Fans' View

Fans’ View: Hope falls flat

Photo: Paul Rudderow

Hope is a powerful feeling.

Hope breeds optimism and happiness. It gives people a reason to engage, and want to belong to something bigger. Hope fills stadiums and get fans dreaming about Supporters’ Shields, US Open Cup trophies, and MLS Cups.

But when hope fades away?

Everybody is undefeated in spring training, and everybody in MLS is undefeated in early March, with the possible exception of Chivas USA. The game day experience has plenty to offer, but it’s that desire and expectation that your team will come together, and rise up to experience something special that connects those games together and offers context. Will we be successful? Overachieve and make a run at a title? Witness the breakthrough of a promising young star? Even if cup contention is unrealistic, these are bars most fans set as to what constitutes a successful season.

I admittedly was very high on the Philadelphia Union coming into the 2014 season. A promising mix of young talent and a surprisingly active offseason that added Cristian Maidana, Vincent Nogueira, Maurice Edu, and Austin Berry certainly raised expectations for a team with one playoff appearance notch on its belt.

While a slow start to the season blunted some of our collective enthusiasm for our playoff-hopeful squad, I still felt like a bit more time together would allow a lot of unfamiliar players to gel. Unfortunately, the Union continued to leak goals with a makeshift backline combination, and quickly found a home towards the bottom of nearly everyone’s power rankings.

A mid-season coaching change, combined with some inspired offensive play from Conor Casey and Sebastian Le Toux, as well as a much more organized and stable backline, managed to raise up our hopes once again, in true Philly style. The strong run in the US Open Cup, culminating in a hard fought final match in front of the best Union crowd atmosphere in the team’s five year existence, seemed to be the final proof that we could really turn things around and claim a playoff spot.

Hope was on the climb.

Then hope sunk.

The hot scoring dried up, opponents seemed to adjust to our counterattacking tactics, and summer acquisitions either weren’t as impactful as hoped (Brian Brown), or more disruptive than desired (Rais Mbolhi). A gut punch of a loss to Chicago left most of us feeling angry and frustrated with a team that seems destined to keep tripping over its own feet.

In one glimmer of hope, in the last ten days, results around the league fell in line towards a convoluted scenario that would once again give us a shot at playing meaningful games. We were about to run the picket fence at them, and take that completely unexpected ride to a great sports movie finish. Sadly, Columbus snuffed out that last glimmer of hope with a late game Union meltdown that unfortunately, didn’t shock most of us.

When hope fades, it’s really difficult to watch a team just playing out the string, no matter how much Fest Bier is on tap. Game day still has its moments, but what are we building towards? What’s still out there to achieve these last couple of weeks? The vibe is just different. Thoughts shift to the offseason, to possibly seeing fan favorites like Amobi Okugo and Zac MacMath move on instead of bringing hardware to the Union faithful.

Hope and optimism are tough sells when difficult decisions and uncertainty are what lie ahead. Here’s to seeing meaningful games again, and to the Union’s management doing what it takes to restore a little hope for 2015.


  1. I still have hope … that Sugarman sells the team to owners willing to invest and Sak goes out with him.

  2. Much as the Chicago game felt like a loss, it was one of three draws the Union had against the fire…

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