with a real enthusiasm and it's made training fun to be around. It's been fun to watch to be quite honest.
"Julian Carranza has been very sharp in training. He's seamlessly blended in with the group, which is a real positive. Overall, I'm really happy with where the group is at now," Curtin said.
The impending Przybylko move could feel bittersweet for some members of the fan base and the players and staff inside the club. The 28-year-old scored 35 league goals during his tenure in Chester. He had two double-digit goal seasons in the process.
Przybylko is reportedly looking for more security on his contract and that is what Chicago will likely offer him.
"In Kacper's situation, there's things that can benefit both teams, what the player wants in terms of stability and longevity. I think he's been a real success from where he came from," Curtin said.
Curtin was quick to point out the deals made with the Colorado Rapids for Auston Trusty and Keegan Rosenberry that eventually worked out for both teams. Trusty's move took competition away from Mark McKenzie, who then thrived in the Union defense and earned a move to Europe. Rosenberry's departure marked a change in style at right back. It took some time for the Union to move Olivier Mbaizo through the ranks, but the Cameroonian has become a solid two-way option after Ray Gaddis briefly retired ahead of the 2021 season. Trusty and Rosenberry were key parts of Colorado's success in 2021 that earned it the No. 1 overall seed in the Western Conference.
"A lot of times we get into these discussions about who won what transfer or trade, and I get it it's pro sports. There's sometimes moments in the game where the best thing can happen for both sides," Curtin said. "That's what we're working to find at the moment. Every situation is different. You guys have seen it now just how active the transfer market has been. It's part of the business. It's not the part that I really love, but it's a reality and nature of the business.
"Sometimes it gets spun a little negatively, but there are instances in trades, and you can go through trades we've done in the past, that can benefit both teams. There's good players in Colorado that were formerly here that are doing well and it worked out for them, but also worked out for us," Curtin said.
Philadelphia trusts the three strikers in camp, but the club is looking to add someone else to join Carranza, Cory Burke and Sergio Santos.
Curtin hinted that the potential new striker could have similar qualities to Przybylko to balance out the skill sets in the strike force.
"I'm comfortable with (Carranza, Burke and Santos)," Curtin said. "I think any coach would be, but at the same time, I know how we operate. We always want to improve and get better. There's a reason we would acquire things like allocation money. We have a pretty good chest of allocation money as it stands today. Possibly even more coming in. We're certainly going to use that to upgrade the roster. If you're asking me: 'Are things done and is this the final roster?' Just like every other MLS team, I'd say absolutely not."
"We have in Cory, a good target. In Sergio, you have a slasher that will run in behind and stretch a defense. Carranza brings a little bit of both. He can hold the ball, but his movement is really to get in behind and stretch things. We prefer to play with two strikers up there. That other one will probably be a target type of guy but also one that scores goals. We'll continue to look and find a good fit for us," Curtin said.
Carranza will likely lead the line in preseason with hopes of him starting the home opener on February 26 against Minnesota United.
The on-loan striker looked sharp in front of goal over the first few preseason trainings and he is working to get up to speed on the defensive responsibilities that come with the position inside the Union system.
"Julian joins us with a high pedigree," Curtin said. "When Miami made a move for him a couple years back, he had an unfortunate injury and they signed Higuain. Playing time and minutes were something that weren't there for him. You can see his talent. The way he moves in and around the goal. He has natural goal-scoring instincts. He really attacks the ball when there's service in the box. We're a team that likes to put the ball in that red zone area. He's been on the end of a lot of goals in practice.
"Obviously, games are another thing and we want that to carry over into games once we get started against MLS competition. I think he'll only get better in our environment. I think he blended it well with the guys.
"He brings a little something different than our strikers and that's not a knock on our other strikers, but it's his style is a bit different where maybe some of our guys move the same way. He has different instincts and tendencies in and around the goal. I think he has a little bit of hunger, a little bit of a chip on his shoulder to get playing time. You're seeing that, which is a real positive. We're a team that puts a lot of balls into the penalty area, so any striker that is in our system will get on the end of things if we're doing our job.
"There still will be an adjustment period to the defensive work. I think he's learning that now. He's been very eager to learn off the ball and he'll get caught up to speed with the different principles we want out of our strikers," Curtin said.
The Union also have plans set up at left back if Kai Wagner makes a move to Europe before the end of the January transfer window.
As of Thursday afternoon, the Union have not received any concrete offers for the German left-back.
"At the end of the day, my relationship with Kacper is perfect. It's professional. We speak every day so none of this is a surprise. Kai is the same," Curtin said. "These players have aspirations and each player is different. If you take Kai's situation, when he came here from the third league in Germany, his aspirations were to play in the highest league and my job as a coach is to help him to get to that league."
"A lot of other things behind the scenes have to work out. The team and the timing has to be right, so yeah there still is a possibility of a club coming for him, but as of right now, there's no concrete offers that we've received. He's a Philadelphia Union player and he's happy to be here and do that. I wouldn't want a player that doesn't want to play at the highest level and reach their maximum potential and Kai's maximum, for me, is to play anywhere in Europe. I think he's that good."
The Union and Matt Real came to an agreement on a bonafide offer after the end of the 2021 season, so Real is in training as the backup left back. Real and Anton Sorensen would be the one-two combination at the position if Wagner gets sold.
Jakob Glesnes and Sergio Santos are the only players not with the group right now. Glesnes is expected in training on Thursday and Curtin hinted as the Norwegian's potential acquisition of a green card. Santos went through a hiccup with visa issues, but he is expected back soon as well.