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Somebody knows what they’re doing: more please!

At least somebody seems to know what they’re doing

Last Thursday the Union announced that they would be playing Manchester United at the Linc on July 21. It’s an astonishing coup for a brand new team and says something about the base of support for soccer in the Philadelphia area. Tickets are still available (I think) and those of us who are so inclined can make fun of the Man Utd supporters to take our minds off of the Union being schooled by a side likely to be made up of guys who probably won’t get another start until next season’s Carling Cup. (What are they going to say, we’re Union supporters at home!)

With the match happening a little over a week after the conclusion of the World Cup, don’t get your hopes up too high about seeing the likes of Rooney, Ferdinand, Evra, Vidic or Nani. Still, there will be plenty of class on display—I’m thinking of people like Giggs and Scholes, although seeing Scholes on a tackle hardly qualifies as classy—and I for one can’t wait.

When the Union announced on Tuesday that they would be hosting Celtic at PPL park on July 14, my eyes nearly popped out of my head, I’m not ashamed to tell you. Two of the best supported clubs in the world playing the Union within one week? “Gor blimey!” you might say. Or maybe not. But with 12,000 of the seats at PPL Park going to season ticket holders for this match, the remaining 6500 tickets are sure to be some of the hottest in town. Whatever might be happening on the pitch at the moment, whoever it is at the Union that is in charge of arranging these friendlies sure knows what they’re doing.

About all of those “simple mistakes”

And speaking of what’s been happening on the pitch, last Saturday’s debacle against Real Salt Lake is currently neck and neck with the US Open Cup match against the Red Bulls as the absolute worse Union performance of the season. A lazy no-look back-pass, a stupid and unnecessary foul leading to a free kick defended by a ducking wall and a keeper who seems incapable of smothering a ball under pressure, a defender going to sleep to allow a free header – the litany of “if we can only put a stop to these simple mistakes” week after week is truly becoming too much to bear.

These “simple mistakes” are better called “fundamental errors.” One friend texted me during the game that the Union are doing things that don’t happen on his Casa league team. The sight of Danny Califf—who has been guilty of some fundamental errors of his own this season—being utterly at a loss for words during the halftime interview was telling: the Union are regularly committing the kind of errors that literally suck the drive and spirit out of a team. If we as fans are cringing every time there’s a back-pass or a shot on goal, what can the guys on the pitch be thinking?

The Union will finally get a chance at home this Saturday against FC Dallas to show that they have improved. I hope that their scoreless closed-door scrimmage against Ecuador on Tuesday is some indication that players are taking heed of their lessons. I also wonder what lesson might be learned from the fact that Seitz sat out the match with Knighton and Perk each getting a half in goal. Nowak is certainly being coy about the goalkeeper question. But we all know that Seitz is merely the Union’s goat. Whether it is horrid defending or terrible finishing, there is plenty of blame to go around.

Some reasons to be encouraged

The fact that DC United appear to actually be worse than the Union certainly offers some solace for Union supporters. Supporters can also find hope in this: of the five teams in the Eastern Conference between the seventh place Union and the first place New York Red Bulls (who I thought looked terrible when the Union met them in league play a few weeks ago), three of the teams have managed only two wins and two of the teams only three wins.

A little run of wins and draws could mean a leap in the standings, not to mention a leap in the confidence of and for the team. Twenty-four games remain to be played and we’ve all seen teams in similar situations turn things around. Hell, my beloved Reading went from looking like they were going to be relegated this season to looking like they were going to make it into the promotion playoffs. A little encouragement in the form of a win on Saturday would be very nice, don’t you think? I’d even be happy with a draw.

Another reason to be encourage lies in the end of the football season in Europe. The roster on the Union website names twenty-one players. That means three roster spots are open, not including designated player(s) spot. So, with the end of league play in Europe, we may begin to see some of those spots starting to be filled by players who have decided to take a chance on playing in the US. Surely there are scores of second division players throughout Europe who long for cheese steaks and soft pretzels and countless other reasons to find playing in our fair city a nice career opportunity?

Last week came the word that Robert Pires, the former Arsenal and France player, had been told by Villarreal that his contract would not be renewed for next year. Earlier Pires, and the Union, had acknowledged that they have been in contact but Pires said at the time said that there had been no negotiations. Perhaps now negotiations with him and as yet unnamed others can begin.

That the Union need help—and let’s face, in every position—in the form of some new signings is undeniable. Maybe the guy who’s been making the deals with the likes of Man Utd and Celtic can lend a hand with the negotiations?

In the event, Union supporters can give the team some encouragement by showing up at Saturday’s game. Nearly 35,000 of us were there for the home opener. Given how poorly the team has been playing, similar numbers now could do wonders for the team’s confidence and belief in themselves. After all, the Union needs to know that we believe in them too. I’ll see you at the game.

2 Comments

  1. Brion Shreffler says:

    We definitely need some help, but great point at the conclusion- I’m heading down there soon to meet up with several of my teammates. At the least, we can help them stay undefeated at home and maybe they can start taking some of that energy on the road. But God sakes yes, more composure all around please.

  2. Ed Farnsworth says:

    Dude, talk about energy! Can any of us have any doubt that the Union goal was practically willed into happening by us? What a day. That a draw can feel like a win is one of my favorite things about soccer. It’s kind of like life.

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