Fans' View

Fans’ View: The bright side

Photo: Earl Gardner

“When you’re chewing on life’s gristle
Don’t grumble, give a whistle”
–Eric Idle

So here we are again. Another disappointing end to a Union season. More staff upheaval. Fans bickering online like middle-schoolers. It has almost become expected as the fans’ sadness and anger inevitably lead toward the most dangerous place for this club … apathy.

But let’s be honest, from early in the season the Union never looked to be true contenders. As I start looking back on this season, I can’t help but feel pleased about the majority of what the players gave us — quality and heart.

Quality

Last year’s additions of Maidana and Noguiera were the main reasons I renewed my season tickets, and they didn’t disappoint. While the results certainly don’t reflect it, it’s hard to argue that we didn’t witness the best footballing product of all six seasons.

The addition of Barnetta in the midfield, with a full preseason coming, makes me very optimistic that the soccer IQ of the team will continue to elevate next season. And how about the surprising consistent quality given by Richie Marquez? I would dare say he was our most valuable defender this year, rivaling the quality of some of the best center backs in MLS.

Off the field, I’m optimistic that we’ll see improvements in the quality of club operations. Nick Sakiewicz helped to form this club and build a fantastic stadium during a difficult time. That will be his legacy. Sure, he had the tendency to rub us the wrong way at times, but it’s hard to argue that he didn’t care about this club. Organizationally, the addition of a Sporting Director should naturally lead to continued improvement in the quality of our signings. If we are to believe the Alejandro Bedoya story, then it seems the purse strings could be loosening a bit.

Heart

The Union frequently lined up under matched this year, and often had dubious calls, errant bounces and voodoo magic go against them. However, I can’t remember feeling like the players ever gave up in a game. These guys worked their butts off. Look no further than Ray Gaddis as the prime example. Gaddis had more ups and downs this season than last year, but did you ever see him give anything less than 100 percent? No. He always came back fighting.

Or look to C.J. Sapong; starts the year off with a broken face, then makes a terrible mistake with a DUI for which he never made excuses, and comes back to work on a tear to finish as the team’s leading scorer. That’s professionalism.

Here’s another bright spot: Fabinho! If we handed out awards for most improved player, would there even be a contest? No Union player has taken as much flak since Keon Daniel’s beautiful dreads graced the midfield, and yet Fabinho was always open with fans and seemed to grow game after game. His Open Cup Final performance and complete shutdown of Graham Zusi was for me, the best performance of a Union left back I’ve ever seen.

Or how about Mike Lahoud? You can’t help but root for a guy who has elevated his game from being a destroyer to becoming a fantastic metronome of a defensive midfielder despite fighting through injury, and who, through his work with Schools for Salone, has also matured into the man that his grandmother always knew he would become.

Finally, I have to thank Mr. Open Cup himself, Sebastien Le Toux. Just when people are ready to write him off, he proves once again that he embodies the heart of this team more than anyone else. It wasn’t just his goal in the final that made us all believe we were destined to win, but did you notice how he acted during the penalties? He was the guy who stepped up first, pumped up his goalie, celebrated with the goal-scorers and picked up the chins of the guys who missed. His work rate and on-field leadership are commendable. I’m a big Maurice Edu fan, but I think Seba deserves to be our captain.

The loss in the Open Cup Final was nothing short of gut-wrenching. I wanted that win for the players and the club. It would have been a huge boost. But we can’t forget what a great run it was … gritty, determined, and dare I say … Philly tough. Jim Curtin and his players have no reason to hang their heads. They gave us some of the most exciting moments we’ve had in the last six years and somehow, improbably, gave us two Open Cup Finals at home in consecutive seasons. For that, they should be lauded.

So while there is plenty of uncertainty surrounding the club and its future, and plenty of disappointment to complain about, there is also a lot that I am thankful for. All I ask in return for my ticket money is to be entertained. Sure, I expect a lot more next season both on and off the field, but for today, I’m choosing to be optimistic.

Sing it with me now, people…

34 Comments

  1. Thanks Scott. I’m generally optimistic about this team going forward and I agree with your points above, particularly re: LeToux. Guy might bot be the best talent on the pitch, but he’s 1,000% class.
    .
    Only thing that smarts for me is that I really think this team underachieved more than it just wasn’t good enough. With Sak gone, I expect to see a more coherent plan emerge here. As a fan, I can’t wait for next year any more. This team needs to be a top-5 team. Less would than that is regression as far as I’m concerned.

    • It’s definitely a feeling I’ve gone back and forth with re: underperforming vs undermatched. There were clearly games that when it clicked, it looked like we could beat anyone in MLS, but that required near perfect performances from all 11 starters. It would be nice to have a few stars that could go out and win a game on their own even when the team wasn’t playing well.

  2. Holy sh*t!!! That’s some Jim Jones, People’s Temple quality Kool-Aid right there. I admire your fortitude Scott. You’re tougher than I am. After 6 years, I finally cried “Uncle” and did not re-doop. I just can’t get myself hyped up over this team’s potential anymore.

    • The Oenophile says:

      Same here. I am a foundering member / season ticket holder and just could not renew this year, I plan on attending a few select games next year.

  3. James Lockerbie says:

    Seba, should be this team’s captain Period! (When he is on the field.)

  4. The team we have right now is simply not as bad as their overall season record suggests. They had a horrendous start owing to an unbelievable string of injuries, a bunch of bad calls, and the walking fiasco known as M’Bolhi. That’s not to say they are a great team — they are mid-table at best. But it won’t take all that much for them to be good next season. I hope they don’t do a lineup overhaul, because I don’t think that’s needed.

  5. Nisus Wettus: [a line of prisoners files past a jailer]
    Nisus Wettus: Crucifixion?
    Prisoner: Yes.
    Nisus Wettus: Good. Out of the door, line on the left, one cross each.
    [Next prisoner]
    Nisus Wettus: Crucifixion?
    Mr. Cheeky: Er, no, freedom actually.
    Nisus Wettus: What?
    Mr. Cheeky: Yeah, they said I hadn’t done anything and I could go and live on an island somewhere.
    Nisus Wettus: Oh I say, that’s very nice. Well, off you go then.
    Mr. Cheeky: No, I’m just pulling your leg, it’s crucifixion really.
    Nisus Wettus: [laughing] Oh yes, very good. Well…
    Mr. Cheeky: Yes I know, out of the door, one cross each, line on the left.

    What a great movie.

  6. And the brightest side of all? The NHL season started last night! Just remember that hockey is really just soccer on speed (or soccer is just hockey on Valium.)

  7. ‘Dan’t be silly chumps.’
    .
    As a kid I perfected my english accent to that song.

  8. Silver linings.
    .
    I split my season ticket with someone else for next year. Call it surrendering one battle in a greater war. The next four or five months are going to shape the future of this team. The Sak era has ended, poor transfers are off our books, and the boys are truly coming together better than we’ve ever seen. To repeat something we’ve all heard before from this organization, I’m cautiously optimistic. I need to see smart money spent and hard decisions made in this offseason. Come 2016 I want to see and know that a real best XI exists and can be depended upon.
    .
    The season’s not over. Finish strong, don’t give up. This time next year I hope to be commenting on a playoff piece. I expect* to be commenting on playoff piece.

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      We split our tickets for the last 2 years, but our partner couldn’t renew for this coming season. Maybe they’ll get it together, and I’ll have more games to go to, to watch a better – dare I say CONTENDING – team?! HA! Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself, but I guess I just want this team to be better so bad, that I put the blinders on. Either way, I am optimistic about next season… this off=season has the potential to make this team significant better.
      .
      PS – if anyone does want to split tickets or buy a few, I’m in 127 – Row P. Let me know with a comment sometime

      • I have had reasonable success selling my seats on the Union Ticket Marketplace.

      • Zizouisgod says:

        Interesting. If you wouldn’t mind me asking, what percentage hit did you take off of face value to sell them?

        Thanks, Osager.

      • The site will not let you sell your seats at a loss. If you think about it, given that the club runs the site, that makes sense. I have also purchased seats using the marketplace – it’s typically the best way to get a few seats close to mine (127 represent!)

      • Zizouisgod says:

        Thanks.

  9. I must admit I’m excited for this off-season. Maybe not necessarily optimistic, but excited to see what happens. I see this as a make or break year for the franchise. This year could determine the future of the next 5-10 years. If/when the new SD get here, he will have a lot of flexibility to spend to improve this team. Hopefully he spends it well. I think that finally, this round of the cycle will be different with Sak out of the way. There’s the opportunity for things to get better. They still have to prove it with that new SD and fielding two teams.

  10. did you notice how he acted during the penalties? He was the guy who stepped up first, pumped up his goalie, celebrated with the goal-scorers and picked up the chins of the guys who missed.
    .
    I did actually. I found it very interesting that it was always Le Toux who first greeted kickers as they returned, rather than Mo.

    • I’ll say he deserves better than I’ve given him recently. After seeing where he became the 16th MLS player to reach 50 goals and assists, I realized I’ve under appreciated his contributions. Not that I didn’t like him or think he was a good player. Just I didn’t necessarily give him the credit he deserves.

    • UnitedPenn13 says:

      Le Toux is for the team. Mo is for Mo.

  11. This song is more in line with my views.

    https://youtu.be/yq4uCWtQE24

  12. I watched the Vancouver-Dallas game last night and saw the kind of end-to-end attacking soccer played by fast & skilled players that I enjoy. The Union are very far away from that. They may not be striving for it either, but it was a lot more fun to watch than some brutish Eastern Conference game. I am hopeful and despite my doubts renewed our season tickets, but realistically we’ll never really contend with Curtin playing to win 1-0, and we’ll definitely not be very fun to watch.

  13. ben is spot on; the team will not reach its full potential with
    curtin. that seems to be a common thread the only thing that we differ on is what specific aspect of his management is worse. his
    xi his strategy his alignment his coaching. there’s someone out there who hates each and some of us hates all of it.

  14. Heart?

    This is a team that packed it in numerous times after suffering late lapses. Laying those on the doorstep of officiating that sucks both ways is just absolution.

    Quality? I get that you want to defy the complete lack of evidence of talent and hope, but just wow. You speak of rumors as fact. What Sporting Director? Alejandro who? What number is he for the U? What specific event points to anything positive? Sak was fired? Two time defending finalists? Curtin’s “Marv Levy-esque” inability to close out a big game?

    I don’t want to be negative to be negative, but your blue and gold colored view is the enabler that allows the team to underwhelm as a tradition without consequence.

  15. Jim Curtain seems like a decent guy and his thinking sounds right when he speaks about the team. However, (while we did seem to be unusually unlucky at times) the roster looks stronger than ever, yet we may finish last in the league. Doesn’t the manager need to go under those circumstances?

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