Fans' View

Fans’ View: Can’t give them away

Photo: Daniel Studio

UPDATE: After Scott’s post was published, a Union ticket rep got in touch to tell him about the team’s ticket exchange program, which allows season ticket holders to trade up to two tickets they can’t use for two other tickets at select games. We thought PSP readers might be interested in learning more about the program so click here to see more details.

I have two tickets for Sunday’s game that I can’t use, and I can’t give them away…for free.

That’s the end of my post. Thank you.

Ok, not really, but what else is there to say at this point that hasn’t already been said about the Union’s woes? It’s not just the historically bad results that ail me. It’s something more important than that.

It’s just not fun to watch.

We can argue all we want about style of play and the effectiveness of pragmatism, but at the end of the day, I fork over my hard-earned dollars to Mr. Sakiewicz to be entertained. Sure, if the Union make the playoffs, I get to be entertained for a couple more games, but I don’t get to bring home any hardware myself.

I really like Jim Curtin as a player and as a person, but I have always been afraid of what direction he would take the team. Since day one, his message to the players and fans has been clear:

1) We are a below average team with below average financial resources and talent.

2) We must defend first and grind out results.

And while both statements are true, the effect of this philosophy is dangerous.

First, it doesn’t give the fans or players much hope. As we have witnessed repeatedly, and most notably after an impressive first 15 minutes against the league’s best team, as soon as something goes wrong, the game plan breaks down and the players begin to play negative soccer–more afraid of making a mistake than wanting to make a play. The same can be said for us as fans. We’re quick to call the season over when there still is a very clear possibility of making the 6th spot in a very weak Eastern Conference. We start fighting amongst ourselves (and with Hoppenot on Twitter). We get apathetic.

Second, in an ideal world, Jim Curtin would love to win every game 1-0. That might be great for standings, but for me personally, it just isn’t very exciting. I don’t want to watch my team chase the ball all day and hoof long balls to nobody. I don’t think I’m alone here. There is plenty of research that shows that defense-first is slightly more effective at gaining results than scoring goals as a priority. And yet, look at some of the best clubs in the world who make it a well-known priority to put possession-oriented, attacking football on display: Arsenal, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Manchester City. These owners aren’t stupid. They know that defense-first would give them a slightly better chance of producing results, yet they also know that the majority of footy fans want to be entertained.

The Union don’t have the legacy of the 100-year old clubs in England whose fans will flock to the gates regardless of how boring the style of play is. This club needs to grow it’s fan-base, and you’re not going to do that with pragmatism.

Also…and this might seem shocking…it’s not working. Before John Hackworth was fired, we still weren’t winning a ton, but at least we were taking chances, scoring a bunch of goals, and going after games. It was actually the most fun I’ve had watching the Union.

Now when I watch the Union, it feels like watching a child of an abusive parent. So afraid to make just one mistake because they know they will get pounced on. No confidence. No inventiveness or imagination. No courage.

I don’t know how to fix it, but perhaps it’s time for Jim Curtin to change his tune. I happen to think we do have the talent to compete in this league. That first 15 minutes against Vancouver proved that we have the ability to play smart, possession-with-purpose attacking soccer. If I were coach, I’d be telling these guys that they can beat anybody in this league. That they should go out there and put the other team on their heels. Try stuff.  I don’t care if they make a mistake or get scored on. Get the ball out of our net and go smash it into theirs.

Just do something to entertain me. Please.


  1. alicat215 says:

    Spugger, good article, I agree with most of what you said here. It hit home to me about philosophy and winning ugly, about what that can do to a locker room. I had to deal with that in college to an extent….if we played a top 20 team. The coach would say, look we can’t go toe-to-toe with these guys….we have to play ugly for a 1-0 win. I clearly remember looking at each other in the locker room like, wtf?….just let us play…we can take these guys. From there you have two options…..begrudgingly execute what the coach asks, or……..embrace it. The reason why I say this is… the season wore on….and we were racking up results….we realized, hey “coach maybe on to something here”….and we bought in. I think if the Union were getting 1-0 positive results…..people would be fine and accepting of it. More importantly, the locker room would “buy in” to the philosophy. Again, for every club like Arsenal and Barca you mention…….I can throw back to you a Chelsea or Juventus. They do not have a problem courting supporters either. I will agree, they have a 100 year head start…..and yes we have to grow our club….style will play into that….I get it. But to suggest playing 1-0 footy is dangerous philosophy……..I whole heartedly disagree…..clubs and teams make an art form of it, and if they are good at it….the players embrace it. The problem is… seems they don’t know how to play THAT way either… shape, no condensing the pitch into a tight 30 yards of space…..they look lost. I don’t care what approach they take….just do it properly!

    • The Black Hand says:

      Agree, but it all has to do with how the 1-0 is achieved. Chelsea and Juventus both play sound defensive football….and murder you when you press. They both are outstanding at holding shape and giving their opponent little, to nothing, to work with. The players know their roles and they don’t deviate. We don’t do this.
      I have no problem with 1-0 football. I have a real problem with 1-0…what the hell did I just watch.

      • alicat215 says:

        Exactly, just do it the right way, look like you actually went over this on the training pitch for once……

      • alicat215 says:

        and “the players” are superstars who accept these roles…………thats huge.

      • The Black Hand says:

        Yep. Getting superstars to know their role takes a MANAGER…

      • Great One says:

        Totally agree, we have the wrong FO, bringing in the wrong players, learning from the wrong COACH

    • It’s not so much the 1-0 philosophy that is dangerous, it is the belief that the only way you could possibly win is to get lucky with a 1-0 win. If that’s they way Curtin wants to play, I’d rather hear him say “we’ve got the toughest players in the league with the biggest hearts. If we play organized, smart, conservative soccer, than there isn’t a team in the league we can’t shut out.” Instead, the attitude and game plan appears more like trying to walk on eggshells and hanging on for dear life. The words a coach uses are important, and just like you felt in that lockeroom (as I’ve experienced too), when a team believes that they are inferior, they have a very hard task ahead of them. This game is all about confidence and I’m just not seeing Curtin inspire that in the group as a whole.

      • alicat215 says:

        You see Spugger, I was listening to you…….now I hear you……..I agree with that.

  2. I’ll take the tickets though.

  3. So you wouldn’t be OK with a 1-0 win at this point? I’d take that in a heartbeat. The most successful team in MLS (especially recently) has been LA and this is the primary way that they’ve operated with ruthless efficiency.

    Don’t get confused by that first 15 min of the Vancouver game. It’s true that we kept the ball very well and moved the ball around the pitch rather easily, but for the most part, the play would break down in the final third (as it has all year). Once Vancouver saw that the Union were not going to just sit deep and concede possession, they adjusted their approach and the tide of the game shifted. This was not unlike many Union road matches in the past. They come out very sharp and ping the ball around the pitch until the other team makes their adjustments and take back control of the match.

    Unfortunately, we don’t have that kind of attacking talent on our roster where we can control matches for long periods of time. Our roster is built towards taking advantage of moments of opportunity or mistakes by the defense rather than being able to pull them apart with our skill.

    • Professional sport is always about adjustments and adjusting to the adjustments.
      Without question, this is the defining weakness of this club. It has been evident in the last three games. Good point.

  4. alicat215 says:

    and without the win 1-0 philosophy……….UVA would have gotten killed in the College Cup final…..instead, yeah……..national champions! Pragmatism works… just have to have a pragmatist who knows what the hell they are doing!

    • I agree that pragmatism works (every team Mourinho has managed for instance), but I don’t think that we have the squad to do it a) effectively and b) entertainingly.
      We who have played the game can obviously appreciate a well organized defensive game plan. But I think the majority of fans would prefer to see our team do something with the ball and at least TRY to score a goal every once in a while. There are a lot of options on TV. I know several people who watch a ton of soccer on TV, and just can’t bring themselves to watch a Union game, yet they’re happy to watch some other MLS teams out of their market.

  5. I’d take 1-0 at this point, and yes there needs to be a purpose to how it’s done. What the hell is the philosophy of this organization from top to bottom? What does the Union aspire to be. Style of play? Looking at the Union roster honestly player to player what style can they actually play? Even when completely healthy and with no other issues plaguing this team what is the identity? For 6 years the only styles of play the Union have been able to call their own was what ever they played the first 2 years under Nowak or the ping-pong style of “The Smurfs” under Hackworth. If Edu or Chaco or Noguiera consistently put pin point passes on a platter to Le Toux or Wenger for example it’s anyone’s guess if they’d do anything remotely skill wise with them whether is making a run,passing or shooting consistantly. I like Jim Curtin and would love to see him succeed with this team but I also feel that he just isn’t what this team needs right now. That being said, again this all falls at the feet of Surgarman and the questionable activity and decision making of Sakiewicz. As a fan base I feel that we have just been consistent lied to by an ownership and front office who spends more time spinning some lame scenario and BS for PR purposes that constantly come back to bite them in the ass. Rather than spend smartly and build a solid managerial infrastructure and a skilled roster it’s been all smoke and mirrors and BS coming from a Sakiewicz led organization.

    • Sell this franchise to a competent and financially competitive owner!!


      • Thank you for the addendum. When I was done reading your post, I was waiting…..
        …kind of like how my wife was waiting with her slate blue eyes this morning….. for me to say, as I always do pre-departure, Fly the Friendly Skies.

  6. As I have argued in the past, the aesthetic is as important as the result for me when it comes to this game.
    I like winning, who doesn’t – but more importantly I need the art and the like-minded-consciousness of the part operating within the whole. This game is about so much more than winning and losing. American Football is about winning and losing. This game is Duke Ellington at the A-trane in Berlin, Miles Davis with his back to you Sketches of Spain, Herbie Hancock in a dark corner in Greenwich. Byrd. Maceo. Fusion. or Free.
    So to the authors point, yes I would accept grinding out 1-0 wins because there is a genius to that… but I would just as easily be okay playing beautifully and being marginal on the table and figuring out how to do that. We are absolutely without identity and it is the single most infuriating despicable aspect of this whole downtrodden club.
    As we all know, a defensive coach who preaches defense to a team unable to prevent goals and has no idea how to score a goal is not genius, nor is it chess and it is most certainly not a jazz standard or it free improvised always improving self.

    • agree re identity … a collection of individuals working together has to find one to be effective. individuals do not change so much – minor adaptations or scarifices at best. pragmatic, “we have no other choice” decision making is not an identity. compounded mistakes bespeak a lack of direction from the top. “small market, moneyball” is not an identity, its a coping mechanism for Jay “I have no money, the downturn really crushed me, and only because a good friend in finance who bet the other way lent me $50 million from his pocket change was I able to fund the team” Sugarman.

      and I have four tickets.

      great article, scott.

    • alicat215 says:

      I like where your going with this dude, may I add Medeski, Martin and Wood jamming in some shack in Hawaii for the contemporary?

  7. Thanks for this Scott, I know you already stated it in your column, but to put it a different way, one thing we all have in common here on this board and at PPL is that we come because we are fans of the game, not because our dads were Union supporters and so were their dads and so were their dads and it’s in our blood and so on and so on, we’re here because we’re fans of the game, and there can a beauty in this game that does not exist in any other sport, baseball can come close for a second or two but never sustains it the way football does, and we are patient and we are willing to give the team a chance to find themselves, but the only way they will ever be able do that is with a good coach. Petr could be a good coach but running his own players to punish them when they had a match to play just a couple days later was too much, he got himself fired. John is a youth development coach and not a good coach for a professional team. We’re learning about Jim but I don’t like what I see so far. I don’t see his vision, and I agree he is far from inspirational in his assessments. So I remain a fan of the game and, hell, I only live like 20 minutes from Chester so I’ll keep going to the matches, but the Union really need to show us some beauty or their fans will disappear before long. As will they.

    • i’m a first generation fan to the sport in my family and among my friends. we tailgate and go to different sporting events so the sport is the only new dimension.
      i’ve tried to get young and old into the sport, through this team. since not renewing season tix, i get free tix occasionally throughout the season. atmosphere at PPL is great. so it’s not price of admission or environment that has kept them from being repeat customers. it’s the product, which is equivalent to watching paint dry. at least with paint, there’s a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment that 3 hours of my life meant something.

  8. The Oenophile says:

    As a founding member and season ticket holder since 2010, I am a bit ashamed to admit that I am really regretting the decision to have renewed my four seats this year … and like Scott, I cannot GIVE THEM AWAY for games I cannot make. Also, to rub salt into my wounds, prices at the concession stands have increased once again ($5 for a bottle of water — really???). If things do not change soon, next year PPL Park will be looking pretty empty on national TV.

    • You’ll be interested to know that I was just contacted by the Union to let me know that you can exchange your tickets for up to 2 games that you can’t attend to get extra tickets for future games. You just need to email
      Pretty impressive that they reached out to me after a rather critical article.

      • The Oenophile says:

        Nothing like some negative press to get them motivated … the cynic in me asks: if I cannot give away very four good seats now (section 127, close to the field), then how on earth I am going to use extra tickets for future games later this season? Or are these extra tickets valid for future seasons?

      • They need all the good Pub. they can get. And even scarier is they are reading this site. With selective reading or comprehension.

      • alicat215 says:

        I told you guys I bet they have someone in PR or marketing monitor this site…….haha selective comprehension.

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