Union supporters having a tough time supporting

Photo: Earl Gardner

While New England were beginning their dismantling of the Philadelphia defense on Saturday, there were some Tweets that caught my eye.

Oh those Sons of Ben, bringing Bismillah and Galileo to a pitch near you.

What ensued in the following days was a back-and-forth in the Twittersphere as groups of fans with varying philosophies as to what constitutes appropriate behavior jostled for all to see. Queen hits, audible “Fire Hackworth” chants, booing players — all of this has been witnessed this season.

The point is not to call them out here, but instead to consider the problems and/or merits of this kind of display.


The Philly sports fan often gets the stereotype of being negative. Whether you feel that’s unfair may depend on whether or not you root for a Philly team. Philly sports fans pride themselves on being knowledgeable, and therefore the second guessing of a manager or coach is second nature. The same often holds for players, as the Philly sports fan is often a hard worker and thus expects players to hustle, give 100%, and not suck.

Unfortunately, Philadelphia is in a bit of a rough spot in sports. The Phillies are six years removed from their World Series title, the last major trophy in the Delaware Valley. The Eagles and Flyers both contend more than they stink but never seem to have the right pieces to finish the job of winning. And the Sixers are an abomination at this point.

This season was a great opportunity for the Union. Assemble pieces like Maurice Edu, Vincent Nogueira, and Cristian Maidana, and watch them win the hearts of a city desperate for a victory.

So much for that.

Unconditional support?

Rarely in other sports do you hear the term “supporter” used to describe the fans of a team. In soccer, that’s the norm — just think of the Supporters Shield.

So when you head out to PPL Park, there is a certain level of expectation that supporters are going to support the Union. People don’t pay their hard earned money to go out and get their jollies heckling a bunch of guys who make a fraction of the wage their counterparts in other leagues and sports make.

Often when you hear of supporters offering dissent, it surrounds ownership. Supporters of teams like Manchester United and Leeds United have established a reputation for their criticism of their club’s owners.

It’s also not uncommon for fans to express displeasure with the coaching staff. Chelsea fans booed two different managers, Andre Villas Boas and Rafa Benitez, in recent years.

Criticism of Hackworth harsh but understandable

Putting this all together, it’s easy for fans to be disenchanted with John Hackworth. Dan Walsh laid out some of this in his “How not to get fired, in five easy steps” piece a few weeks ago. But there’s more to this story.

Steep your mind in the period of having to endure Peter Nowak’s odd roster moves. Sprinkle in a dash of Freddy Adu’s failed spell with the team. Then toss it all around in a slathering of players like Roger Torres, Kleberson, Austin Berry, and Cristian Maidana to fall out of favor with Hackworth. It all boils down into a nice bowl of “Never See The Best XI Stew.”

Win, and fans tend to overlook a manager’s quirks. Lose, and it becomes a cacophony of spiteful vitriol.

The road ahead

It’s quite clear at the moment for Hackworth and the Union. While the win in Sporting Kansas City turned down the heat a bit, that match was followed by a thrashing from Major League Soccer’s current juggernaut. What the Union need now is to dial up more of what worked in Kansas.

Two huge matches await at the StubHub Center against two teams that have yet to find their stride in 2014. It’s time to regain the momentum lost against New England, and return to PPL Park healthier and ready to battle against the Whitecaps.

That should turn those Freddie Mercury wannabes back into a united choir of DOOPs.


  1. Avery Zucco says:

    What on earth is the big deal with singing Bohemian Rhapsody? Are we being told its not longer appropriate to cope with your team being absolutely thrashed through a little bit of humor? Maybe they can start handing out pamphlets of “appropriate behavior and allowed chants” before games.

    • I think there’s nothing wrong with singing any song you want. You Sons should learn “All Of Me” next.
      I think there’s plenty wrong with Jonathan Tannenwald.

    • well seeing how the SOBs are pretty much run by the front office now the pamphlets are coming.

    • kingkowboys says:

      I completely agree. Why is this an issue? Highly entertaining IMO.

    • I have commented in the past about some of the chants from The River End being in my opinion rather tasteless.
      commented that I thought something a bit less scathing and rather quitchy or humorful would be more appropriate particularly when it references the referees.
      If I am going to be authentic then it is important to say the Bohemian Rhapsody and Mwanga chants were magic and well timed— “Anyway the wind blows.”
      So cheers to The River End.

    • Earl Reed says:

      Is there condemnation in this article? I thought I pretty clearly pointed out that vocal dissent is common in supporters groups around the world. You paid your $25, if singing Queen will distract you from a match that’s gone wrong, that’s your business. Though there is an element to acknowledge, that the owner of the property does have final say in what happens, while the fan also reserves the right to withhold their audible and financial support. The balance is very delicate, especially in a secondary sport like professional soccer.

      Thanks for reading and your feedback.

  2. David Fiorito says:

    To be fair we also started “We love you, and where you go we’ll follow” well before the final whistle and continued it until nearly every player had left the pitch after the game.

    • Earl Reed says:

      This was a tough topic to acknowledge, but rather than ignore it I decided to give an opinion. It’s actually an opinion that places the onus for the issue on the one entity that can fix the problem: the team. There are many options at their control, the simplest of which is likely playing to their potential and winning.

  3. How about a resounding chorus of “I get knocked down, but I get up again, you’re never gonna keep me down.”

    • Atomic spartan says:

      +1. Great idea, good Philly feeling about it and potentially inspiring. I’ve long admired the SOBs. Without them I would have no local team to support outside of Ocean City and I am grateful for them. Hearing similar chants throughout MLS is a bit troubling though, and some refreshed creativity in inspirational chants would be a good thing. The Bismillah chorus might be fitting as a Chesterfied “you’ll never walk alone” so I would be good with that. And although I’m not one to boo our own lads or call for the coach’s head on a plate, a word of advice if you want to motivate positive performance: save the vitriol for the END of the game, not before or halftime. Stay classy, you SOBs.

      • John Ling says:

        I agree – something that’s unique to us would be awesome.
        And while the topic of copying other groups is on the table, a tangential point:
        Dear SoBs: Please, never ever ever steal the “bring out your dead” thing the KC supporters do when a player is down hurt. It’s tacky and tasteless, and besides that we all know the moment you do it once we’re all have to hear about booing Santa and cheering Michael Irvin’s injury at the Vet.

      • Dan Walsh says:

        But it’s appropriate when they dive, right? Right?

  4. When supporting soccer clubs (for me at least) I like to go to every game (or watch every game if it’s in another country) buy the team’s merch, (to help financially) clap for our players and sing along with others in the crowd.

    I tend to be more patient with a bad game, a bad player, a bad string of results etc. because I know supporting is different then being a fan. I have to sing and clap through the good times and the bad.

    However, seeing the terrible job Hackworth does week after week, it gets to a point where even the strongest supporters have to step up and make their discontent heard. Any supporter wouldn’t sit back and do nothing if the starting goal keeper never stopped a single shot and every ball that came by him wizzed right into the net. (extreme example, I know…but you get the point)

    At this point, I think booing Hackworth and chanting our discontent IS showing support to the club. The club isn’t hackworth, it isn’t any player or the front office, or the fans. It’s all the parts made up into one and when one part is not working it needs to be replaced for the good of the club. The fans booing and voicing their displeasure can be viewed as supporting the club because we are making it clear to the front office and other powers that be, that we are not happy with one of the spokes on the wheel and that spoke is Hackworth. The wheel itself is suffering because one of the pieces is broken.

    • Agree with this 100%…

    • The Black Hand says:

      Couldn’t have said it better myself.
      It’s actually nice to support a struggling club because when they do make it, it will be all the sweeter. That said, we are not on the upward trend and frustrations are warranted.

    • +1; The coach’s main responsibilities are to get the best out of his players (like the Athletico Madrid coach who is brilliant in this) and coming up with strategies to defend properly and create attacking opportunities. Hack has shown over and over again that he is not capable in neither. We were also told last year by the FO that the club is on track (and has the vision) to lift the MLS cup in 5 years. So when I boo I voice my displeasure with Hack’s ineptitude and the FO’s unrealistic vision. On Saturday I was actually close to throwing my season tickets out into the field in front of Hack as he walked into the tunnel. I have seen season ticket holders do this in Europe multiple times!

      • If they throw tickets in Europe, we should totes do it here, bro. Respect.

        I didn’t make the game this week, but I was there for “Fire Hackworth” after DC and I rememember the last game of last year dooping every time the U missed a shot. It’s trashy and not something I want to be associated with.

        There’s a strong case for firing Hack but I wish my fellow SoBs would show him an ounce of respect by not getting wasted and demoralizing his players.

      • Agreed. There are good venues for disappointment — but not the field.

    • I like the way you phrased this. I agree with everything you said, as long as criticism coming the other way (at the fans for poor behavior) is accepted in the same way the fans give it, and not with foot stomps and demands that the no-good so-&-so can leave town if he doesn’t like it. I’m thinking for one example Jimmy Rollins calling fans “front runners” a few years back. Wasn’t well received. Don’t know if I have a Union example, maybe MLS front offices discouraging the profane chants some supporter groups used on goal kicks? There was some defiant push back on that around the league.

      But I think you painted a good picture of how all facets of an MLS team can work as one.

  5. as i sit opposite the River End. it was really good to actually celebrate the goal in the first half Saturday.
    even with the next two and their lesser celebrations, i’ll comment that it was noticeably quite in the second half. remarkable as i couldn’t remember a match where it was like that.
    i didn’t hear bohemian rhapsody — a fellow poster sitting in 109 i think said the same. i wish i did. instead it sounded like the heart was gone.
    just an observation.

  6. Not speaking about this post/site’s coverage, which I liked, but the general “omg-they’re-booing” response to the fans letting their frustrations be heard this season is baffling.
    We don’t have the opportunity to get out the folding chairs in the PPL basement and stage an intervention with our loved one, the Union. We don’t get to have a drink with a player after work and try to work a pleading line or two in between chatting about our families. We get to make happy or sad sounds in unison, and then come home and commiserate with our friends or leave more wordy comments here on ye olde internets. Other than silence, cheering and booing are the somewhat binary choices we have for expressing our response to the play we see, and really, the fans were pretty patient through five years before finally getting “negative.” The other confusing thing is why this is somehow a Philly thing. Fans around the world stage walkouts and moments of backs-turned silence when their teams are underperforming… In short, the relatively light booing the home side at PPL is a condition of concern, not dislike,* and I think this gets confused.
    (*For most. No generalization can accurately represent every fan.)
    If that all sounds like BS, then we were actually saying “Boorian Carroll!”

  7. I did not hear Bohemian Rhapsody but I did hear the tremendous silence in the second half. It was very noticeable. I sit in section 111 for every game & our group sings, chants & claps along with the SOBs throughout the whole game, but we have noticed on more than one occasion the *lack of sound* coming from the River End when the game is down. The SOBs are the maestros!! We need you to lead us! IMHO, this is when the team needs our noise the most. At this point, their spirits are even lower than ours – they KNOW they aren’t delivering. The know we aren’t happy. They aren’t happy either. They need to hear their supporters telling them, We’re still here!! Please keep trying!! Do not give up!! I have always been a firm believer in loyalty, being a fan in the rotten years as much as the shining years. Fair-weather fans need not apply. This is not to say that discontent should not be voiced, but no matter what, our team should hear us supporting them. Ad Finem Fidelis, people. As Finem Fidelis.

    • Ad* …stupid auto correct

    • This line of thinking has always cracked me up. It’s so narcissistic to think that you as a fan control the game. Fans reflect the flow of the game. Yea, the crowd can help the momentum along, but you cannot change it.
      This is where many MLS supporters groups are backwards. Pay attention to the game and sing your songs based on what’s going on. Don’t just follow a script.
      We (Philly/SOB) have been one of the better groups that try to reflect the events on the field.
      Bohemian Rhapsody was awesome. “Oh Philly U” is always good too.
      And now because of all of this, “No one Likes Us” seems like it should be sung loud and clear next home game.

      • Do you think Benfica having to shoot PK’s at the Seville end of the stadium in the Europa League final had anything to do with how poorly they performed? Makes one wonder. I don not disagree with your perspective but do wonder about instances when fan support has affected outcomes of games.
        I’ve seen plenty of times when a pitcher has come unraveled at the abuse of fans, like the ‘Who’s your daddy chant’ by Yankees fans in the Bronx when Pedro would pitch and proceed to get hammered.

      • Like I was alluding to: fans can help continue to push momentum one way or another – but can not change the flow of the game. That’s up to the players.
        Why is home field advantage such a big deal in MLS? #1 is the distance of travel. #2 is time change & climate. And then like any other country (or sport) sleeping out of your home and loud stadiums disrupting communication.
        But being loud when your down 2-3 goals won’t put balls in the back of the net.
        Am I saying don’t cheer? No. Go nuts. Just don’t try to take credit for how the team plays.

      • And on the topic of loud stadiums: You want to make PPL a Fortress where the fans can have more influence? Finish the roof!
        Seattle has the 12th man b/c their stadium is so narrow it’s basically a dome.
        PPL is like the link and it needs to be like the Vet.
        They built it so wrong. Why put your own supporters under the river end and not under the owners box?

  8. This is my fourth season in the River End. I go to every game I can (soccer season runs the same time as wedding season, it seems). Rain or shine, snow or heat wave.

    I go to work hoarse from yelling and singing. I’ve learned to eat a sausage & peppers standing up.

    I suffered through Nowak’s fiasco. I wondered how I could get Kleberson’s job ($400,000 to sit on the sideline? Sign me up!) while wondering how bad he must be to be below Danny “I run fast and fall down” Cruz on the depth chart.

    Last week, however, was just too much. It was the first time I honestly thought about walking out before the game was over. I didn’t, though.

    Don’t blame the SoB for being quiet, for singing Queen (no idea how that started, and I was laughing too hard to participate for a lot of it), or for recycling old chants for players long departed.

    Simply put, the players got the support they deserved. Individual episodes of brilliance aside, the team played beyond poorly.

    We want the team to win. We want them to play to the level of their talent. We can’t understand why they aren’t playing at that level. We can’t understand why there is all too often a lack of desire to put the ball in the net.

    We are the best behaved supporters when we win.
    We’re the biggest bunch of a#$holes when we lose.

    • John Ling says:

      “We want them to play to the level of their talent.”
      This nails it. So much.

      • Have we yet considered that maybe they really aren’t that talented?
        I see 3 or 4 players on that team with genuine talent and quality. I think we vastly over estimate Maidana. Williams is mediocre at this point. Edu, anyone who’s read my posts lately knows my position on Edu.
        Gaddis (when he is not dribbling that is)

        McMath – I am still undecided.

  9. Here’s what I hope.

    When you are down 5-1 and score a goal, how bout not standing up and cheering like a bunch of buffoons. How about not playing the gol! music. How bout taking the initiative of the players who grab the ball out of the net and run to the circle to get it on.
    I found the excessive celebration a bit over done considering the score at the time.
    I know I know. Lighten up.
    But seriously? Why were we cheering again? Its like saying, “yea we’re not so bad, we actually scored a goal and now are only getting just a little crushed.”

    • Andy Muenz says:

      I didn’t stand up for the second and my wife kind of looked at me like I was from another planet (or another planet further away than the one she usually thinks I’m on).
      I did stand up for the third goal but only because it meant a free haircut.

    • didn’t we come back and tie a game 4-4 a couple seasons ago? no reason to ever give up or stop cheering after scoring a goal

      • scottymac says:

        Yes vs NER in 2011. I think the difference here is when you score to close the gap to 2 and its already stoppage time.They were 1 down with 11+ to go.

  10. I sit in sec. 105 and I loved the Queen song from the SOB. It was something new, spur of the moment and funny. That’s not being a bad fan. It’s called making the best of a bad situation. I say more songs from the SOB.

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