Fans' View

Fans’ View: The hallmarks of a champion

Photo: Earl Gardner

We’re a winning club and we’d have to pull a pretty big Rais Mbolhi to mess it up.

I’ll wait while we collectively knock on wood.

And I think we’re ready to start looking higher. I mean, of course, we will win the MLS Cup in the next year or two. I’m beyond that being enough for me. I’m ready to start thinking about what it would take for us to reach the upper stratosphere of clubs in the world. You know, the Man Uniteds, the Real Madrids, the Bayern Munichs. These are the luminaries of the soccer world and now that the Philadelphia Union are ascendant, I think it’s time we stack them up against the best. Below I’ve rated the Union on what I think are some of the key characteristics of these clubs.

Iconic Player

The player you immediately associate with the club, remarkable skill, a player representative of the team in some way. I think we have two (unfortunately).

No. 1 (the good one) is Sebastien Le Toux. He’s the most decorated player in franchise history. He was the face of the franchise for years and has been a key member of the Philly community. He embodied what the Union 1.0 were all about.

No. 2 (the not-so-good-one) is Rais Mbolhi. While he was never the face of the franchise, he was representative of all the bad in Union 1.0. The laughable player management, the blind arrogance, and the general lack of performances. Grade: D (Mostly because Le Toux isn’t a once-in-a-generation talent and Mbolhi was such a turd.)


Smart-looking, sets the tone for the team, and looks like it’s always existed.

One of my favorite things about the Union is their crest. It’s excellent. It was smartly designed to recall the area and country’s history. And it plays off the Gadsden flag and the Join or Die cartoon by Benjamin Franklin, some of the coolest imagery of the American Revolution. I am a history nerd. Grade: A

Team Name

Not overwrought, simple, clean, and not referencing an energy drink or astronomy.
There are a lot of MLS teams with stupid names. Like a lot. Some still make me think of the glory days of the first jerseys. In this regard, we got off pretty well. Not to mention the name makes sense. Union is simple and clean for sure. It references some of the nation’s history again and it also refers to Philly’s history with unions. Anyways, it’s a great name, one I’m proud to wear on my chest. Grade: A-

Rabid Fan Base

A powerful group that creates a strong atmosphere and makes your home games tough for opposing players.

The Sons of Ben helped bring the team to the city. They are a constant source of noise and excitement at games. However, they are small. When you watch games in the major European leagues, Eeveryone is together and unified. I think we could also use a real Philly style chant. Grade: B


Big teams win big games and trophies.

You know this one. We’ve got nothing, but we’ve been in two US Open Cup Finals. Grade: F+

Fierce Rivalry

Major teams have major rivals. Dare I say, a bloodlust-level rivalry.

Hmmmm… I couldn’t tell you which team is our rival. I know we think it’s Red Bull, but typically, there needs to be some balance in the victories department, 5-9 won’t cut it there. But this one is starting to boil up, thanks in part to Jesse Marsch’s balls. How he flings them. And sometimes we think it’s United, but I just don’t feel the hatred there. So I’ll grade this one accordingly. When you have two rivals, you’ve got no true one. Grade: C- (with the idea that NYRB will become one soon.)

So I’d say overall, we’re looking at a C. What I’d say is encouraging though, is that we have two of the really key icons of teams laid down, crest and name. Those are hard to change and we don’t need to do so. This is a positive. We actually could get there someday. Some teams just because they were initially started with stupid names and icons will never make it. And before you light me up in the comments, let me say that I know we are a long way from being in the upper echelon of world clubs. But hey, I like to dream big.


  1. Andy Muenz says:

    I think you’re underrating us. We have a Philly chant: No one like us, no one likes us, no one likes us, we don’t care, we’re from Philly, filthy Philly, no one likes us we don’t care. I haven’t heard any other chants like that.
    Our rival is Sporting KC. 5-5-4 all time (even series). Both teams have won in both places. They’ve won 2 late round open cup games in Chester (one of those coming just a few weeks after the Union shut them down 4-0). And they tried to keep KEEGAN ROSENBERRY from the Union!

  2. pragmatist says:

    I think you can have 2 rivals, as long as they are of distinct varieties. UF (in football) has has 2 rivals: FSU and Georgia.
    The Georgia rivalry is a friendly neighbor rivalry, where people get together to have some drinks, cook some meat, and talk some trash.
    The FSU rivalry is a blood feud.
    We have the first kind (sort of) with United. We’re missing the second kind.
    As for those first jerseys, let’s all take a moment to thank whatever deity we pray to that mullets are no longer in fashion. Good god…

  3. As there’s only one MLS team in the city, the rivalry thing will only be dictated by history.

    Controversial results against Red Bulls/City/United in meaningful games will come when we start having meaningful (playoff) games.

    What we don’t need are one sided rivalries where we claim to be rivals to a team who don’t care about us. I worry about that with the Red Bulls thing.

  4. I can’t believe you posted that video. Still can’t stand M’Bohli for that play worst goalkeeping play I may have ever seen in soccer period.

  5. I think we’ re getting just a lot ahead of ourselves here.
    “We’re a winning club ” – 72 wins, 91 losses, 64 ties. We’re 2 games over this season. How about we’re a winning club when we have more wins than losses?
    I get your article was tongue-in-cheek, but 7th out of 20 isn’t quite my definition of “ascendant”. Let’s get our 2nd postseason goal ever first.

  6. I guess I’m in the minority here but I have no problem with the redbulls. In fact, I definitely admire and respect what they’ve done the last couple of years. But I cannot stand NYCFC (other than David Villa). I’m all for them losing. That’s probably more of a personal family matter for me though.

    • Amen. +10000000 I was about to type the same exact thing. I respect what red bull have done lately. Jealous of their homegrowns tbh. But F NYCFC I hate those guys so much. Tommy Mac is a disgusting looking man. Pirlo can go back to Italy lampard is one of the luckiest players I’ve ever seen. David villa still can’t speak English. And jack Harrison is actually pretty good.
      Tired of teams just buying their way up the leaderboards.

  7. I completely agree about the crest and team name, Seth. I love the Union crest, and I am genuinely thankful of our nickname. Sporting Kansas City? Awful. Real Salt Lake? Lame. Dynamo, Galaxy, Red Bulls? Terrible. All the impending United’s, FC’s, and City’s? Weak Euro wannabe trend. If Minnesota can’t work out the United moniker, I bet they go with Minnesota Albion. That hasn’t been plucked yet.

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