Breaking News

Meulensteen joins Union as a consultant as team begins search for sporting director

The Philadelphia Union announced today that Rene Meulensteen has joined the team’s as a consultant (look for a transcript of the press conference later today).

Union owner Jay Sugarman said at the press conference, “We plan to augment our management team with a permanent sporting director to help take both our youth development and our first team performance to a higher level.”

He continued, “Now, we’re going to need some time to properly fill that role, but we’re not going to sit still in the meantime. And to help us right now, we’re happy to announce we’ve engaged Rene Meulensteen’s Partner in Sports practice to consult with us on many of our key decision over the next several months.”

News of Meulensteen’s hiring was first reported by Kristian Dyer at Metro on Nov. 12, and confirmed the next day by reports from Marc Narducci at the Philadelphia Inquirer, and Kevin Kinkead at CBS Philly.

Dyer reported Muelensteen “will be a consultant ‘to assist with the sporting director structure’ of the club.”

Meulensteen, a former assistant coach at Manchester United and briefly the head coach of Fulham, has been linked to the Union since the search for a new head coach began following the dismissal of John Hackworth. Meulensteen was sighted at Gillette Stadium with Union CEO Nick Sakiewicz when the Union played New England Revolution on June 28.

On July 7, Kevin Kinkead tweeted that Meulensteen was in the mix of candidates to replace Hackworth. Rumors of the Union’s interest in Meulensteen continued throughout the summer. Another tweet from Kinkead on Sept. 9 indicated that Meulensteen remained a candidate for the head coaching job. This was followed up by a tweet from Taylor Twellman on Sept. 9 in which he said Meulensteen had not been offered the head coaching job. In a report at ESPN from Jeff Carlisle on Sept. 10, Sakiewicz confirmed that Meulensteen was a candidate for the head coach job but that no decision had been made.

In the ESPN report, Sakiewicz also said, “About three weeks ago, I suspended any kind of search activity for a new coach. I’m probably going to pick it up some time after the Open Cup. But [the new coach is] completely undetermined.”

On Sept. 11, Meulensteen confirmed to Voetbal International (translation here) that reports that he would be named head coach of the Union were “a tad premature,” adding, “I will not deny that something is up.”

On Sept. 19, Meulensteen told Fox Sports’ Dutch outlet (translation here) that talks with the Union were “in a fairly advanced stage.”

Meulensteen explained in the Fox Sports NL report, “When it comes to an agreement, I am the manager responsible for football affairs. I will also have contact with the ‘academy manager, but the focus is mainly on the first team. It is a varied package.” In hindsight, this seems a pretty fair description of what initial reports of his hiring have suggested Meulensteen’s responsibilities with the Union would be.

On Sept. 23, Dyer reported that Jim Curtin would be named the Union’s head coach “sometime this week.”

While Curtin said in his weekly press conference the next day that the report was “Not true,” explaining, “I’m still fighting to have the interim tag dropped,” Sakiewicz was soon publicly backing Curtin. Sakiewicz told John Smallwood of the Daily News in a report published on Oct. 15 that Curtin “is the right man.” In a report from Jack McCaffery of the Delaware County Daily Times on Oct. 19, the day after the Union’s last home game of 2014, Sakiewicz reiterated his support for Curtin, saying, “I’m committed to Jim Curtin long-term. He will be here a long time.

In a Philadelphia Inquirer report  on Oct. 28 by Marc Narducci, Sakiewicz addressed the continuing rumors linking Meulensteen to the Union head coaching job, saying, “”I won’t say that won’t happen, but it isn’t happening now.”

On Nov. 6, Kinkead reported her at PSP that “Sources tell me that Rene Meulensteen has remained in the picture since [reports of Jim Curtin’s impending hire as permanent head coach]. He would not be the manager, but he would be given some kind of executive role, such as a ‘Sporting Director’ or a ‘Director of Soccer Operations’.”

Sakiewicz said in the Curtin announcement press conference on Nov. 7, “[W]e’re constantly evaluating our structure…We continue to look at making heavy investments in this club…We’re investing heavily in Jim and resources given to him to make sure we get this team continuing to move in the right direction…we are evaluating our structure, and whatever we can do to make the on-field product competitive.”

Sakiewicz added, “So, there’s going to be lots of announcements over the next three months — players, staff, structure, forward thinking, and I hope everybody’s excited about it.”

Curtin said in an installment of the KYW Philly Soccer Show recorded on Nov. 11 and published on Nov. 12, “Our ownership is doing things right now to put a structure in to support me as best as [they] can,” adding, “The structure is improving greatly around me. There will be more on that as this offseason progresses.”

News of the improving structure came quicker than most Union fans probably would have thought.


  1. I’ll take it. A new voice. A different look. I’ll take it. Should’ve been done a long time ago, but the past is the past. I’ll take it.

  2. Sounds like a good first step in building something. Nice to know there’s good soccer intelligence in the mix.

  3. What are they paying him and how many hours per week will he work? regular schmoes like me are curious about these seeming trivialities

  4. OneManWolfpack says:

    I like the move. I hope he wields a little power and helps make some smart decisions and ideas come to life. Time will tell, but I, like many others, will take it.

  5. I’m OK with this. This is a predictably low risk, potentially high reward move. If it doesn’t work out, the Union can easily cut their losses and move on. If it does work out, the team benefits, and that search for a “permanent sporting director” would be over.
    I don’t think this is enough though, staff-wise. The team still needs a permanent goalkeeping coach, and maybe even another technical staffer to help out Chris Albright.

  6. ditto. ibid.

  7. It to 6 months for this? Why?

  8. With the 17th pick in the Chivas Dispersal Draft, the Union select . . . No One Who Will Matter!

  9. How did we get so boned with the dispersal draft? I thought the non-playoff teams had twice as many draws. But somehow the first ten teams in the draft are mostly playoff teams and expansion clubs.

  10. “To help us right now, we’re happy to announce we’ve engaged Rene Meulensteen’s Partner in Sports practice to consult with us on many of our key decision over the next several months.”
    So are we actually getting Meulensteen, or just the program he heads up? Maybe trivial, but I think there’s got to be a difference between working directly with Meulensteen and working with someone who’s Meulesteen-adjacent.

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      I agree. That is some weird kind of legal speak that is something people do so they can refer back and say, “look, here is EXACTLY what I said, etc”. A little shady, then again, look who’s involved

  11. I am mostly encouraged by this. Mostly because Sugarman has laid down the law and told Sak to work his side of the street.

    This wasn’t so much about Mule being hired for a job it wa about Sak getting fired from one.

  12. The Philadelphia Dutch community (circa 200 strong) welcome Rene! Hope to see you at some of our events (listed here:

  13. Meh, a strange appointment, but I would expect nothing less than from a strange organization like the Union.

  14. The Little Fish says:

    I love it. We need him. But it’s kinda weird. So I’m thinking perhaps the Union went the ‘consultant’ route with Mule’s firm so as to NOT commit to any long (or even intermediate) term ‘hefty’ contracts. I don’t care though. Whatever. Rene’s coming and we will be a better organization because of it.

  15. Maybe this will be like Dick Cheney heading the search for a Vice Presidential candidate and he will end up picking himself.

    Nice to see Mr Sugarman step up. I know some people above believe he was slapping Sakiewicz with his comments, but I think more than that he was owning up to the fans that this hasn’t been all about Nick. That he and the board is engaged with how the club is being run and where’ it is going. In some respects he was getting SaK’s back by taking the focus off of him.

    • Look somebody signed those 3 goalkeepers. The situation had become absurd, So yea I think he is values Sak in the buisnines side. But thi was detting guideline on who does what.
      I never want to see Sak at a player signing again.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *