A View from Afar / Commentary

The difference between a good and bad team

Photo courtesy of Columbus Crew in 2014

The difference between good and bad teams in MLS is three goals.

The Columbus Crew are a good team.

Philadelphia Union are clearly a bad team.

No more talking about how much talent the Union have, how likable Jim Curtin is, or what level of play this team is capable of.

This team sucks. Period.

Does that sound crass? A bit blunt? Rather broad? Were you looking for the usual intellectual take on the club and its state of affairs?

Sorry, but sometimes the message is simple and direct.

Fabinho over Williams? Really?

Any MLS team that continues to start Fabinho at left back in a four-man back line after he has repeatedly cost them games on defense does not deserve to win or tie. They deserve to get pounded.

Do Jim Curtin and his coaching staff not learn? How many games must Fabinho cost the Union? How many opposition goals must he be responsible for? He played a part in surrendering three on Saturday. That should be enough to staple him to the bench. Maybe he could fare well as a wingback in a five-man back line — he is not without talent — but he’s too positionally unsound (and not quick enough to compensate for it) to succeed as a starting left back in MLS.

Was this a message to Sheanon Williams after he played a part in letting in two goals a week earlier? If so, Williams now knows Curtin will bench him to start an inferior player, and the Union will get smoked.

If you really want to send Williams a message, then just trade him already, play Ray Gaddis at right back full-time, and find yourself an actual starting left back. This is a league in which Corey Ashe and Chris Klute are now backup left backs. Meanwhile, both Williams and Gaddis are good enough to start at right back in MLS. (Who’s better? I think Williams overall, but each is quality.) Either pick one and trade the other, or leave them both in and be done with it already.

Questions of character and quality

After the game, Curtin said, “I learned a lot about a lot of players tonight, the guys that stuck with it and pushed and the guys who bailed out. You want to be able to look yourself in the mirror after a game and say that you gave everything. That’s what we talked about before the game, and I think we got a lot of answers. Especially in the second half, the guys that stuck with it.”

Well, that’s great. We know who has heart, is that it? Toughness? Is it Philly Tough, or just regular tough? And wouldn’t we all like to know which players bailed out? I think we would.

Here’s an idea: How about picking a lineup entirely of players who are MLS starting quality?

On one hand, it’s admirable that Curtin looks for personal character in his players. That’s important. You want good people, not players who give up.

On the other hand, maybe it’s time we hear less about character intangibles that are completely subjective (and potentially flat out wrong) and more about guys who can actually play this game.

For example, take Cristian Maidana. If you’ve read between the lines this season, you’ve learned that Curtin doesn’t think much of Maidana’s hustle or supposed lack thereof.

But anyone who watches the Union also knows that the Maidana-Vincent Nogueira pairing is probably the most important determinant to this team’s success. When they are healthy and playing together in the No. 10 and No. 8 roles, this team has ideas in attack. Without them, the Union lack ideas and possession.

There’s a lot to like about Curtin and the way he carries himself. I like him. You like him. Who doesn’t like him? (OK, maybe Amobi Okugo.)

But seriously, just put in a team that can play already. Nobody wants to hear about players supposedly giving up when most Union fans gave up once they saw a lineup featuring Fabinho.

Stop trying to telegraph messages to your players. Stop trying to motivate this club like they were an offensive line in American football.

Focus on what’s lacking in your tactics. Show us you know how to evaluate talent, and pick a lineup with the 11 players who put you in best position to win. Barring that, give us a different look than those that have failed repeatedly. Try Richie Marquez at center back, Jimmy McLaughlin at right back or on a wing, Andre Blake in goal. Something — anything — to show us there are some ideas here. Right now, we see few.

Yes, this club has been handicapped by poor leadership from the team’s ownership group, and the roster clearly had holes entering the season, notably the failure to replace Okugo. The team lacks adequate depth almost everywhere but center forward, and it’s showing.

But it doesn’t change the fact that this team has enough good players that they should be winning some games and competing in all of them, not rolling over the way they did Saturday and being the worst possession club in the league.

This gets old. People don’t want to watch this mess every week.


  1. Had enough, Dan? We seem to have done away with the pleasantries.

    Curtin’s grasping at straws. He has a team that is lacking in talent. At least 6 starters each week wouldn’t start on most MLS teams. Yet we’re forced to give them 90 minutes.

    Get the kids on the field, and still with a consistent 14 player rotation. (Subs and necessary rotation.) Consistently reaching for something new will be counterproductive, as we have seen already.

    • I don’t like the we’re losing so “get the kids on the field” mentality. I don’t disagree with the assessment of the quality of the team, but throwing a bunch of young guys who aren’t ready on the field to get smashed with accomplish nothing but destroying their confidence.
      McLaughlin, for example. Three coaches now have not seen McLaughlin as a viable MLS player. And he’s not lighting up the league in USL either (Kevin Molino on the other hand, was, and his MLS career has been ok at best so far). We can want these guys to be ready all day, but if they’re not, they’re not. I for one am sick of being fed local products and asked to root for mediocrity because its mediocrity from my city. That’s not how pro sports work.
      I don’t think Jim can fix this no matter what he does. And they can’t just fire him now. Three mid-season coach changes will make the organization more of a joke than it already is.
      To me, the only viable move from here is for Sugarman to do what he said he was going to six months ago–hire a sporting director to oversee the team. It’s got to be someone with experience and a track record of some kind of success. I know that’s hard to find, but its what they need. They need someone who isn’t Sak to oversee long term decisions. Then that guy can evaluate the roster and Jim and start building.
      Meulensteen makes me nervous as a candidate, if he’d even take the job, because by all reports he’s a good coach but a so-so manager. Maybe Kevin Payne? What’s he doing now? He did a good job at DC and got revolving-doored at Toronto. Perhaps too old though.
      So let’s see the results of that “exhaustive search” (that I think we all know hasn’t actually started yet).

      • pragmatist says:

        I only mention “the kids” because it’s all we have at our disposal, and the current roster isn’t strong/deep enough. We need bodies. Our bodies are currently in Harrisburg.
        Unless Sak’s Bournemouth trip was to convince guys to play in Chester instead of the Premier League, we will have to pray for a miracle this year.
        It’s May (almost), and I am already thinking about what our offseason will look like.

  2. Its about time Dan! They need to hear this from you guys……+1. We can rant all we want……..they pay attention to you guys. Don’t let up for a second.

    • Do they (i assume you mean the Front Office) ACTUALLY pay attention to this page? Because if they don’t, they REALLY need to start…

      • I’m sure they do, this is the most active place I’ve seen where people analyze and discuss this team. there aren’t a ton of places they would be able to look to gauge what people think

      • You’re giving them too much credit…

      • the pattern I see is: we get pissed on the boards, the PSP crew picks up parts of the vitriol they think would be good questions for the club or coach to answer, they then ask them pointedly. I first really noticed after the NE match……oh, and thanks boys!

      • I think the PR department probably looks…………if the technical staff does……we shouldn’t be a club. I think its more like PSP picks up on things and relays them through questions at the press conference…..

      • James Lockerbie says:

        I think they have someone monitor this site. I believe they noticed my fan’s view about Father Nick then again maybe a loyal reader mailed them a copy.

  3. I have just a NSCAA National Diploma since 2001, and from my personal experience coaching Mexican born players in the adult leagues, and receiving developmental training from the Chivas of Guadalajara Academy Chief Instructor, and studying the system and tactics of Bora Milutinovic, and implementing this knowledge through several youth teams which tactically outperformed, consistently, any MLS squad, and many times equalled the LA Galaxy’s game plans, The Philadelphia Union WOULD NEVER BE A LOSING SQUAD WITH ME!!!! Michael E. Christ, born in Myerstown, PA. 16 years coaching in So. CAL., 4 in GA. over 600 wins from U8 to Pro Devel League (4th tier in US) with the Inland Empire Elite in 1999-2000. No one gives a person who refuses to be indoctrinated by ‘Liberal Academie’ a chance at a publically viewed position! I have no college degrees and a 148 I.Q. What I can show the PU (philadelphia union if they don’t win) is soccer rivalling the potential of ‘Sep’ Guardiola’s teams!!! ‘Just sayin’! I’m on LinkedIn as Coach Mike Christ.

  4. DarthLos117 says:

    Arise Darth Dan!
    Your journey to the dark side is now complete.

  5. Awesome Dan. Wish you were at the press conference today.
    I think we’ll find out a lot about the local reporters of the team at today’s presser. Are they Curtin “Philly tough” or a bunch of softball pitchers?

    • Most of the questions I want answered are above Curtin’s pay grade. How’s that search for a full time GM going? When will Philadelphia get a front office that’s organized like RSL or Seattle? Teams in much smaller city’s who manage to outspend and/or out organize the Union. You’d swear we were the Boise Potato Farmers — where’s the ambition? The vision? Where’s the plan?

  6. If Williams rode the bench because of the NE game, that is patently unfair. There is enough blame for the loss to go around. Did Williams play his part? Sure. But a number of players did as well.

    • The Black Hand says:

      True, but Williams SHOULD be MUCH more of a factor on this club. He should be an integral piece, on both sides of the ball. He hasn’t been anything close to that…in a long time. I have no problem with ‘lighting a fire under his ass’, especially in a game where we weren’t sniffing a point. That said, I agree, there are a lot more guys that should have been sitting next to Sheanon. If your going to “send a message”…send a fucking message!!!

      • Sending a message doesn’t work too well if the result when the player is benched is as bad as it was with Columbus. Williams can just sit back and say, see? Bench me and look what happens.
        Williams play seem indicative to me of the negative culture that has settled into this team. And once that kind of malaise takes hold, it’s almost impossible to uproot.
        At this point, it seems like its time to burn the whole thing down and start over, but that’d have to start with Sak, and I don’t think he has the humility to put someone in place to make major decisions over him.

      • The Black Hand says:

        I think that he was straight-up challenging Sheanon…to be the player that was once eyed by the USMNT. Sheanon’s response will say a lot about Sheanon WIlliams. Sheanon Williams just got called out…

  7. el pachyderm says:

    Pulled this over from other article because it withstands the litmus test for Dan’s article as well. Among other things between good, bad and plain putrid teams…….
    ….. Juventus ceded their first goal in 14 matches I believe against Torino this week – matter of fact the last team to score a gol, score a gol mind you in league play was Parma about six weeks ago.
    Never mind that I think the game could have been fixed to produce a lowly Parma beating mighty Juve storyline – which is not above Serie A mentality – but can you imagine a team only allowing one gol in a dozen or so games?
    1 gol – roughly 1260 minutes for Juventus
    17 gols – 800 minutes for Onion
    I get it we are certainly not Juventus but come on. Clean sheets are a part of the game – they are a part of what displays quality in a team – that is greater than 2 goals EVERY game.
    The Philadelphia Onion are putrid. Truly, they are a Laughingstock and should be ashamed.
    The ONLY weapon(s) we have are our words and our dollars. STOP giving them the dollars. Keep skewering them with the words.

  8. If Curtin want’s to send a message to players then here is his starting lineup its very simple…………..
    GK ______ RB_____CB_____CB_____LB_____CDM______CDM____RM_____CAM______LM____ST______.

    No one on this team has been playing with much heart or toughness. So if you want to send such a message there would be no one on this team starting or playing for this team. Benching one player does nothing from my experience in watching this team year in and year out.

  9. This. I have been willing to give Curtin the benefit of the doubt, and some growing pains. And it’s not like the whole of the Union’s suckitude is on him. As you say, the ownership handicapped him in multiple ways, and M’bolhi flamed out even more spectacularly than even the worriers thought. In fact, I was actually very pleased with the decisiveness of yanking him and sending him packing, and without bashing him in the media too.

    But there are just too many bad decisions that can be directly blamed on Curtin. I had that sinking feeling in my stomach on opening day, when I saw that Maidana was not in the lineup. WTF?!? Man, are you crazy??? So Chaco comes in during the second half and promptly shows why he should never be left out of the lineup again. OK, good. But, no, there has been decision after head-scratching decision from Curtin. Waiting until minute 75 to make subs??Subbing Carroll for Maidana?? Playing Andrew Wenger game after game, though he looks utterly lost, and there’s an energetic youngster on the bench who’s played well?? Putting in Raymond Lee in stoppage time, while up on the road???

    And this weekend, 2 decisions that Curtin must take blame for: first is starting Fabinho over Williams, which, unless Sheannon was injured, is ludicrous. And second, putting McCarthy in goal again. It was only a matter of time before he directly cost us goals. Now we would’ve lost that game anyway, so it’s not like McCarthy has really cost us points yet. But there is no way he should be starting over a highly-lauded #1 draft pick who is now fully recovered from his surgery.

    As for player acquisitions, it’s hard to know whom to blame, because it’s not like Curtin and Albright had tons of money to play with, as M’Bolhi was weighing down the payroll. And they did nab Aristeguieta, who seems to be a great find. But they did protect Fabinho over Ribeiro, who was starting up top in Orlando before he got injured, with the rationale that they had all sorts of trade offers for him. None of which ever materialized.

    In most circumstances, the coach is just a scapegoat for an underperforming team. And I’m not sure even what Sir Alex could make of the 2015 Union. But Curtin is also clearly showing us that he doesn’t even know how to use the meager pieces that he has. I’m almost always the cool-headed one on these issues, but I have become increasingly convinced that, unfortunately, Curtin has to go.

    • I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. With a battery of Edu, Nogs, Pfeffer, Madaina, and Nando, the U plays the wrong style of ball. Those 5 primary guys can play a possession game. We’re taking such a regional approach to the way we play…it doesn’t work at this level. You need to possess, create, move without the ball to open space, have a good first touch…none of this stuff is evident with this team. Sure, we’re thin in certain spots, but not devoid of talent. Dan is right on. This is starting to look like more of the failings of an overmatched coach with an outdated philosophy, rather than an extreme lack of talent.

  10. You know what’s really, really depressing me about this team? Not just that this season is a lost cause; it’s that it’s gonna take years — plural — to fix.

    • el pachyderm says:

      New Orleans Saints years. Montreal Expos years. Winnipeg Jets (first indoctrination) years. Tampa Bay Buccaneers years.
      The ultimate in futility – the poster boards of poorly managed franchise years.

      • pragmatist says:

        LOL!!! C’mon, man…the Saints and Bucs won a Super Bowl. How in the hell do we get to Point B from our quagmire of a Point A?

    • DC United was fixed in one off-season. You could fix the Union that quickly too.
      (Yes, I know DCU had some advantages, like a boatload of extra allocation money, but I’ll stand by that point.)

      • And we were a goalpost in stoppage time away from having that boatload of extra allocation money, too.
        DC rebuilt that fast because they brought in players to fit their plan, rather than bringing in players because reasons, and then trying to come up with a plan.

      • OneManWolfpack says:

        Exactly. We have no plan. That won’t change until many, many people are removed from this roster and FO. We COULD be fixed an an offseason… but we all know we won’t be.

      • And that is the most frustrating part of all of this. I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment that the Union could be fixed with one smart, well managed off-season. Unfortunately, I also have zero faith that the current ownership has the desire, and the current front office has the competence, to actually pull that off.


        This league is built on parity. It does everything and anything in its power to maintain parity. And yet, every year, we manage to f*ck it up. While championships may be hard to come by, playoff appearances and a competitive team are not. Long term failure in this league takes effort.

      • thats one of the great things about this league- the enforced parity is so tight that a team can turn things around without having to go through several seasons of a miserable situation as long as they are willing to hire and fire the right people

      • In THEORY, you could fix the team in a year, maybe. But that would entail finding SuperCoach, dumping the deadwood, and having him get all the players he needs to install his system — all in one off-season. Every new player would have to work out. And that assumes you could even find said players, which takes scouting, which we don’t have enough of, so you need scouts. And to let SuperCoach focus on the on-field performance, you need a GM. If you think all that can be done IN PRACTICE, then I have some beachfront property in Chester I’d like to sell you. This is a two-year project at minimum. DCU already had a coach who knows how to freakin’ coach. And they had a halfway talented roster that grossly underperformed.

      • DC did it primarily with guys who were in MLS. There wasn’t much scouting they had to do on Bobby Boswell, Sean Franklin, Jeff Parke, or Davy Arnaud, for example. They’d played them all in the league numerous times. Steve Birnbaum fell into their laps by default in the draft. They traded for Luis Silva toward the end of the prior season, another guy they had faced in MLS.
        As for Olsen vs. Curtin … Olsen was a new coach once too. Jury remains out on Curtin, but obviously he has a lot to prove. But if not him, the world has Owen Coyle types who can be found who can coach.
        So yes, I think it can be done in theory AND in practice. But yes, it starts with a good GM, and that’s the point.

      • el pachyderm says:

        It also starts with a desire to not be mediocre. Mid table is this team’s goal. Until that changes…… BATN.

      • Birnbaum was drafted after Blake was taken by a team that had MacMath and would later that same year pursue a DP salaried GK. Oh, and said team traded with DCU to get the pick used on Blake. If by ‘fell into their lap’ you mean the Union passed on him, yes, he did

        How about Espindola? Why was there no interest from the Union there, at what has been a position of need? Injury prone and a hot head, but gosh, when he plays….

  11. The Black Hand says:

    Couldn’t have said it any better, myself. Ben fatto, Mr. Walsh!
    Enough is enough!

  12. Thanks Dan, my hope in the media covering the Union is being restored. As I’ve said before things have gotten to the point where just discussing and analyzing how this team performs is not going to be enough. We don’t have that luxury with the Philadelphia Union. As readers of PSP we can comment with posts til we’re blue in the face but the media has to take up the mantle. Not just with Curtin and the players but with all things Union. They need to be called out for their BS. This may also mean asking the uncomfortable questions in press conferences.

    Sell this team to a competent and financially competitive owner!


    • Don’t worry, LC. We’re no less independent than we were when we were the first ones calling out Peter Nowak.

      We just have to pick our spots, and we need to be fair. And frankly, we can’t write the same thing every week, or nobody will read PSP. 😉

  13. The only way they learn is to play in an empty stadium…………crickets when they walk out…….except maybe a steam whistle from a freighter going bye….thats it. I want them to turn and clap at nobody at the start of the match…….its the only way for this club to look themselves in the mirror and ask: “What have we done?” They take the fan base for granted…..and need to learn the hard way. Don’t worry about the players feelings……they know, all to well, its not about them…..its about what they represent.

    • Andy Muenz says:

      No way do I boycott this week. It’s one of my few chances to sing Oh Canada when they ask us to sing along with the national anthem!
      Then again, it’s rare that we go into a game expecting the highlight to be the other team’s national anthem.

    • I still can’t get on board with the don’t go to games approach. The players still deserve our support, and part of being a supporter for a club is sticking with them when things are off the track. Be vocal, skip the concessions and store if you want, but cheer for the players on the field.

  14. Don’t worry, I seem to recall people in the comments telling us they had to protect Fabinho, because there were trade offers for him. Once our new GM swaps Fabhino for one of those awesome packages out there, everything will be fine!

  15. Fabinho over Williams is crazy. Maybe a week before when there were 3 games in 8 days as part of proper squad rotation. But removing Williams puts the team in a hole defensively, while also removing a threat that keeps Columbus’ left flank players honest. Was he shaky against NE? Sure. But his reinsertion into the lineup against NYCFC coming off of injury made a huge difference. With Edu, he helped keep Villa mostly quiet for 3 halves.

  16. inb4 the Union squeeze out a win against Toronto and people go back to thinking things are “okay”..

  17. “The team lacks adequate depth almost everywhere but center forward, and it’s showing.”

    Which after Aristeguieta is Casey (who doesn’t make another MLS roster), and maybe Sapong if Curtin plays him there? Haven’t seen Catic outside of an Islanders kit.

    • Yes. That’s depth. It may be only one player deep, but it’s more than they have at most positions. They also have depth at defensive midfield and in goal. Sort of in goal.

      • Depth in goal? I think you may be mistaken they have depth for people to stand in goal but not play as a goalkeeper. Rais = terrible/ not worth bringing back, McCarthy= to young and should not be starting yet, Blake= untested, but the only option right now on a recently repaired knee. MacMath= unfortunately gone for the entire season and unlikely to resign cause why would he.

  18. Lineup for Saturday, assuming everybody is healthy:
    Blake; Gaddis, Vitoria, Edu, Williams; Lahoud, Noguiera; McLaughlin / Sapong, Maidana, Ayuk; Fernando.
    Bench: McCarthy, Marquez, Pfeffer (assuming he’s back), Sapong / McLaughlin, Le Toux, Casey, and… um… *pulls up Union roster* um…. well, shit – this is harder than I thought…
    Casey has one job. Simply, he’s a wrecking ball. He is my 70s / 80s era hockey goon. As the River End likes to chant, his job is to fuck somebody up. I don’t care that he gets a card – I expect it. But if somebody, anybody is taking liberties with one of our players – for example, like what Fernando puts up with week after week – Casey goes in and does what the ref won’t. Yes, it’s goonish. But I’m sending a message: we might be young, and we’re going to have learning pains, but we sure as hell aren’t going to get pushed around any longer.
    That last bench spot… can we leave it open? Because the options are Fabhino (hopefully he’s packing his bags for a one-way trip to the sun), White, Carroll (I think I just threw up a little in my mouth), or Wenger. I guess with those options I go with Wenger.
    I ride that young lineup as much as I can this year. I suffer the growing pains. I make sure they learn from their mistakes. I make damn sure my team is the most fit team on the field – somebody may outplay my team, but there is no way in hell anybody should outwork my team. The rest of the year is all about evaluating. Pfeffer, McLaughlin, Ayuk, etc all get time. Marquez gets time. Catic gets time after a little longer in HCI. Blake gets time. If I’m going to suck, I’m at least going to suck with a youth movement so I can grow for next year…

    • Fabinho should be buried under the bench. And Wenger and Le Toux should be getting ready to join him if they can’t turn it around soon. At this point, I’d re-add Lee to the bench for LB. Was he really any worse than Fabinho? And I agree on getting minutes for McLaughlin, Marquez and Catic. Might as well evaluate what you have. We lose to Toronto, might as well spend the season evaluating talent and planning a roster purge.

      • Old Soccer Coach says:

        Lee needs minutes to learn left back, he might get them at Harrisburg. He was a DCM in college I think I remember.
        Catic needs time at Harrisburg, at the moment he’s still a bit lost and not all that effective in the games I’ve managed to see on You Tube.

    • I agree w/ your lineup except if Pfeffer is available, he should start over Lahoud. Michael should be a 25-30 mpg guy, who comes into a holding midfield position if Chaco can’t go 60 and they need to move Zach up. If Zach can’t go this weekend because of nat’l team, then yes, Lahoud should start.

  19. OneManWolfpack says:

    Unfortunately Dan, you’re asking Curtain (and by extension – the FO) to do things they don’t know how to do. They can’t evaluate talent. They can’t place the best 11 on the field. They can’t make the proper signings or substitutions. They are inept, in over their head, and over matched. It’s game over on this season. I just hope we don’t become a total embarrassment or set any records for futility.
    Great article / rant by the way.

    • The problem is the lack of V.P.P which them makes it impossible to find the right pieces for your puzzle. This is a mixed jigsaw of: a boathouse, O’keefe, and SpongeBob.
      Without the clearly defined VPP it is ALL wrong.

      • OneManWolfpack says:

        Well said. You know what is crazy: We as fans would even accept the wrong V.P.P…. as long as there was one. The lack of one is just disrespectful to everyone who supports this team, be it financially or otherwise.

  20. As I’ve said before, I don’t think the coach makes as big of an impact as we’d like to think. The players have to perform, and too many of them, simply are not. Unless we’re bringing in a MAJOR upgrade, it’s not worth the time lost in hiring a new coach. Money would be better spent on hiring a full-time GM.

    • Agreed, despite what I wrote in my column. Well said.

    • too many of the players are not up to it – should be depth, backups at best. if you only have 3-5 starting caliber players, and 1 or 2 get hurt, you get the result from columbus. agree that curtin should play out the season, and that he needs to try something different – hopefully coherent. thought the same thing last year with Hack.

    • spugger, I agree with what you said earlier about how sometimes the coach is a scapegoat. But I disagree with your assertion that he doesn’t make that big of an impact. The coach sets the starting lineup and positions, even if in some cases he doesn’t have as big a role in player acquisition. He sets and tactical priorities and tries to implement them in his players during training. He can have a major impact in player management, by which I mean attitude and motivation stay sound, and the squad is rotated sufficiently well to avoid too many injuries. If any one of these things doesn’t fit in perfectly with the others, you have a disjunction that can be exploited by other teams.

      In top European leagues, if you read interviews and books about those coaches, you find that more of the emphasis tends to be on the player management – about getting the most out of your players. This is because while the coach might identify needs in the team, generally he’s one voice among several in the FO regarding player identification, acquisition, contract negotiation, etc.; and secondly, most of them are good enough that their tactical acumen can basically be taken for granted, at least in terms of competence, so unless they are exceptionally inept or exceptionally innovative, tactics are something of a red herring for the press and fans to obsess over.

      None of this is true in the MLS, and especially in the Union because they are so depleted in terms of FO and coaching staff. Curtin (and Albright, for that matter) have outsized roles and responsibilities on the team, and therefore an outsized impact on the product on the field. Curtin may end up being a decent coach one day, but he needs MAJOR tutelage – and my personal opinion is that he’s a little too old school to be successful without a change in philosophy. He reminds me of my JV high school coach, who told us once towards the beginning of the season that we weren’t talented enough to beat teams on skill or tactics, so instead of learning those things in practice, we were going to be super-fit and outhustle/outwork/out-“heart” other teams. Shocker: much like the Union, we TOO had one win from March to the end of the season in June (in Iowa, soccer was a spring sport). Is this an unfair comparison to Curtin? I don’t know – do you think starting Maidana on the bench in the first game of the season because he doesn’t run enough makes sense? At least Curtin seems to recognize Maidana’s value after that first half.

      There are some obvious parallels between Hackworth and Curtin and it’s tempting to say history is repeating itself. I think they’re both in over their heads, though they bring different types of weaknesses to the table. But Hackworth’s wounds were largely self-inflicted, where Curtin’s weaknesses are merely exacerbated by the fact that he was basically put in a position to fail. I feel bad for him. He will fail – IS failing – because (1) he doesn’t have depth and the players he needs and doesn’t seem to be able to get them; (2) doesn’t have the support staff he needs; (3) doesn’t have the experience or the acumen to make the adjustments that WILL help right the ship, from tactics to training to player management to game decisions. Of these, 2.5 are probably Sak’s fault – I say 2.5 because of the third – you can’t blame a guy for being who he’s not, and you shouldn’t hire a guy who isn’t what you need.

      The question basically comes down to: do the fire him mid-season again, and if so, who do they hire? Or do they wait a while and accept the results and criticism that will come. Sak has often struck me as an owner who only makes changes when the heat is getting too heavy, and then often makes a “change” that only looks like he’s doing something so the fans and press will back off (like firing the coach midseason and later hiring the interim former-assistant coach…twice). Maybe money would be better spent on hiring a full-time, GOOD GM. But without that, a more experienced coach, a few better players (especially at wings and left back), and some better depth – AT MINIMUM – we’ll just keep on muddling through the lower half of the Eastern Division. There’s just no way around it. We suck, and we’ll stay between suck and mediocre until EVERYTHING changes. God that hurts to say.

      End rant. Sorry for the wall of text.

      Aaaaaand on an unrelated note, I don’t think these antidepressants are working….

      • el pachyderm says:

        Up the milligrams-likely a titration issue. Or try a nice antipsychotic at bedtime- say Seroquel 25mg. That may help. Maybe a glass of bourbon right before also may help a bit.
        Well said BTW. If you are going to spend that much time writing it, I’ll read it – word for word.

    • I think that overall that is true, and it’s not like the Union’s predicament is all on Curtin. But as I mentioned above, there have been multiple head-scratching decisions that are directly on Curtin. It’s not like we’d be near the top of the table with another coach. But we would have more points than we currently have if Curtin new that Maidana should ALWAYS be in the lineup, and Fabinho should NEVER be in the lineup, for example.

      • True. We’d also have more points if they refs hadn’t screwed us in the first two games. But we’d still be in basically the same position as now (not in the rankings, I mean, but in terms of our play quality): correct me if I’m wrong, but for most of us, I imagine that the lack of points is only part of the issue right now. The big issue for me is that we’re getting systematically dismantled by most decent teams, and that our weaknesses were at most papered over against an inept Colorado, NYCFC and to a lesser extent Real Salt Lake. If Curtin were making wise game decisions, we might have more points but that would still only partly mitigate our situation. If we were, say, 7th in the East right now and playing this poorly, I honestly wouldn’t be a whole lot happier or optimistic. Well, maybe a little. But not a lot.

        Besides, I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: when Williams is injured, who do you put in besides Fabinho? Against Columbus, yeah, that was dumb. But Fabinho on the field when Williams/Gaddis is injured is a failure of player depth and acquisition. There’s nobody else to put in for him.

  21. Why are any of us surprised? This is Philly sports.

    As much as we dream of something different, Philly is sport’s purgatory (and there is no getting out.)

  22. Now it appears Dan needs a Snickers… 😉

  23. “For example, take Cristian Maidana. If you’ve read between the lines this season, you’ve learned that Curtin doesn’t think much of Maidana’s hustle or supposed lack thereof.”

    Yep, I hope Maidana is NOT one of those players the Coach “Learned a lot about” in the Columbus game. It’s clear JC is not very high on him.

  24. While panning Fabinho we must continue to pound the reminder that Fabinho was protected in the expansion draft and we lost Pedro Ribeiro as a result. There’s really no excuse. The move was questioned at the time and given the results this season looks even worse now.

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