Fans' View

Fan’s View: They’re so Union

Photo: Paul Rudderow

The bizarre season continues. An unexpected run to the U.S. Open Cup final despite red cards, depleted rosters, and the need for penalty kick heroics to beat a lower tier side. A somewhat expected tendency to find, or at least fall into, unexpected ways to give away points during the regular season.

Are we snake bitten?

Are we just unfortunate?

Hamstrung by a front office that has not yet shown an ability to lay out a plan and execute fully on it?

Whatever the cause, the events of the 2015 season fit the ongoing narrative for Union fans where virtually anything that could go wrong likely has, and will likely do so once again. This recurring, sinking feeling has now given birth to “That’s so Union,” which may be the 2015 sequel to 2014’s “We suck so much,” better known as “WSSM.”

In honor of this development, I spent some time this week thinking back through six years of Union players and staff, in an effort to identify those who are “so Union.” While many are remembered for dubious reasons, in the spirit of optimism and love for this team (yes, I have re-dooped for my 7th season), I’m also offering a positive “so Union” list for those who have represented the Union crest so well too.

They’re so Union (for the wrong reasons):
  1. Juan Diego Gonzalez: Journeyman Columbian defender collected lots of Union money for a total of 7 appearances in blue and gold. Never made an impact, looked overmatched and uninterested, then was never heard from again.
  2. Toni Stahl: A promising prospect on draft day, Stahl will forever be remembered for picking up two yellow cards and an early exit from his first and only regular game in a Union uniform (a strikingly horrid combo of the original navy jersey and gold shorts).
  3. Corben Bone: “The Bonesaw” obliterated Stahl’s Union debut performance, earning a well-deserved straight red against Sporting Kansas City 90 seconds into his first match with Philadelphia.*
  4. Peter Nowak: Early on, Nowak looked like the soccer mind we all hoped he would be for this club. Then we fell into the land of unpredictable lineup decisions (Miglioranzi in a 5 man back line?), shady contract dealings with Latin American signees, and banned water breaks. This one ended ugly, with a roster in disarray and legal activity. Promise early, but a lot of pain cleaning up the mess when it all broke down.
  5. Carlos Valdes: Has any Union player had a more up-and-down relationship with Union fans? Valdes began as an incredibly talented, natural leader who helped lead Philadelphia to their first and only playoff appearance. We were proud to see him make it onto the radar for the Columbian national team. His adventurous runs up field and his calm distribution out of the back had him looking to be a franchise cornerstone. All to be undone by a never ending series of flirtation with multiple South American clubs, a less than stellar return stint with the Union, and a Valdes rumor mill that was nothing short of exhausting. Mercifully, this saga came to an end this season.
  6. Rais Mbolhi: While a confusing signing based on need, a World Cup hero coming to the Union still felt like a clear upgrade. Instead, MBolhi struggled to adapt to a new team and new league. Bad body language. Sulking and arguing with teammates during the game. He just never seemed to fit in with the club, fans, or teammates. Here’s hoping things work out with Bolton – for the benefit of all involved.
  7. Porfirio Lopez: Fantastic hair. Seemed like a decent guy. But has anyone who played more than 40 minutes in a Union shirt ever looked more consistently overmatched?
  8. Freddy Adu: The hype was amazing. The stepovers infuriating. We were another notch on Freddy’s headboard. Just passing through.

Honorable Mention: David Myrie, Shavar Thomas

They’re so Union (for the right reasons)
  1. Danny Califf: Captain Califf. Danny was a fierce competitor who brought leadership, experience, and a competitive edge to a new squad that needed all three. He represented our club proudly on and off the field and should have finished his MLS playing career here.
  2. Amobi Okugo: A Union original, he was personable and fiercely competitive and seemed like the right mix of talent, leadership, and moxie to become a Union mainstay. Sadly, experimentation at CB and perhaps some mishandling led to an eventual trade out of town before that potential was ever fulfilled.
  3. Sheanon Williams: An underdog story, having come up through Harrisburg to earn a shot on the big club, for one season he was in the conversation as a future USMNT candidate if things stayed on track. He played all across the back line, brought grit and attacking talent to the right flank, and represented the Union well. Unfortunately, Inconsistency and an ill-advised promise that locked Ray Gaddis in as the starting RB for the remainder of the season spelled the end.
  4. Roger Torres: Acknowledging that he wasn’t a world beater, Roger became a fan favorite, and a bit of a rallying cry for those of us who wanted to see creativity and risk taking out on the field.
  5. Brian Carroll: Understated always, but given his spectacular return to form this season, how many players in our history have better represented the blue and gold? Pure class on and off the field.
  6. Sebastian Le Toux: U.S. Open Cup scoring leader. Star performer from the early Union teams. The first game back after stints with Vancouver and NYRB. The way he modified his game to go from goal scorer to assist man out on the wing. The Journey covers on the big screen. His engagement with fans. It’s tough to argue that any player in the Union’s short history is more engrained in the fabric than Seba.

Honorable Mention (mostly due to relatively short tenure): Maurice Edu, Vincent Nogueira, Chaco Maidana, Faryd Mondragon, Conor Casey

While very subjective, I do think these are players who will be forever linked with the Union, for better or for worse. What changes would you make to the lists?

Stay Union everyone.


  1. Fat Uncle Phil from Urkel says:

    13 minutes? I thought Corben Bone’s red was like a minute and a half after he was put in.

  2. Love your list Scott, but I think you may have left off two obvious choices… Ray Gaddis and Zac MacMath.
    Gaddis exemplifies what it means to be so Union for all the right reasons. A fan favorite for his humble nature and tenacious defense, Ray may not be an all-star defender but no one will outwork him. He is a quiet leader on the field and in the locker room. If he stays with the club, he’ll wear the captain’s armband in the not so distant future.
    Oh Zachary, how we miss thee. The kid was Philly tough plain and simple. Thrown into the starting role, he racked up over 100 starts and led the team to it’s first ever appearance in a Cup final thanks to his heroics in the PK shootout versus Dallas. He struggled at times, took plenty of abuse from fans and media, but he endured and came out a better player.

    • The Oenophile says:

      Zach got thrown under the bus. Pity for all involved.

    • Fair additions, especially Ray. Maybe I’ll try this again in 2016! The good news is the current roster seems to have more candidates for the good list than the bad.

    • “He struggled at times, took plenty of abuse from fans and media, but he endured and came out a better player”….did he? I’d think he’d even admit he didn’t. 0GP, 0GS, 0 Mins this year.

      • Jim Presti says:

        And Irwin has struggled at times this year…

      • I don’t understand your point.

      • I like(d) Zac. I’m just not sure he ever had a stretch where he was consistently above average, or otherwise captured our attention a la Roger Torres. Probably earned an honorable mention on second thought for handling being jerked around so gracefully.

    • Gaddis is not as good as Williams and will never be. The money saved on his salary isn’t worth the defensive & offensive drop-off. The decision to let go the latter for the sake of the former’s lesser contract value will go down as a negative “So Union” in my book. They say “speed kills [your opponent]” but I just sit here shaking my head thinking “but bad defense kills us.”

  3. Kleberson. A $450,000 bench warmer who joined the team not due to his talent, but because he was the price for unloading Adu.

    • dude could still play, the benching was Hackworth at his worst

      • Agreed. That’s why I left him off. I think he had something to offer and wasn’t used. The big dollars there aren’t the same as Gonzalez or MBolhi.

      • OneManWolfpack says:

        That free kick vs Toronto was world class. Great moment if you were there – which I was 🙂

    • Every time he came in the style calmed- it was as though Hackworth preferred mania over the selective seretonin reuptake inhibitor of Kleberson’s play.
      It was how I knew for sure John Hackworth wasn’t the right guy.

      • And that was the year before the U spent money fixing the midfield. He certainly could have helped that season.

    • I agree he could play. Perhaps I misstated. I wanted him to play more, and feel he was criminally underutilized.
      He was a symptom of the entire Hackworth regime, and something I’m thankful is in the past

    • Fat Uncle Phil from Urkel says:

      At least Kleberson won the Union a game singlehandedly. With the exception of Valdes, you can’t say that about the rest of those bums.

  4. I miss Jordan Harvey. I think he’s so Union, because I’m pretty sure his trade was the first I ever heard the phrase “allocation money.” I was like, what?

    • Allocation money probably deserves a numbered spot on the list next time. Possibly my biggest oversight.

      • look I get it, allocation money, single entity, whatever, I understand that’s how the league works and it’s not all bad, but…
        quality left backs don’t exactly grow on trees

      • People don’t grow on trees man…

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      Yeah. Good left footed LB sent away for play money… and only just replaced with the decent play of Fabinho. That’s So Union in a bad way…

  5. el pachyderm says:

    Roger Torres and My Dearly Departed.
    2 favorite Union players.

  6. I’ll leave Amobi alone for those who remember him fondly. So how about Jeff Parke? granted he was only here one season, but he’s a hometown boy who gave heart and soul while he was here. In my eyes it softened the blow of losing Califf, and we haven’t found his like since. Though maybe Marquez can finally fill that void. And the way he left (I only remember it as being personal reasons) was so Union.

    • Another excellent option. In my head, I think I had two full seasons minimum in my mind for the good list.

      • Perfectly understandable. There must be some sort of criteria. His exit left me wanting. Wanting a better explanation for his exit. Wanting a comparable replacement. Again, so Union.

    • I ran into Jeff two days after they blew their last “must win” before not making the playoffs his last year. He was so apologetic, straight up saying “we sh*t the bed.” Good ball player, good guy. Wonder if his kid liked that new bike.

  7. I have accomplished a couple things in my life but nothing I hold more dear than terming the WSSM phrase.

  8. James Lockerbie says:

    Yeah, Management or team manager’s decisions should the next “That’s so Union” Article.

  9. “Brian Carroll: Understated always, but given his spectacular return to form this season”

    Spectacular is pretty strong. He was still the CDM in front of the back line that coughed up 2 home leads a week ago.

    • Unexpected or surprising would have been better word choices. Spectacular wouldn’t have made the cut if you edited this one, eh?

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