USMNT snubs don’t bode well for Union

When US Soccer released its list of January camp callups for the men’s national team this weekend, one might have expected more fresh faces.

But this was no Camp Cupcake. And there was no spot for Amobi Okugo, Jack McInerney or Sheanon Williams (aka Soccer America’s best right back in MLS).

These snubs aren’t the end of the world, but they could seriously hurt Philadelphia Union’s efforts to build a team around these players.

A potential chicken-egg argument

Union chief executive Nick Sakiewicz and manager John Hackworth have made clear they view Okugo, McInerney, and Williams as the base for which the Union succeed for years. Other teams, such as Sporting Kansas City, have done the same in breeding All-Star players such as Graham Zusi and Matt Besler.

But Kansas City has produced the results, and Klinsmann seems to value players on winning teams. Perhaps you’ve heard the cliche, “A rising tide lifts all boats.” SKC has been in the playoffs for multiple seasons now, winning two trophies. Clearly their formula is working.

The same can’t be said thus far for Hackworth’s program. The Union were in the playoff hunt until the later weeks of the season, but they lacked the depth, consistency, and quality at some positions to finish in the top 5.

This aspect of the team’s troubles begs a question: Does the team around these young players lack sufficient quality to qualify for the playoffs in a weak Eastern Conference? Or are the young players themselves not performing at a level expected to bring about success?

Probably the former, but…

This is difficult territory. This is a pivotal year for Philadelphia. Generation adidas contracts typically last 5 years, or 6 under certain circumstances. Ives Galarcep reported that the Union have the rights to McInerney for two more seasons. As for Okugo, this is likely his last year of his contract. This could very well be his last season.

The close of 2013 was very much an ebb tide for the Union. If Hackworth can’t assemble the pieces to help these players shoot up the table in the East, will the young stars like Okugo and McInerney be content on that path?

McInerney seemed to indicate, “No,” in his recent interview with MLS Transfers. “The plan right now is to play out my contract and see what happens,” McInerney said. “Europe is eventually the goal though. If something came along though, I’m definitely interested.” As to whether resigning with Philadelphia is a possibility, he asserted, “Unless they came to me with something a good bit up there, I wouldn’t take it.”

Tough to fault Klinsmann in his selections though

FIFA cut the international friendly date typically held in February, thus limiting Klinsmann’s chances to bring in his top MLS-based players. Camp Cupcake no more.

Instead of a larger crop of younger players, this year’s roster includes first-team starters like Besler, Zusi, Omar Gonzalez, Eddie Johnson, and Landon Donovan.

We can’t be sure that the Union youngsters would have been called in, even if there were more roster spots available.

But one thing is certain: They aren’t getting regular call-ups and, to an extent, are getting passed by. Shane O’Neill, a central defender for Colorado, received his first call-up ahead of Okugo. Seattle’s Deandre Yedlin also got called in at right back, as did Chance Myers for Kansas City.

The common theme among those three players? All play for teams that made the 2013 MLS Cup Playoffs. That rising tide thing again.

What this all means

Sakiewicz and Hackworth want to build a winner through younger players. The pressure is on for these young leaders to raise the bar, get to the playoffs, and prove that they belong in a National Team kit. There is also pressure on management to a) keep these players long-term, while b) bringing in additional pieces to improve the team. If the 2014 Union team fails to be more competitive for the top spots in the East, can they hold these players?

Hopefully we don’t have to find out.


  1. I’m not sure that it helps Okugo’s case that he also plays out of position and Hackworth couldn’t give a crap. Learning that this team practices in a state park is so embarrassing.

  2. I’m not sure I understand the premise of this article.

    Are you saying that Klinsmann judges a player by their team’s performance rather than their individual performance? If we take that idea to it’s end then we shouldn’t expect Altidore to be in the world cup squad.

    Are you saying that because they weren’t called into camp these players will want to move to a different team? I have a hard time seeing the logic in that as the idea would imply that Klinsmann has some kind of vendetta or disrespect toward Philly. I could see them wanting to move if they were getting benched but they are getting plenty of playing time.

    At the end of the day any players that could have been called into camp are at the fringes of the national team anyway and Klinsmann just doesn’t feel like they are ready. I happen to disagree to some extent (especially in choosing Yedlin over Williams) but I highly doubt our playoff position had anything to do with who was chosen. If it did I really question Klinsmann’s judgement

  3. Does the team around these young players lack sufficient quality to qualify for the playoffs in a weak Eastern Conference?

    Uh the Eastern Conference isn’t weak anymore, only The Union. If you look around your poker table and you don’t see any suckers, the sucker is you.

    We are easily the worst team in the East. Easily! We’re second only to Chivas in the entire league . . . and no single attacking midfield signing is going to correct that.

    We know they aren’t going to be signing any big name players in the near future, it’s just the way it is . . . I don’t like it, but I understand why. If The Union want to display some courage and develop some good faith with their fan base though, they should go sign Okugo to a long-term deal and announce that at the draft. I think that would go a long way to placating the rightfully restless masses.

    • TFCs newest fan from Philly says:

      Why won’t they sign players worth ca$h? They profited last year and they have several contracts off the books now. They should have money to spend on improving the team, so why won’t they?

      • Have you been introduced to Mr. Sakiewicz?
        Everybody else is making the changes needed. Instead he gives all power to a coach who not only can’t coach, but who has no contacts, no scouting ability, and surrounds himself with below amatuer coaches–no offense; I like Curtain, Burke, and all, but they’re amatuers.
        …This Organization is hopeless. No wonder nobody wants to come play for us. Maybe that’s why Nowak had to do back-door deals.

      • I’m with you. I love the Union. But TFC has assembled a team built to contend for a title. The Union? Not so much. It’s a damn shame too. This is like the Ed Wade “small market” phillies all over again. No bucks to compete with the big boys so preach about building a team “the right way” though our youth. I CALL BULL$HIT. I’ll be rooting for TFC to take down NYRB, LA Galaxy, and the rest of the usual contenders!

  4. Hey Luis Saurez will be available this summer.

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