For Pete's Sake

Tone deaf

Photo: Paul Rudderow

Another exciting week of the offseason zipped by for the Philadelphia Union last week.

The boys in blue added zero new players to a first team that has added one new player — third striker Corey Burke — in the offseason so far.

They did, however, post no fewer than 41 tweets about all the cool stuff happening in Unionland!

@philaunion plugged MLS Combine games, posted inane polls about the Union’s June schedule, talked about the creation of the Union’s “eMLS” franchise, teased the team’s new home kit (which will undoubtedly be mostly blue with a gold stripe down the middle), and did whatever this is:

Now, I hate Family Guy, so maybe I wasn’t the target audience for this particular tweet. But the point is that the Union’s social media team is churning out an awful lot of content — without much genuine content to be churned.

Philly fans, and especially Union fans, aren’t dumb. Consequently, most of these tweets are met with expressions of frustration. Some wonder where a new central attacking midfielder signing is. Others laugh at the presumably paltry transfer budget. And at least one person concluded that it was time to check out entirely.


To be clear, this isn’t meant to be an attack on the Union’s social media team members. Someone in the front office has decided that the team will be aggressive on social media, and the team is following through — that’s their job.

The problem is that they have nothing to work with.

When no helpful information comes out of the front office, but the social media drum won’t stop pounding, fans get frustrated — with good reason. Fans, after all, aren’t really interested in anything except their team becoming better. During this stage of the offseason, adding new players to the franchise is the only way to make the team better. No new players are being added.

And yet, five or six times a day, once every hour or two, the Philadelphia Union appear in their fans’ Twitter (or Facebook, or Instagram, or what have you) feeds.

All these posts are doing is reminding those fans that absolutely nothing has changed with the team on the field. In the same way that likes on your Facebook status trigger a dopamine rush in your brain, silly posts by the Union Twitter feed trigger a rush of reflexive anger and unhappiness.

Last season left a sour taste in the mouths of supporters, and with the manager unchanged it is difficult for the Union to muster up much enthusiasm for this upcoming campaign without adding new blood to the squad. No Twitter post can change that.

Social media, if done correctly, is a way to bring fans even closer to their favorite team. Right now, the Union are doing the exact opposite.

With just one week left before players report back for preseason training, the winter dry spell may soon come to an end. Nevertheless, it might be time for a change in strategy for @philaunion. Maybe cut down to one Tweet a day, or limit yourself to one kit teaser per week.

Who knows, maybe the stove will finally start heating up. Goal.com reported just last night that the Union have inked Andre Blake to a new contract. The Union do often bleed late into January with their signings. And rumors are swirling about the MLS SuperDraft, set to take place in Philadelphia on Thursday, and whether the Union might seek a first-round pick of their own.

When the day comes that there is a bona fide first team signing, one that could turn around fan expectations for the upcoming season. the Union’s Twitter should flog that signing as much as it possibly can.

Until then, though, unhappy supporters might be better off just clicking the mute button.

36 Comments

  1. SO perfect in summarizing the sentiments. I actually applaud the marketing department (starting last season) for actually doing a really good job – so remarkably outshining the technical side. It’s just their jobs, and it would be amazing if they had a good soccer team to promote.
    .
    The fact that the new kit (which I’m not buying anyway) hasn’t been revealed when the rest of the league pretty much has is laughable. Every kit “teaser” is like, “Dude, you’re the Union, just post the damn shirt!” Not in anticipation to see it, just to stop seeing these stupid 30-sec teasers in my timeline (which Peter so accurately wrote).
    .
    Who in this fanbase would be excited by a draft pick when everyone knows we need far more than that? We’re not getting and attacking-mid from some top draft prospect – we need someone to train up Fontana and Najem, not one of their peers.
    .
    There just seems to be so much tone-deafness from this organization to fans who are really soccer fans. Like we have no knowledge of the game, expectations, formations, anything. And it sucks because I just want to see good soccer in Philadelphia… all I see is clever and now annoying social media promotions.

    • Another problem is that there’s not even any discussion or explanation for anything. If anything, ES seems to hold the fans in contempt. This team is going to fall completely off the map sooner than later.

      • Good piece, Peter. I know one of the guys who used to be on their marketing team and he told me that the marketing team that ran social media left this year. This seems to me like a brand new social media team coming in with little experience.

    • Section 114 (former) says:

      Are we still going to have a derogatory term for all women on the front of the kit?

      • neatherprovidencepops says:

        so Wawa on the front is going to move more kits with this offseason?

      • I still wear my jersey from season 1 because it does not have Bimbo on it and I won’t buy anew one until they change their shirt sponsor. I refuse to believe Bimbo is the only company in the world willing to shell out money to sponsor our shirts.

      • We never have. It’s a bread company. Most are capable of enough critical thought to realize that.

  2. On one hand, a part of me can admire Earnie’s ability to keep any rumors in check. In this day and age, that can’t be easy. But…
    .
    It sure would be nice if “the other hand” came carrying fruit, so to speak. No Union-related rumors would be a lot easier to take if there were signings.
    .
    Fortunately for me, I spend very little time on Twitter. Just never really made much sense to me; I think the only time I use it is right before a match to verify that Curtin has put out the same lineup yet again.

    • The easiest way to not have any rumors about new players leak out is to simply not pursue any new players…

      • This. This is the truth of it.

      • This is true. I’ll counter with two points.
        .
        There were (to my knowledge, anyway) no rumors of an Andre Blake extension until today. Second, there were (to my recollection, anyway) no rumors last year about signing Medunjanin, Simpson, Picault, or Wijnaldum until those signings happened. Medunjanin was a good signing, I think we all agree. Wijnaldum looked like a good idea at the time, but didn’t pan out. Picault turned out to be a nice addition, and might have a slightly bigger impact, even, if our coach was better at player rotation and playing match-ups. Simpson is the proverbial enigma wrapped inside a riddle. He got off to a nice start by scoring in his first home game – but was bit by the Union curse by also getting injured on the same play. Again, if our coach was better at rotations, we might have a better idea.
        .
        All of those signings, again to my admittedly feeble recollection at least, weren’t preceded by numerous rumors; they just happened – in Medunjanin’s case, at the end of January.
        .
        I agree, those should have all happened sooner so as to give the players the best chance to acclimate. And I’m not at all defending the Union’s utter silence up until now. Like I said, it would be nice to be bearing some fruit in the other hand.
        .
        I’m at least as frustrated by their inaction to improve a shitty roster as any other fan. I only renewed my season tickets because my daughter begged. We “downgraded” to corner seats. She’ll be a senior in high school this time next year, which – with college on the horizon who knows where – will certainly make not renewing a LOT easier if I come out of the 2018 season feeling as shitty about this team as I did after the 2017 season.

  3. el Pachyderm says:

    This.Is.Your.Philadelphia.Union.

  4. I haven’t figured out if having a Union Social Media job is awesome, or horrible. You have nothing sports-related to promote, so you just have to make things up. “Content Creator,” I believe it’s called.
    .
    So they must just sit around all day like an SNL writer’s room. “Ok, what if we make a video where…”
    .
    At least it’s a good resume builder for them. Sucks for us, though…

  5. Good piece, Peter. What’s really remarkable is how much vitriol each of these posts inspire on Twitter. Tone deaf is almost too kind an adjective for this club. Almost every comment following one of these posts is a hostile shot at the front office. And for good reason. The social media gang should put a hold on the “fun and games” posts until this team demonstrates that it takes the on-the-field product seriously.

  6. True. All the cheeky stuff is just painful. How about instead give us some in depth interviews with the players? The off season is a perfect time to hear about guys’ histories. How did they begin their path to soccer. Who inspires them. What challenges did they meet? What do they wish they could improve on during the next season? And by interviews, I don’t mean watch them do Taylor Swift karaoke.

    • So true. Some backgrounds in the players, what they’re doing to train and grow in the offseason, what their goals are for the year, etc.
      .
      How about some interviews with Curtin showing video and talking about tactics and how things work and where his minds at?

      • I personally would love if they showed Curtain showing gametape and talking tactics. Especially offensive tactics. LoL

  7. I do appreciate the social media activity. It at least shows that they care about the fans, in some respect. But everyone’s right that all that really matters is the product on the field.
    .
    It’s infuriating that not a single move has been made other than elevating Steel players or signing Homegrowns, aside form extending Andre. Good for them. But that won’t help the first team, and we just keep seeing every team blowing by the Union with DP or Young DP signings, and tons of in-league trades and transactions.
    .
    The team definitely has a habit of bringing in players late in the process, but, aside from signing questionable talent, that never helps when everyone then has to wait until May for them to jell. What does the team expect when a player has to “play himself into game shape,” if they aren’t even on the squad until February?

  8. Spot on article. My only reason for not hiding the Union on my Facebook page is the hope that they sign some players of need as they said they would. Seeing these stupid posts about their new kit or which game are you most excited about in June is an insult to the fans that just want to see a good product on the field. So please Union stop trying to sell the sizzle and deliver the fans the steak!

  9. I was planning on making a comment about this on today’s roundup but this article beat me to it. They posted yesterday about players looking like old paintings, I’m not even kidding. It’s a total joke.
    .
    I’m not sure why any of us are going to most of the games, and the SOBs need to plan something significant.

  10. Totally agree with this article. Of course, the Union social media crew have had a lot of practice doing this, since they were obliged to pump out fluff for the last several months of last year’s useless season too. So they’re just rolling along in the same vein now.

  11. My significant other who’s in marketing was genuinely surprised at the volume of vitriol each tweet receives. It’s not the same guy or same reply troll. It’s a myriad of fans who’ve all had enough. Kudos to the marketing dpt for not becoming jaded.

    • Hopefully the marketing staff isn’t just going ‘Wow, 50 replies to our latest kit reveal tease, let’s send out another’ and is actually reading the responses.

  12. It’s sad that this is what we are discussing instead of actual signings. SO Union? So Union.

  13. We are the babies and they are jingling keys to distract us.

    Union are so far behind the rest of the league. Any incoming players from outside this country WILL NOT get me excited. Why? It will probably be players past their prime on a free… No thanks. #10 signing will probably be the guy who ” wasn’t A fit” 6 months ago (Nico Martinez).

    I thought they were going to sign the young striker from Hati when he turned 18. He’s 18 now.

    FC Bull$hit

  14. Phil in Wilmington says:

    I am coping by responding with “that’s nice, but I’d much prefer news that we have a competitive starting IX, legitimate depth, and a coach who can do something with that he’s given.”

  15. I am so disgusted by this off-season I have nothing else to write or bitch about anymore. I’m numb. Barring moves to make this team better… and they should prolly come in a hurry… I am done as a paying customer after this season. I can’t imagine how bad this team is going to be this season. I’m genuinely worried it’s gonna be a repeat of last year’s 0-4-4 start but with no 4 game win streak to turn it around. I got nothing else.
    .
    Great article by the way. I’m just so frustated

    • Acceptance – the final stage of grief.

      And the feeling you have – numb – is the worst emotion in any relationship.

      Love – the Cup runs in otherwise down years. It HURT when Nogs hit the crossbar. Trusting in Earnie when he was first signed, despite the known financial constraints of ownership. Moneyball might work.

      Anger – (hate is too strong a word) – the SOB’s carrying a coffin into Talen. The fanbase cared enough about the club that they would make that kind of statement. Commentors on PSP and social media, venting after every frustrating performance.

      But numb, indifferent, whatever, the Union should be scared that so many long-time supporters seem to be coming to that conclusion. If we don’t care enough anymore to renew season tickets, watch matches, or spread the word to the casual fan about how much fun the Union game day experience is, the club is finished.

      I’ll get off my soapbox, have to head over to the Cliff and check on the cookie supply. Have a feeling we’re going to need a lot this year.

  16. Ernie Sign or Resign. !!!!!!!!!!

    If you are not allowed by Sugarman to sign a quality # 10 A major improvement at right wing and a bonifide left back then show some self respect and resign as Director. You have had 2 years to replace Barnetta. The union have plenty of money with the departure of Edu and others to make this a credible legitimate team today. . no exuses!,,,,,, This is your last chance buddy. The once hopeful Union has Blake at Goalie. if you can’t build a team around him cut him loose. He deserves to be on a good team. Sugarman you are a disgrace as an owner.

  17. I felt the same way when I got a call from one of their ticket reps (STH since day 1 but no longer).. They’re all really nice and I’m sure they’re working really hard, but man what a tough gig.

  18. I really enjoyed going to the games, but I let my long-time season tickets lapse as I just got tired of rooting for the Cleveland Browns of soccer.

    The annual routine of “we’re going to spend money, this time we really mean it” was not going to hook me for another season. Sugarman is Lucy with the football, and I was Charlie Brown about to kick it. No more.

    I’ll consider coming back if they actually show that they care as much about winning as the fans do.

    • I will do the same. I moved to Florida 3 years ago but I will always be a Philly fan. Even got the Mls direct kick so I could follow the union. Not this year Had Union partial season tickets for first 4 years. Historically the Unionhave made late January signings, however they are falling behind the curve on quality of players compared to the rest of the league.. They need a minimum of the “equivalent” of Barnetta version 2015, Le Toux version circa 2008 , andJordan Harvey version 2010-2016 just to be competitive for 2018. Letting Le Toux go twice in the way the did I it showed me this management has neither a heart nor sense of fan loyalty . I also feel they never fully took advantage and showed the patience and guidance to develop Jac Mac properly. I still think the right coach could. Curtain is about as interesting in his playing style as warm mashed potatoes. The union will never progress with him in charge. I guess it all falls on the fans boycotting team games until the league becomes so embarrassed that the force a change in management. It’s a crying shame for Philly soccer fans that Sugarman refuses to make the improvements that he needs to make to win today not tomorrow or the next year. I have totally lost faith in his ownership of the team.

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