The Philadelphia Union had one mission for their offseason spending.
The Union needed to go out into the transfer market and bring in and established scorer to lead the forward line.
Philadelphia's designated player signing of Mikael Uhre fulfilled that goal, and in the process, it opened up a new stage of the club's evolution.
The Union have evolved so much in the three seasons under sporting director Ernst Tanner. They sold three players for over a million dollars, won the Supporters' Shield, advanced to the semifinals of the Concacaf Champions League and finished in the top three of the Eastern Conference in each of those seasons.
But there was still something missing among all the success: a consistent scorer that the club could rely on game in and game out.
Kacper Przybylko was a success by every account for the club, but his production dried up when the club needed him most toward the end of the 2021 season.
Przybylko scored two goals in the final seven games of the 2021 season and the rest of the striker corps was hurt by injuries, which resulted in a switch to the 4-3-2-1 Christmas Tree formation.
Przybylko, Sergio Santos and Cory Burke formed a fine striker group, but the Union needed players to take them to the next level, which is a harder step to take as an established club.
The Union signed Julian Carranza on loan from Inter Miami in December to begin the process of building up the striker depth.
Last week, the Union made the major move required to bring in Uhre by sending Przybylko to the Chicago Fire for $1.15 million in allocation money.
Przybylko was one of the most unique success stories in Major League Soccer. He scored 35 regular-season goals for the Union over three years after coming to the club as an injury-prone second-division striker in Germany.
The Union realized it was time for them to evolve at the position and sometimes that requires a hard goodbye, like the one they said to Przybylko. All parties benefited from that deal. The Union brought in money to use on transfers, Chicago got a proven scorer and Przybylko got the long-term deal he was looking for.
That puts us now at Union 4.0.
Union 1.0 was the pre-sporting director days where chaos reigned supreme.
Union 2.0 was ushered in during the Earnie Stewart era. He brought structure to the franchise before he left for the U.S. men's national team program.
Union 3.0 began when Ernst Tanner replaced Stewart in September 2018. Tanner helped turn the club into one of the giants in MLS with an established academy that can attract European transfers and one that can play for trophies at the same time.
Union 3.0 produced sustained success with a roster made up of veteran players, terrific finds in the transfer market and Homegrown products.
Big spending was the one thing missing from the previous years of the Tanner era. Kai Wagner, Jamiro Monteiro, Sergio Santos and others were brought in deals that fit within the old budget. The one-year move for Marco Fabian was the flashiest signing of the bunch, but that was still a free transfer.
Uhre is reportedly arriving on a club-record transfer fee and he is in line to be one of the highest earners the club has ever had.
The former Brondby player is the first forward signed as a designated player by the Union since Fernando Aristeguieta in 2015. He is only the fifth DP since the Venezuelan forward came in. Alejandro Bedoya was brought in under that title and Monteiro still holds that tag, Fabian and Borek Dockal were the other DPs in that six-year time frame.
Philadelphia comes into the 2022 season with a DP forward that put in double-digit goals in the last two seasons in the Danish Superliga.
Oh by the way, Uhre comes from the same club that sold 2021 MLS MVP candidate Hany Mukhtar to Nashville SC. That is a positive sign for what the 27-year-old forward can achieve in MLS.
Uhre will be the established No. 9 for quite some time. Carranza could fill that role as well, but if he succeeds in Philly, there is a good chance he makes a permanent move to the Union and then is sold based off his potential.
Santos and Burke are great supporting pieces in the attack in this era of MLS, and if they stay healthy, the club has a four-deep striker unit that can challenge most clubs in MLS.
The striker unit adds to one of the deepest midfields in the league that has potentially eight starting-caliber midfielders, led by Monteiro, Daniel Gazdag and Jose Martinez.
The back line is as stable as it has been with Andre Blake in goal, Jakob Glesnes and Jack Elliott at center back and Olivier Mbaizo and Kai Wagner on the flanks. Wagner could be sold, but nothing has come of the European interest yet.
After the Uhre signing, the Union come into the 2022 season with the deepest roster they have ever had. Expectations are as high as they have ever been and now it's time for them to further establish they are one of the top clubs in MLS.