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November 18, 2016

Finding a forward – realistic offseason targets for the Union (part 2)

Some people were underwhelmed with the list of striker targets that I came up with in part one of this series.

Let's be honest; Philly isn't going to spend five million dollars to bring in a Wayne Rooney, David Villa, or Sebastian Giovinco. The club doesn't spend that kind of cash on players, and they don't target foreign veterans who are nearing retirement. 

The Union do, however, have the tools to bring in a DP striker right around the seven-figure threshold. The MLS Golden Boot winner, Bradley Wright-Phillips, earned just $650,000 this season. FC Dallas, the best team in the league, didn't even have a single player making more than $500,000. 

You can find good players if you know where to look. 

With Earnie Stewart at the helm, the Union can lean on stronger and wider ranging connections to upgrade the roster. 

Teemu Pukki

The 26-year-old Finland international played with Tranquillo Barnetta at Schalke from 2011 to 2013.

It was his form at HJK that earned a transfer to the Bundesliga, where he scored eight goals and added three assists in two seasons. 

Pukki transferred to Celtic in 2014, and scored seven goals in around 1,200 minutes of action. Similar to his time with Schalke, he couldn't hit the double digit mark, and was considered to have under-performed that year.

He went on loan to Brondby in 2015, where he rediscovered his form and contributed nine goals in his first campaign. That loan move turned into a permanent signing, and he's added 19 goals in league play, plus nine more in Europa League qualifiers.

Pukki has nine goals in 53 international appearances.

Celtic paid $2.5 million for him a few years ago, and that market value has dropped.  

Andrew Wooten 

Wooten is an American-German forward plying his trade with SV Sandhausen in the 2. Bundesliga. 

The 27 year old is in great form right now, with four goals in six games dating back to September 23rd. 

Wooten's path and profile has been relatively quiet compared to the likes of Fabian Johnson, John Brooks, and Jermaine Jones. Like most of the German-born players who now represent the U.S., Wooten's father was a military member serving overseas. Wooten lived in Virginia briefly before moving back to Germany, and was only a peripheral figure in the U.S. youth setup. 

He did, however, earn a USMNT callup in 2015 and made his first and only international appearance in a friendly with Costa Rica. Wooten played 18 minutes off the bench in that 1-0 loss.

Kevin Kratz, the Atlanta United midfielder who had a brief training stint in Philadelphia, was Wooten's teammate at Sandhausen. 

Eddie Hernandez

Hernandez scored for Honduras last week in their 3-1 win against Trinidad and Tobago in World Cup Qualifying.

The 25 year old has had an unusual career path, which began with domestic side Platense. After a one-year loan to Sweden, he returned to Honduras to play for traditional powerhouse Motagua. He then left on loans to Mexico's second division and China's third division, where he now plays with Qingdao Jonoon.

If the resume is unspectacular, his numbers are not. Hernandez has scored a ton of goals at every stop along the way. He's 6-foot-3, with a great blend of size, power, and passing ability. 

This guy is much better than the Chinese third tier, and he won't be there for much longer if he scores goals for his national team. 

Denni Avdic

Earnie Stewart signed Avdic from Werder Bremen in 2013 after a successful loan spell to PEC Zwolle.

He only made 13 appearances for AZ before going out on loan to Heracles, then returning to his native Sweden to sign with AIK.

The 28 year old could never replicate his Allsvenskan form in Germany or the Netherlands, but showed flashes along the way. He scored eight league goals for Zwolle and added four in the KNVB Cup. He bagged six more total at Heracles, but only had a pair of cup goals for AZ. 

Avdic is 6-foot-4, a prototypical center forward with high-level hold-up skills. He's strong with his back to goal and does have a lot of similarities to C.J. Sapong in that regard. You won't get a ton of goals from him, but he's excellent in the air and does a lot of the small things very well. 

Erwin 'Jimmy' Hoffer

Hoffer played at Eintracht Frankfurt with Union goalkeeping coach Oka Nikolov.

The Austria international scored a ton of goals for Rapid Vienna from 2006 to 2009, which earned him a transfer to Napoli.

He didn't get much of a chance in Serie A, and has spent the last five or six years bouncing around Germany, spending time with Kaiserslautern, Frankfurt, Fortuna Dusseldorf, and Karlsruher. 

Hoffer finished the 2015-16 campaign with four goals in 27 games. He has one goal this year, and has played mostly as a substitute behind Dimitrios Diamantakos. He did make four starts in October.

His best days might be behind him, but you never know if a change of scenery might make sense for a player that contributed 44 goals and 24 assists in nearly 100 regular season appearances for Rapid. 

Follow Kevin on Twitter: @Kevin_Kinkead