Philadelphia Union signs Red Star Belgrade and Kenya midfielder Richard Odada

Union boosted their depth in midfield for the final part of the season by signing Richard Odada, a 21-year-old Kenyan from Serbian club Crvena zvezda.

Odada projects himself here as a defensive midfielder. He has been in Serbia for two years, most of which has been on loan at national second division sides – Gornji Milanovac’s FK Metalac and Belgrade’s Grafičar, opposite Crvena zvezda in the Serbian capital.

Odada has played five times for the Kenya national team, all in last year’s qualifying matches for the World Cup this fall. He scored a goal from the penalty spot in the qualifying final against Rwanda which proved to be the match winner in a 2–1 win.

Union signed Odada to a 2.5-year contract with squad options for 2024 and 2025 and paid a small transfer fee of around $150,000.

“Richard is a midfielder with positional versatility and great potential to be a valuable contributor as we continue to grow our roster,” Union sporting director Ernst Tanner said in a statement. “He can play multiple roles in midfield as well as a centre-back, and he has the size, speed and physicality that we were looking for. We look forward to integrating it this year and encouraging its development for the future.

Odada is a signing for the future, if that wasn’t clear enough from Tanner’s words. Union regularly present offers for José Andrés Martínez, and while it would be shocking if he were sold in the middle of this great season, it won’t surprise anyone if he moves on at some point.

Odada is therefore a candidate to succeed Martínez. And the height part of Tanner’s remarks is real: Odada is 6-foot-3, an unusual height for a midfielder.

If you haven’t heard of Crvena zvezda, you may have heard of the English translation of its name: Red Star Belgrade. The club has won 33 league titles and 26 national cups over the decades, from the former Yugoslavia to present-day independent Serbia.

Red Star also has a long record in the Champions League and its predecessor in the European Cup, making many deep runs in the 80s and 90s. They won the tournament in 1991 and remain Europe’s last team in the Is to lift the biggest club trophy on the continent.

Odada is notably represented by the same agency that has Union star Kai Wagner as a client. Considering European teams’ interest in Wagner over the years, it’s a safe bet that Tanner knows the agency pretty well by now.

We’ll see if the Union make another move before Major League Soccer’s summer transfer window closes at the end of Thursday. This is the deadline by which teams can buy players under contract elsewhere. Teams can sell players based on the league close of the buying team’s transfer window. For most major European leagues, their deadline is September 1.

READ MORE: It’s surprising Kai Wagner is still with Union, but neither is it

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