A View from Afar

Is the glass half empty or half full?

Photo: Paul Rudderow

You watched Philadelphia Union’s opening match Saturday against the Colorado Rapids. You saw them record a scoreless draw against a team that played a man down for 20 minutes and may be the league’s worst team even when they have 11 men. And you know that it only gets tougher with their next two matches against Salt Lake and Dallas.

So you’ve drawn your own conclusions, ranging from “fire the manager” — yes, one game into the season — to “let’s maintain some perspective here.”

We’re going to try something here. We’re going to draw both sets of conclusions. Let’s go.

The Union’s 4-2-4 formation

Glass half empty: That 4-2-4 was an abominable mess and should never see the late of day again. The poor spacing it created left a vast hole in the middle of the pitch. It’s one thing to try this with two wide players who are actually midfielders playing forward roles, but Sebastien Le Toux and Andrew Wenger are forwards playing midfield roles.

Glass half full: The Union dominated the game offensively, save on the scoreboard, and actually looked pretty good once Cristian Maidana entered the game. They outshot Colorado 18 to 2 (but put only 4 on target) and maintained 61 percent of possession.

Playing with two target forwards

Glass half empty: Fernando Aristeguieta and C.J. Sapong proved redundant, as even manager Jim Curtin acknowledged when he said at halftime, “(Aristeguieta) and CJ sometimes are going for the same ball. You know, we’d like to see one flicking and one running in behind. And again, we need to get the ball on the ground if we’re going to get in behind Burling and Sjoberg.” Yes, Sapong is versatile enough to play positions other than center forward, but his inability to play them nearly as well is what took him from rookie of the year to the bench with Kansas City. He’s been best at center forward.

Glass half full: Aristeguieta and Sapong separately looked pretty good at times. They may both play the same position, as does Conor Casey, but that position should be nailed down pretty well for the Union this year if the Union stick to the 4-3-3 in which they belong.

How does Cristian Maidana not start that match?

Glass half empty: Maidana is the team’s creative fulcrum. He ranked among league leaders in assists last season. And when he came in, he looked like he still has it. If this was a sign of how Curtin views Maidana individually and his team tactically, then it may be that Curtin can’t evaluate talent or deal with attacking tactics.

Glass half full: It’s one game. Curtin wanted to see what Sapong could do as a second forward. And maybe he wanted to send a message to Maidana and his team that everyone needs to work hard in every practice.

Was this team fun to watch?

Glass half empty: This game was borderline unwatchable. Colorado is a garbage team. The Union couldn’t do anything against them besides fire in random crosses, which looked a lot like parts of 2014.

Glass half full: It’s the first game. Chill out. They’ll come together.

Union player acquisitions: Aristeguieta and Alejandro Moreno were roommates???

Glass half full: The point raised by the Union’s TV commentary crew regarding Aristeguieta and former Union striker and television analyst Moreno being former roommates for the Venezuela national team shows that the Union are taking advantage of every connection they have to find players.

Glass half empty: So let me get this straight. The Union’s former TV analyst had to find them one off-season signing. The Vancouver Whitecaps found the other one, who the Union had to trade for after the Whitecaps loaded up on other center back signings. Well then. The Union are really on top of this player acquisition thing these days. Good thing they’re paying Rene Meulensteen!

C.J. Sapong’s concussion

Glass half full: Well, at least this almost guarantees Maidana will start against Salt Lake. But will it be in a 4-3-3 or that forgettable 4-2-4?

Glass half empty: You never like to see someone suffer an injury like that. Concussions can stay with you a long, long time. Plus, Sapong worked hard last week and has some talent, and the Union are a better team with him than without him.

Philadelphia’s TV coverage has never replicated those brief glory days of Alejandro Moreno and Taylor Twellman*

Glass half empty: Moreno and Twellman are probably the two best color guys in American soccer right now (in that order, by the way), but their successors have not fared as well. Settle in for a year full of mediocre commentary about obvious things.

Glass half full: Pappas isn’t Bob Rigby. He’s not bad. He’s just not great. And you got used to great. Plus, nice touch with bringing in Vineland native and former national teamer Jill Loyden to help at halftime. She looked like a rookie, but give it time. Between Loyden and Heather Mitts, could the Union be the team that finally puts a woman in the booth as lead analyst for a men’s team?

Salt Lake this week

Glass half empty: Salt Lake is a good team. They’re even better at home. How many games will the season go before the Union record a win?

Glass half full: Salt Lake is trying to adapt to a new formation after years of being famous for the diamond. That may be a rough adjustment, and it will only help the Union, who have the talent in their first 11 to compete with RSL anywhere, any day, anytime.


  1. RSL is in a 4-3-3 when they have the ball…and in a 4-5-1 when they do not. Different set up than the diamond midfield….but they shut Portland down the other night. They have always been tough defensively…you rarely see them give up a lot……

  2. Andy Muenz says:

    Sapong’s concussion is glass 90% empty just by the nature of any player suffering a concussion (regardless of how it helps the team).

  3. Im still hoping for the best—- but coming out in that formation plus sitting the only guy capable of a final pass is a bit more than worrisome regardless of how he looked in the week leading up to the game. Chaco Maidana needs to play- would you sit Edu if he looked a bit off this week in practice? No way.
    I appreciate the moves the team made late to secure some players and stand firm in feeling that the remainder of this season is a litmus test for whether or not JC can manage.
    Part of what concerns me, is yes he is new and yes he is young and yes he was a player– but none of that means the guy can game day manage.
    Hell just a few years ago he was cutting teeth, literally with kids and working his way up the food chain and through the academy.
    There is something to be said for a bag of tricks for a guy who has managed before. Truthfully I am still slacked-jawed they hired a newbie again- but that speaks to the aforementioned writings by me that this club has NO intention of winning MLS Cup.
    Time will tell. But I have my strong reservations. Glass half full in one hand. Glass half empty in the other.

  4. You know, Alejandro Moreno teaches you something. Everytime. Peter Pappas is a swell guy I am sure but he really brings nothing to the local viewing IQ of the game- and that is what the TV audience needs- desperately. The game and how it is judged and evaluated and commented on needs to become an exercise in raising the IQ of all fans- this is a really important part of our learning process locally and nationally.
    Half the reason I watch european football is to listen and learn. Peter is an upgrade over phen-no-men-al Bob Rigby but not by much.
    Glass half empty.

    • It seems that what happens with American soccer commentators is what happens with American soccer players. You try to develop talent, give someone new a chance to see what they can do, and sometimes you find one who’s good enough to be a real positive. But if you’re TOO good, you just leave for a better-paying gig. And Dan left out Kyle Martino, who is also very good (and was with the Union for season 1). Clearly the Union has the best Commentator Academy in American soccer.

  5. Nova 66-64 says:

    Half Full- Union had $100,000 to clear the snow for the match

    Half Empty- Union have no money to acquire additional player talent.

  6. Half Full (The Duke perspective) – Why are you guys so down The Union are in a playoff position!

    Half Empty – they are only in playoff position because they added an extra playoff spot and shifted Houston and SKC out West

  7. Half Full – Great post, Dan.

    Half Empty – Meh.

  8. I was happy to see Jill Loyden in the pregame show. She definitely had rookie jitters (along with the substitute host she was talking to). Kristian Dyer was ok last year I guess, but he’s really a New York Jets reporter, and I could not accept him as a Philadelphia guy. Jill Loyden is from Vineland and lives somewhere around Deptford now, so she is a true local and I can relate to that.

    Maybe when Burlington County girl Carli Lloyd retires from soccer, she can get involved with the Union broadcasts too.

  9. Hey cool, I was quoted! It made me realize that I use “Adam” on one computer and “Adam S” on another. Oh well. I’ll have to fix that.
    To be fair, I’ve been saying Fire Curtin for much longer than one game. Look, I’m sure he’s a great guy. But he proved last year that he wasn’t HC material, and I’ve wanted an outside hire since Nowak was fired. This coaching line (it’s not even a tree) isn’t working. We need to bring in somebody with actual ideas, who judges players on game day rather than on the practice field, who can make in-game adjustments, and who doesn’t manage every game the same exact way. Curtin had a nice run last year. He should have been replaced after the USOC final. The fact that he’s still at the helm is just same old Union.

    • I agree we should have found a head coach from outside our system, especially after that ‘thorough’ search. But I fell for the ‘Philadelphia guy’ thing. Now I think I’m regretting it. Half full, half empty.

    • Completely rational. I mean, it was shameful when he fumbled that ball as our goalie, and the turnovers he made against Columbus were horrible. Shame on Curtin. It’s not like he lead the Union to the USOC final or had a good record as coach.

      Completely rational.

  10. Please no more Tony Limarzzi (however you spell it). Just no.

  11. The question isn’t whether the glass is half-empty or half-full. Instead, try to realize that there is no glass.

  12. “Between Loyden and Heather Mitts, could the Union be the team that finally puts a woman in the booth as lead analyst for a men’s team?”
    Yes. ASAP.

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