A View from Afar

Right call, wrong time

The impending appointment of Jim Curtin as Philadelphia Union (non-interim) manager is probably the right call.

It’s just the wrong time.

The right time would be after the season, once the team has improbably made the playoffs with a fantastic run or fallen just short after some nonetheless impressive play. Union chief executive Nick Sakiewicz had been saying all along that the team would conduct a comprehensive search, in which Curtin would be considered, and choose a more permanent manager at season’s end. Sakiewicz had the right approach.

Now, what happens if there is a late Union collapse? Do you fire the guy you just promoted? It’s not exactly common to demote your non-interim team manager to assistant coach.

Further, the Union open themselves to the same criticism that lingers, rightly or wrongly (and I think it’s wrong, but I accept that it exists), from having promoted John Hackworth to the same role before the 2012 season had ended. Critics said it was too early and that Hackworth was unqualified. Those critics were wrong, but the criticism has lingered and strengthens the common sentiment that the Union are small-timers in a big city.

Curtin has done a very good job so far and should be considered the frontrunner for the job.

But there appears to be little advantage to cementing his role now, as opposed to later.

Is the logic that it would give the team a morale boost down the stretch run? I’m not in that locker room, but it seems unlikely. They were winning just fine with an interim, at least before Amobi Okugo got benched.

Does the move theoretically bolster Curtin’s standing when he makes a controversial call like benching Okugo? Perhaps it does.

But that should give even more pause.

“You get the job — after your worst call as manager …”

Benching Okugo is the first significant bad call of Curtin’s tenure, and Curtin doubled down on that bad call Saturday against Houston by leaving Okugo on the sideline once again. Ethan White’s injury brought Okugo back into the lineup, but the first part of this sentence is a group of words that should never be strung together.

There are no normal circumstances under which White is a better lineup choice than Okugo. Yes, White has played fairly well and shown promise since stepping into the lineup in July, but let’s not overdo it. Maurice Edu’s sterling play at center back helped a great deal.

If you watched that Houston game closely, then you saw how Houston pressured White every time he had the ball in possession. Their scouting showed them that White is a liability with the ball (quite the opposite of Edu and Okugo), and if you pressure him, he will probably kick the ball long and often to the other team. Meanwhile, Houston backed off Carlos Valdes and pretty much everyone else on the Union as they sat deep in defense. Word has gotten around. Teams are figuring out how to play the new Union, just as they did after Hackworth took over.

If the Union want to make the playoffs, both Edu and Okugo need to be in the lineup. Edu should be at center back, and Okugo at holding midfield. Period, end of story.

Benching Okugo is a huge deal. His contract is likely due to expire at season’s end. He is just 23 years old, not even in his prime yet, and part of the nucleus of this team. Further, the team played better with him in defensive midfield. (While I’m not convinced he is a better midfielder than defender, it’s clear to me and everyone that the team improved with him in midfield, so that debate is not very relevant to this column.) And yet he gets inexplicably benched in the biggest game of his professional career — and then again the next game.

Would you like to seal the deal on Okugo’s departure? Because that will do it.

His counterpart, Edu, is an extraordinarily talented athlete and deserving national teamer who is less disciplined when deployed in the No. 6 defensive midfielder role that he played last week. If anything, Edu may be more a true No. 8, a box-to-box man, which is how John Hackworth billed and deployed him.

However, that No. 8 spot is (and should be) locked down by Vincent Nogueira, a player unlike any in MLS, who did not flourish as much when deployed further up pitch in a No. 10 attacking role. As my PSP colleagues Eli Pearlman-Storch and Kevin Kinkead have pointed out, Edu’s freelancing and attempted creating from the No. 6 role have seldom found success and have put more defensive responsibilities on Nogueira. Bottom line: Nogueira doesn’t flourish as well with Edu in center midfield.

As a center back, however, Edu’s superior athleticism has combined with a surprisingly more disciplined positional sense to produce all-star quality play.

Conversely, Okugo plays the No. 6 role with far more discipline than Edu, recognizing that his role is to clean up defensively behind Nogueira and Cristian Maidana and quickly distribute the ball. Nogueira and Maidana play better when Okugo is behind them than they do when Edu is freelancing among them.

Edu

Edu (left) and Okugo in the No. 6 role against Houston

Curtin has five games left to go in the season. If by season’s end the Union don’t resume their hot streak and Curtin hasn’t recognized and acknowledged the impact of the Okugo-Edu issue, then Curtin may not be the right man for the job after all.

But Curtin does seem the right man for the job …

Curtin does appear to be the right man for the job, however. He is a hard-bitten, straightforward, tactical pragmatist who wins games and understands the Philadelphia sports fan and market as only a native can. He has done a great job and surpassed expectations, and he appears to have crossover media appeal to other sports fans that perhaps no other candidate for the job could possibly have. Curtin appears to deserve the job.

But don’t hand him the job too early.

Don’t forget that Curtin is doing this with one of the league’s most talented teams that, as I said months ago, simply needed time to come together and figure out how all the pieces fit. Hackworth assembled a fantastic roster.

Most significantly, don’t reward Curtin after a mistake, much as Sakiewicz gave Hackworth the job after a loss in 2012. The Union are coming off a big loss and a hugely disappointing home draw against a bad Houston team. In the soccer world, we call that a winless streak.

Giving Curtin the job now would indicate the front office supports the move to bench Okugo. Since few who have seen the result of that move could truthfully agree with it, it makes it look like the front office forced the move. That is not a perception the Union should want to create.

Instead, let’s see how Curtin responds to last week’s setbacks.

Keep things simple, just like Curtin has: Make Curtin earn it.

After all, he had been doing a good enough job of that so far, hadn’t he?

The season isn’t over. The playoffs beckon. And Jim Curtin isn’t going anywhere.

Hopefully.

55 Comments

  1. I think its the wrong call period. A honeymoon of results aside, this guy is probably even less experienced than Hackworth.

    At the end of the day I want an experienced manager. Curtin is the perfect guy to bring up over a few years as an assistant with a fast track to the head coaching gig. He would also be perfect to pair with a European Head Coach (I wanted Muleensteen) due to his understanding of American soccer.

    This move basically puts us where we were before – a totally inexperienced, young coach has a honeymoon period as an interim, gets the full time gig then bombs. We are literally repeating history here folks.

    • John O'Donnell says:

      Well there is one difference in that Curtin has played in this league and Hackworth did not. That is a big deal when it comes to dealing with players as he can relate a little better. The other thing is rumor has Muleensteen getting a new position in the organization as GM. If this was to happen, I can live with that as you now have the mentor for Curtin to lean on.

  2. Are they still considering hiring Rene to a GM role? If they are, then they needed to make this announcement first. Then if Curtain fails halfway through 2015, just fire him and make Rene take over management duties as well.
    .
    Makes sense IF that’s the way it’s going down.

    • It sure seems like this is what’s going to happen. Sack has said over and over “Jim is staying but I may hire someone else or reorganize things.”
      .
      I think he realizes that he’s in a bad spot. Curtin has built up a lot of good will among Philly fans and general soccerati (note Twellman’s tweet mentioning Curtin as a coach of the year candidate) and many fans would riot if he were dismissed.
      .
      But those same fans will turn quickly if the results turn. It looks like Sack is planning to have it both ways by hiring Curtin as head coach and hiring Meulensteen as some kind of GM role.
      .
      If that happens, I think it’s a pretty good solution (provided this new GM and Curtin get along). And I don’t mind announcing Curtin first. Announcing a GM before naming Curtin head coach would undermine his new authority even more and read as a bit of a slap in the face.

      • I’m not sure that I agree with you on the ideal timing of these announcements.

        Wouldn’t it better to have a GM in place first, so that the new head coach, whoever he may be, will be viewed as the GM’s choice?

        Personally, I’d prefer that the Union hold off on both of these decisions, particularly regarding the head coach.

        What’s the rush? It’s almost October. Let the season play out, then make a decision on Curtin based on a more complete body of work.

      • That’s certainly a fair point, and I can see it your way too. I completely agree that waiting until the end of the season would be best, but I also get the feeling that these decisions were made a long time ago and everything else is just publicity. (remember the rumors about Meulensteen house-hunting in Philly a couple months ago?)
        .
        It could also be possible that they wanted to lock Jim up and that he maybe had other opportunities. The Fire, for instance, could be making inquiries and Curtin’s connections to them are at least as close as his Philly connections.
        .
        For all Sack’s talk of “I’m keeping Curtin in Philly, he doesn’t really have the power to do that unconditionally, and you have to assume Curtin would jump at a chance to be head coach elsewhere rather than just as assistant here.

      • Of course it would be better, MSG! It would’ve been better to have a plan for GK before you pick 2 international stars. That’s not the way we do things around here. What “announcements?” This has been news for a day but still nothing from the club – not even a scheduled item! Will Curtin announce himself at his presser today? Hilarious.

  3. Lots of focus about Edu v Okugo, we know PSP has made up it’s mind about the lineup, but I remember a lot of people enjoying the Curtin stated doctrine of “CBs playing CB” and “MFs playing MF”. Edu has done well playing at CB, but he has made it clear he wants to be in the midfield. Curtin has to walk the line if they are still trying to woo Edu back next year. Not every decision is made in a vacuum. Hard to fault the guy for openly saying that in the MF Edu is playing better than Amobi right now.

    • Of course the MF Edu is playing better. He’s playing and Amobi isn’t. Easy statement to make I think.

    • I’m also finding it hard to swallow this benching Okugo is the worst managerial decision of the year logic.

      I can agree that Edu + Okugo > Edu + White. But I also think Curtin feels the team is better with Edu in the midfield and doesn’t want to play Okugo at CB (this of course might be moot now that White is injured).

      I don’t think White had anything to do with Philly’s failure to get three points against Houston. No matter what his performance was, Houston didn’t even get a shot on target. Can’t say that the defense didn’t do its job.

      We flat out failed to score on many many chances. Might have been bad luck or, IMO, just not fast/smart enough to beat Houston’s defenders, who always seemed to get a foot on any ball in the box.

      I fail to see how Okugo not being in is not a make or break deal for this team.

      • this is bigger than just one or two games Pete. Either something is going on we are not aware of or the future of the team has turned, AGAIN. If that’s the case then fine…but it killing me waiting to see what happens.
        .
        Amobi Okugo has been the DM on this team for the most part for 5 years and he has unceremoniously been benched. That’s a big deal wouldn’t you agree?
        .

      • John O'Donnell says:

        I would disagree with that. He’s played mostly at CB for five years and right now Edu is playing better at DM. I think we have a tendency to overvalue Union originals as the future of the team and how other teams see them. The same argument was made about Jack Mac when he was here and the stardom destiny but since he’s been in Montreal his game hasn’t progressed. Maybe this is the push Amobi needs and Curtin recognizes it.

      • I’ve been following Amobi since he was a teenager in California and at UCLA. Not overvaluing Union originals though was totally happy when he was super drafted. Nowak used him in primary holding position. Hackworth moved him to center back. JC moved him back to DM and then the bench. If it is a push as you say then so be it.

      • I see it as an issue but not a big deal. Again, I don’t think we’re an Okugo appearance away from winning these games. I’m looking at forwards not finishing chances.

        That’s not to say I dislike Okugo. And to be honest, I can only guess at what Curtin is basing his lineup decisions on, but he clearly (1) sees Edu as a DM and (2) does not see Okugo as a CB.

        There’s always the possibility that Edu’s wishes to play MF are part of the issue here. He is the “name” player and making him happy might be part of the program. That might be orders coming down from the FO or even MLS HQ. No idea.

        The short answer is I don’t think benching Okugo is a deal breaker for me on what I think of Curtin.

    • One guy is being called into MLS HQ to do PR spots on a regular basis, the other isn’t. You do the math as to who the league wants to stay in town, and how best to make that happen…

      • We underestimate the influence of MLS brass in this choice? I love a good conspiracy theory!

      • If your comment is in regard to mine Earl, then you have a good point. The great Maurice Edu-like so many of the others has chosen MLS over Europe and here he is in Philadelphia.
        .
        Part of my problem is Edu has never wowed me whether stateside, USMNT or in Germany. I guess if he wowed me I would be seeing things from a different point of view. To me he is more of the same- the redundancy of the american player of near decades past.
        .
        and while Amobi Okugo has made mistakes he is a young player of the future- the mold and model IMO. He is a young player who plays the game in the future and that is a rare commodity around these parts- he’s just the age of a rookie college graduate. He’s the kind of player I point out to my kids and rewind and show again and again how he was 2 moves ahead- like many others from differing clubs in other countries – but not so many from here.
        .
        But okay MLS & Philly, hitch your US Soccer PR propaganda machine to Maurice. You win. Cynical you ask? You bet. Or is it sardonic.

      • Is MLS HQ bias really anything more than that Mo was our only All Star and that’s because he was a starting DP on a team with a lousy record when All Stars were selected?

      • Whether you are the Union or MLS, what if they only way you convince Mo Edu to return next year is to play him in the midfield? Doesn’t that become a priority, no matter how underrated Amobi Okugo may be? Edu is very marketable, and on Jurgen Klinsmann’s shortlist. Perhaps if Okugo had been called into the senior MNT by now, things would be playing out differently. But it’s tough to underestimate the value of marketing in the new MLS.

      • I completely agree: Mo returns only if he plays mid. Same as when he was loaned. For a 5 – yo franchise with 1 playoff appearance 2 years ago, is it more important for your brand to sign Mo or to win your first playoff ever? The Okugoless XI is unproven. As far as MLS’s marketing interests, wouldn’t other teams line up to sign Mo? I would guess that a continously improving Amobi may have a better chance going to Russia than a 32 – yo Edu. I don’t pretend to understand how MLS HQ flexes it’s muscle with teams in this situation. Does Sak?

  4. I don’t think it is the right call at all. At least not for a few years. Both Hackworth’s and Curtin’s initial success has been defined by doing the one thing their predecessor wouldn’t do.
    For Hackworth it was playing the younger players that have been sitting on the bench. For Curtin it was playing his players in their natural positions.

    The Union have enough talent to get into the playoffs. So playing the players in their natural positions should be good enough. And add on top of that the union have been lucky. Lucky to advance into the open cup despite suspect play, lucky to catch Toronto 2 weeks in a row when they were in a complete tailspin ect. So yea Curtin looks good but all he has done so far is do the things Hackworth was too stubborn to do.

    This is why I find the timing of this hiring to be odd. Why commit yourself to Curtin just as some of the chinks in his coaching armour are becoming apparent? Why not wait til the offseason? I just don’t get it at all.

  5. It’s the right call. Curtin’s record speaks for itself.

    • I don’t agree there. The record is over a very short period of time with a team Curtin didn’t build. We have no idea if he has the chops in the team-making and player acquisition aspect of the job.

    • Replace Curtin with Hackworth and its a perfect match.

  6. “Ready! Hire! Aim!” – Nick Sakiewicz. Not the right call. Because it’s the wrong time. And done the wrong way. Sak says he may reorganize the operation. Do that first. Set the roles. Then hire from the top down. If it’s his vote of confidence for Curtin, today’s not Election Day. Publicly back him up on “the Okugo” & reassure the skeptics. What incoming GM wants the CEO to have just decided the head coach? Only one you don’t want. To his great credit, Curtin has said to judge him on results. Currently his team misses the playoffs. Last week his team list the USOC Final while he decided to leave Okugo on the bench. If we fold, can the new GM fire the current CEO?

  7. It’s the wrong call.

    It’s definitely the wrong time.

    Hack was the wrong call as well.
    “Critics said it was too early and that Hackworth was unqualified. Those critics were wrong, but the criticism has lingered and strengthens the common sentiment that the Union are small-timers in a big city.”
    No, they/we/us were right. Hack wasn’t ready for prime time. He demonstrated that at every turn. Hackpologists said give him time to get out from bad contracts and he isnt Nowak. Nowak made the playoffs. Hack won 3 games in 20. All Curtin has done is not overly tinker with forwards at CB and force formations on players instead of play formations that fit the roster. You don’t get it both ways.

    It doesn’t matter if Curtin is the manager. As long as Nick Sak is the albatross slung around this team we will struggle to win.

  8. Dan. Smokin’ assessment.

  9. I feel, and have written this in a different piece that the whole state of this team has been re-vectored IMO. I get the sense it is not right. There goes Apollo bouncing into space with a guy (14) who in 2 years is going to be the best DM in soccer while the shiny toy is going to be 30 and on down side of career. Hope I am wrong, but the eeriness is preamble to mediocrity. There are points to Dan’s article I think are spot on and points I disagree with.

  10. In the perfect scenario…hometown hero returns and all that. As a matter of fact the Union is doing an admirable job of making the hometown connection to MLS talent. They just need a strong showing in the homegrown department. The Edu,Okugo decision was just poor. I get that JC has tried to stabilize things by playing players in their natural position. That being said, Edu is the most talented CB on the team and one of the best in MLS. Playing CB from what I’ve seen hasn’t diminished Edu’s ability to go on offense. Okugo covers for Edu. Okugo is perfect for the linckup with Noguiera and Maidana. It also makes Wenger more effective. Wenger was invisible with Edu in the midfield. As a manager JC really made a poor decision. You don’t lose anything with Okugo in the lineup and Edu as CB is a substantial gain. In my opinion if Edu ever wants to see international duty again, being the top CB in MLS is probably his best option.

    • This is good commentary. Spot on.

    • Agreed, I can’t write it better than that.

    • Unless Mo disagrees. It’s been speculated that he agreed to CB if we lacked 2 healthy naturals. Makes sense. On a team without a Noguiera, he’s the CDM. As for international play, JK started a youth movement in the WC that he’s unlikely to reverse. Edu will be 32 in ”18. He came here to play mid after playing mid. It’s reasonable to assume he wants to play mid as long as he can. Here or elsewhere.

      • Playoff push and performance in the playoffs means going with your strengths and performing up to those strengths even if it means personal sacrifice and putting one’s own agenda aside. Edu is the best CB the Union have. I don’t see why it’s an issue if Edu is truly about doing what ever it takes to help the team.

      • Mo may genuinely believe – heck, Curtin may, too – that he’s our best option at CDM. Hey, Okugo didn’t make the USMNT final 30. The way Mo accepts playing CB & his donning the arm band says he’s a team – first role model.

      • And is a major plus at CB with Okugo in midfield for this playoff push.

  11. You know, it looked for awhile like John hackworth was pushing the right buttons, making the correct calls but it did not take long at all for him to start grasping. Losing his edge. Looking overmatched. The reason? Inexperience. No water well to pull from of previousness.
    .
    There is no replacement for experience. Maybe it works. Maybe the back up plan becomes Rene. Maybe in 18 months we are sitting in this exact seat lamenting a wasted year. If that is the case…..

    • If it’s all about experience, then how do you explain Jason Kreis, for example???

      This mantra of “experience, experience, experience” is bunk. Some guys are good coaches and some guys aren’t. Some guys bounce around from team to team and only rarely get good results but land in another job because of their “experience” — and this happens in all sports, not just soccer.

      The issue is not that Curtin doesn’t have experience. The issue is that he doesn’t have much of a TRACK RECORD, which makes him a risk because we have less data with which to determine whether he would be a good head coach. However, neither does Meulensteen have much of a track record as a head coach. Nor any track record at all in MLS. What little track record Curtin has looks pretty good so far based upon the Union’s performance.

      BTW, I agree that Edu should be in at CB instead of White, and Okugo should be starting. I’m rather shocked that Curtin did this twice. But maybe he’ll learn? Or maybe he’s determined that there’s no way we can have them both next year anyway, since they are very duplicative and want to play CDM, so there’s no point in catering to both? I’m not convinced that it’s the right decision at all. But trying to convince me to get some unproven manager from across the pond instead of Curtin because “experience” just doesn’t pass muster.

      • John O'Donnell says:

        Spot on with the experience being a factor when it come to a coach. Oscar Pareja, Ben Olsen, Jay Heaps, Mike Petke & Peter Vermes all had very little experience before getting the head coaching job and all have enjoyed some type of success in MLS. One of the things you see in most pro sports leagues, is former player turning into coaches. MLS has just gotten to the point of having player’s who spent the majority of their career in the league. To me it’s a natural progression for a coach like Curtin.

      • Your argument is strong gentlemen. A few decisions have me perplexed and a tad salty and I am using that to vent.

      • Completely agree here. Plenty of experienced coaches floating around the league experiencing little success (Klopas and Yallop come to mind immediately). Unless the name is Dom, Bruce, or Sigi, experience hasn’t meant much of anything in MLS over the long term. EVERY new coach is a risk.

  12. Ok JC said he’s still the interim manager and reports to the contrary are false.

    • Was he wearing a tag with “INTERIM” written on it? None of the reports said it’s been removed (& so are not false), but that it’s been decided that it will be removed any day now. Sak reportedly seen opening drawers in his office mumbling about scissors.

  13. good article – agree with it and many of the sentiments in the comments. Coaches can put players in position to succeed – JC’s use of Edu at CB (where he doesn’t want to play) and Okugo at DB (after having been a CB for a while) is a good example and correlates to the team’s good run this summer. Coaches can also pick the wrong lineup, which gets coaches fired. But unless a team has many good players (which the Union do not – Okugo seems to be the only controversial decision), the players pick themselves and have to perform. The lineup JC was putting out with Edu at CB and Okugo at DM is the lineup Hack would have put out as well (once everyone got healthy) because its pretty much all the team has. So after getting the one tough choice wrong, JC gets full-time gig. Only Sak can appreciate the logic of this decision – and please, please don’t bring in Rene M to ghost over JC – just get rid of Sak and add another striker (imagine a healthier Casey with more rest), CB, wingback and attacking MF to provide some depth and genuine competition for places. Agree that “experience” is over-rated but it still has value – most of the coaches without coaching experience had scads of playing experience – as we know from our playing careers, some players pay attention and get it and others don’t – the ones who get it typically become good coaches.

    • If you really think the current lineup — with Edu at CB and Okugo and CDM — is the one Hack would’ve put out, I’m afraid you have a very short memory. Hack had Ethan White buried so deeply in the depth chart that he was behind Okugo (at CB), Berry, and even Aaron freakin’ Wheeler! And while Okugo was playing CB, Edu was pairing at CDM with Hack’s old favorite, Brian Carroll, even though it became painfully obvious that Carroll had lost a couple steps and we had better options. Also don’t forget that our striker off the bench would be Antoine Hoppenot, and that Danny Cruz would be starting every game.

      The only thing I’ll grant Hackworth is that he couldn’t put Edu at CB, because of the agreement they had up until the World Cup selection. But otherwise, the improvement of the team under Curtin proves that, in fact, Hack was making some major lineup mistakes. If only he were as good at playing them as he was at acquiring them.

      • “… Because it’s pretty much all the team has.” The hack reference was offhand. Based on your lingering feelings for hack’s reign, is suppose I should have written, “even hack would have been forced to pick this lineup because …” I believe its time to let go of hack-contempt. This is about JC’S decisions about who to play in a soccer match, not whether to commence air strikes on Canada for stealing the Jack Mac attack or to raise the prime rate in the EuroZone to stymie Chelsea’s rising hegemony, for both of which I hold Rafael Benitez responsible. In the grand philadelphia tradition it’s already being replaced by JC-contempt anyway, and it only took, what, 3 months?

      • Ironically, I was never particularly down on Hackworth until after he left. I figured the guy was probably doing the best with what he had. It wasn’t until Curtin came in and did a lot better with essentially the same pieces that it became clear how poorly Hackworth was doing. Hackworth is really good and spotting young talent, and even the Jack Mac for Wenger trade, which looked so foolish for a while, is now starting to look pretty decent. So I give him his due. And besides, I reserve my true contempt for Peter Nowak.

  14. OneManWolfpack says:

    “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
    .
    Assuming Curtain is now the manager, and there are apparently reports to the contrary, this is literally the same thing as Hackworth. Sack can not be this dumb… can he?! What is the harm in waiting till the season is over?!
    .
    As for the Okugo /Edu situation. It’s clear Curtain prefers Edu over Okugo, but I just don’t understand why. Something tells me, there is something going on… either conspiracy theory-ish or not… but there is obviously a plan in place. I just don’t know if I trust Sack execute another “plan”.
    .
    Also great article, and comments… I love this site!

  15. Now I hear Ben Olsen started these rumors. Not really. But in place of the laser focus on the next biggest match of our season – we must get a point from the conference leader at home Saturday – here’s a great idea: manufacture a completely needless distraction for everyone: players, staff & fans, from that daunting task! And send our coach out there to deny (almost) said rumors. Honestly, what net good does this do for the sole meaningful goal left of a playoff run? And it’s going to be a distraction until it’s official. Who asked “Is Sak really that dumb?” I’ll say this much: I have no idea how dumb Nick Sak really is.

    • … Because Olsen doesn’t want to be the boy-wonder, youngest MLS manager anymore. Also, alternative answers to the Sak question: “it’s no longer a question.” Or “more so.” Or “only Sak doesn’t know the answer to that.”

      • It’s Day 3 since the story broke. Nothing from the club or Sak. No denial, confirmation or scheduled event. As much as JC tries to shrug off, it IS a distraction. At a really inopportune time. And all within management’s complete control. Unprofessional.

  16. I love the interim tag being removed from Jim Curtain. At first I scratched my head about the hastiness but now I get it. Muelensteen will be announced next. All you Sak haters should be psyched because Rene will take over some of Sak’s duties, right? And if Jimmy Curtain stinks out the joint next year and the team is in the basement Rene could (and will) step behind the bench. Judging by the other candidates like John Harkes (yikes!) I’ll take Curtain + Meulensteen any day of the week. Sak to his credit will give up power in this scenario. He did it right!

    • I, for one, have started throwing barbs at how Sak has done things because of the content and process of management decision making during the year, not because I don’t like him. And I hope you’re right: all the bumbling, directionless & self contradiction will produce a winning combo heading into next year. Then I look at his record and immediately lose hope. By the way, the tag is still there. And we’re still commenting about it. Instead of how Edu will play Espindola tomorrow.

  17. I believe, as the American soccer youth movement progresses so too does the MLS. Just a few short years ago watching a Union game or most any other MLS game was about the finding the best guys on the field and appreciating what they could do. This as handfuls of hacks from either team patrolled the field making barely enough to cover their car loan bills and putting their bodies (and the star’s bodies too) on the line in the name of “winning”. These games were characterized by the ball bouncing all over the TV screen like Atari Pong… hoping the ball would settle on your team’s foot long enough to get the ball to the star so he could show some soccer skillz on the way to winning. Every year since then these minutes of American HS style soccer diminished seemingly reserved to the really bad teams, extremes of heat in the summer or playoff time when team were just spent of energy. This year MLS most times looks more like real soccer than this jungle ball of the past. I attribute this to the lowest common denominator rising every year as the American youth movement vastly improves the quality of the average player on the field and the available substitutes. That said, my biggest issue now with the product I see on the field when I tune into Union games is not lack of stars it’s too many old school hacks. This is why I find it maddening when we make big trades for redundant positions like Edu and M’Bohli. It means I have to endure the likes of Cruz, Fred, Fabihno and White and even Gaddis for that much longer. Expansion is not going to help my cause because it will dilute the field further. But this is why I want Union management to put Okugo on the field. He is symbolic of the leading edge of this great American youth movement. Same movement Pfeffer symbolizes. They play an ew way that I’d like to see more of… with control. Jim Curtin comes this old school American hack player system where “winning” against similarly shitty opponents means everything. Maybe it’s too much to want to see stars on the field at every position, but I don’t think it’s too much to ask for 11 players who can control a ball at their feet…

    • Jungle Ball. You must be familiar with the brothers Kleiben. Now I see where the logic of your arguments come from and likely why we often have a similar POV. I agree wholeheartedly with your statement above regarding Okugo. It is total truth.

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