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Season Reviews: The sillier moments of the year

Photo: Earl Gardner

Part of following a team means getting to know its players and staff as people. And, while Major League Soccer has grown tremendously in the five years since the Philadelphia Union joined the league, one thing remains easier than it is for the big four leagues — it’s easier for fans to feel close to the players.

Many of the players in MLS are journeymen, looking for a good paycheck doing something they love. Whether they’re young players coming out of college, or foreign players looking for something new in America, or even veterans subject to the whims of expansion drafts and re-entry drafts and arbitrary-shuffling-of-the-roster drafts — MLS players can seem more like average folks than superstar athletes.

This isn’t a value judgment — I’m not saying that making less money somehow makes a person better or worse. But with less on the table — less money, less attention, less scrutiny — your average MLS player is more willing to open up to the fans.

Perhaps no Union player did that more this year than Cristian Maidana. Not much was known about the Argentine when he joined the Union other than his professional background — a skilled midfielder with a stop-and-start career around the globe.

What became obvious soon after his arrival, though, is that Maidana is truly a family man. He has three kids, and it became increasingly apparent that Maidana saw America as an opportunity to settle down and give his kids a chance at stability. He made this clear in professional settings, such as a video produced by the Union where Maidana discussed his decision to come to America.

And he made this clear online, in a slightly more personal way — his Instagram. Almost every picture is a shot of one or more of his kids doing something utterly adorable. Whether it’s playing basketball, dressing up for Halloween, or just goofing around at night, it’s clear that Maidana is completely in love with his kids and loves to share them with the people of Instagram and Twitter — including any interested Union fan.

It’s in this context that we come to the silliest moment of the year. Throughout the struggling start to the season, John Hackworth’s press conferences became more and more defensive and strange. None of them, though, were as bizarre and — I thought — insulting as his description of Maidana’s early-season struggles.

“You know, it’s a different culture. In Argentina, I think you eat dinner somewhere between 11 o’clock to 12:30, 1 at night. His kids when he first moved here are bouncing off the walls at 12:30, 1 o’clock at night. So, all these kind of cultural habits have to be adjusted.”

Now, it’s true that Maidana’s fitness wasn’t what it could have been last year. But for Hack to publicly blame Chaco’s fitness struggles on his kids not sleeping — rather than the somewhat baffling tactics preferred by the former manager — was truly a ridiculous statement, subject to deserved derision from around the rest of the league. It was the silliest moment of 2014 (even if Maidana acknowledged the adjustment in the Union video).

The postscript to this silly moment was more pleasant. Maidana did eventually find his form, picking up eleven assists while continuing to post approximately eleven thousand pictures of his kids on Instagram. Six months after Hackworth was fired, Chaco’s web presence remains strong, now alternating kid-pics with training selfies. I guess it turns out that being surrounded by a happy family can help you do well at your job. Who knew?

Saliendo del jardín con mis bbs…

A photo posted by Cristian Chaco Maidana (@chacomaidana) on

 

Some other great moments of silliness… Continuing on the theme of Instagram, it was always entertaining to get a glimpse of Maurice Edu’s “uniform” on game day…

  Today’s freshness! Game face on! Finally back at PPL Park tonight vs Vancouver! @philaunion @mls   A photo posted by mauriceedu (@mauriceedu) on

 

Of course, the most ridiculous sentence of the year goes to Nick Sakiewicz: “We believe we have three of the best goalkeepers in the league.” I didn’t realize that there were bonus points awarded each season for hoarding goalies. SB Nation’s Ryan Rosenblatt gets credit for the best deconstruction of the situation in a piece called “Philadelphia Union are unclear on how goalkeepers work.”

So in summation: The Union have three of the best goalkeepers in the league, a statement only they believe, and they will play all three at the same time because they acquire assets that they won’t trade, and 23-year-old Blake is a great goalkeeper who is too young to start unlike 20-year-old MacMath two years ago.

The Union Twitter account, while often informative, was often incredibly silly because it seemed absurdly disconnected from the slow collapse of the Union’s season. This Tweet was my personal favorite:

The correct answer was “assists.” Keep in mind that, with just three games left in the season, it would make Maidana one of the greatest soccer players of all time if he had compiled the requisite nine assists.

What were your favorite silly moments of 2014? Let us know in the comments. (Note: I consider my plan to fire Fabinho into the sun via a rocket a deadly serious plan, and so it does not qualify!)

12 Comments

  1. A few short moments of silliness? The Corben Bone experience.

  2. Former Season Ticket Holder says:

    My favorite was Hack playing a forward at defender

  3. How about me leaving my house to go to work with a 2-0 lead against Columbus and walking by a television not six minutes later, as the commute is quite short, and being down 3-2. All I could do was laugh. Silly moment.

  4. Mboli whiffing on a back pass clearance and sending it right to the other team who immediately scored to tie the game in the dying seconds to snatch 1pt from 3pts.

    Ahh, the memories.

  5. Sugarman’s press conference after 5 years. It was like Moses coming down from Mount Sinai, to tell us that the Union would still be run like a 2nd rate outpost financially. This inspite of being in the 4th largest sports and media market in the country and 2nd on the east coast. That’s silly and unacceptable for this market.

    • There are eccentricities and platitudes and blue blood along the main line so old it goes back to Rockefeller, the Curtis’- pockets so deep and philanthropy so strong that I simply refuse and will always refuse to accept the mid market mindset for this club. There is nothing mid market about the houses off Montgomery Ave or out amongst the fields of Radnor. Nothing. FInd me the money to build it big or step aside- bang the drum LCB.

      • I have a gut feeling that Sugarman and Sakeiwicz are doing more fending off offers of finanacial help because they feel they’ll lose controll. I for one would love to see someone(not necessarily force Sugarman out)force out Sakeiwicz as part/minority owner and take over control of the Union as primary owner. I forsee it happening if MLS keeps trending the way it is. The Philadelphia market demands smart financially competitive ownership. Nothing less will suffice.

      • Hostile take over- pork belly style.

  6. Silliest moment for me was the FO removing signs that likened Sakeiwicz to the grim reaper (which was pretty funny by the way). I wish our club was secure enough to take that on the chin.
    .
    Funniest moment was watching a bunch of SOBs run shirtless back and forth to entertain themselves in the empty corner section during one of the first Open Cup games.
    .
    Another favorite was a small group chanting “Hey, Sigi, When’s the baby due?” during the Open Cup final.

  7. The fans running back and forth during the Cosmos game was great! This list is making me laugh and it’s great to look back at the hilarity. Of course in the grand scheme, it makes the club look ridiculous, but the journey is quite fantastic! Can’t wait for March!!!!!!

  8. Christians are the most likely to be the victim of a hate crime worldwide, and the most common peetatrrpor of those crimes is Muslims, on both a per capita and gross basis.

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