A View from Afar / Commentary

Union playoff appearance more formality than achievement

Photo: Earl Gardner

Three moments sum up the close to Philadelphia Union regular season, which ended Sunday in a cascade of boos from fans in Chester.

  1. In the 70th minute of Sunday’s 2-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls, Roland Alberg had the ball centrally on a Philadelphia counterattack. Tranquillo Barnetta came flying down the right flank, wide open for a pass, but Alberg instead blasted a shot from outside the 18 far over the goal. Barnetta stood with his arms extended out wide, his frustration clear as he faced Alberg and maybe said something the television viewer could not see. Alberg looked over, and television cameras caught Alberg telling Barnetta in English what appeared to be, “F*ck off.”
  2. About 21 minutes in, Ilsinho threw an apparent elbow or shoulder block at New York’s Mike Grella, sending Grella tumbling into the boards. When an angry Grella rose angry and got in Ilsinho’s face to yell at him, Ilsinho fell to the ground, holding his face and rolling around as if Grella had hit him. He hadn’t. Ilsinho received a yellow card for his ridiculously cynical theatrics.
  3. During a practice leading up to Sunday’s game, Maurice Edu fractured his leg. He had been set to start against New York in what would have been his only regular season appearance of the season after suffering a stress fracture in his leg during preseason. You have to wonder now if his career may be over at the age of 30.

Many expected the three to be among the Union’s biggest players this season. Instead they were just the opposite.

It’s been a tough second half of the season for the Union, revealing that much of the preseason optimism and skepticism was misplaced. Observers were wrong to have little faith in Chris Pontius and Keegan Rosenberry, while they should not have fed the hype about the club’s international imports.

The Union now limp into an offseason that most presume will be a one-and-done. On Wednesday, they visit Toronto FC for a single knockout match. Toronto had been on a seven-game unbeaten streak before Sebastian Giovinco was injured on Aug. 27, but now he’s back with two games under his belt, which means Toronto could get hot all over again at the right time. The Union show no such signs.

Many observers of the team, including this one, are looking more toward the offseason than anticipating a surprise run deep into the playoffs. Several prospective moves are already revealing themselves as necessary or likely.

Alberg’s prospective departure ranks among them, as each petulant display increasingly marks him as a cancer on a club whose inability to present himself as a functioning member of a team supersedes his talent with a soccer ball. Sunday’s performance, which saw him complete just 11 passes in 90 minutes as a theoretical central attacking midfielder, only further cements his reputation as a me-first player who plays soccer as though it’s a one-on-one match. Some team may find a formation, an attitude adjustment and a coach to make him a good second striker, but it’s unlikely to be Philadelphia, where he somehow has found a way to go from scoring four goals in a game to losing all the goodwill that earned.

Maurice Edu’s tenure with the club may be over as well. You could say he can’t catch a break, but that’s all he has caught this year. Hindsight makes you ask the question of whether he should have gutted out last year’s U.S. Open Cup run while injured, because it set in motion the string of injuries that may have now permanently wrecked his career. You can’t question his toughness after that. But you can wonder might have been.

Meanwhile, Tranquillo Barnetta’s last game with the Union will come this postseason, and so too could that of Chris Pontius, whose contract is up at year’s end and who will be in demand if the Union don’t want to pay the oft-injured but very talented wide midfielder. Ilsinho is probably headed outbound too unless he can lose some weight and dives and assure Union management he can gain some fitness and productivity.

Union sporting director Earnie Stewart’s magic touch looks less magic in retrospect, as all his off-season international signings have basically failed. Alberg and Ilsinho look like talented busts, Anderson (remember him?) has been a non-entity for the Union, while Matt Jones has struggled with injuries and disappointed. Still, it’s fair to be optimistic with Stewart at the helm, as he has a demonstrated track record of building quality teams and he’s had an entire season to evaluate the current roster, coaching staff and likely transfer targets available in the winter, as opposed to the short window he had last winter.

But Wednesday … Toronto … playoffs … ?

The Union haven’t won a match in two months. If Union head coach Jim Curtin hasn’t used the “Nobody believes in us” card yet, then now’s the time. Because nobody believes in the Union right now, and the team’s second playoff appearance ever feels more like a formality than an achievement.

90 Comments

  1. The playoffs may be a formality but it is one the Union hadn’t achieved the previous 4 seasons.
    .
    I boo’d at the end of Sunday’s game. Then waited patiently while the players shook hands and cheered when Curtin and Carroll addressed the team.
    .
    Sunday’s game may have been disappointing as well as how the team finished but the overall season was more than we expected when we tuned in to the Dallas game on March 6 and that was worth cheering.

    • With all due respect AM ….I’m surprised each time I read a poster writing this….With all due respect this team has zero identity. ZERO.
      .
      It has played some of the worse games I’ve seen in its existence.
      .
      It brought in a 1,000,000 player that has helped it win 1 game. ONE.
      .
      Yes…Keegan was good… Andre was so good this team would be on 27 points if it weren’t for him… and people are happy and think the season was a success because we all thought they’d suck this year.
      .
      Well they do SUCK yet some people are okay with it because of a lousy freaking game on Wednesday they have NO right playing in… other than the league handing out little trophies to 6th place teams in a conference of 10.
      .
      .
      I’m hopeful for the future but relative to one or two crucial occurrences this season…the present is an extension of the past.

      • Whereas I see it that they went from 9th to 6th which is tied for their second best position. So I congratulate the team on their improvement since last year, even if it was all at the beginning of the season, and hope for more improvement next year.

      • Even looking at the overall season – and ignoring the second half meltdown – the Union showed minimal improvement over 2015, with a grand total of one more win and two more ties than last year.
        .
        As for making the playoffs, most of the credit for this “achievement” should go to the poor performance of other Eastern Conference teams. The Union’s 42 points in 2016 would have fallen well short of earning the club a playoff spot in prior years.

    • Good response, Andy. I’d rather have written that column than the one you read above.

  2. YUP! dead on as usual. I re-dooped and look forward to next year. It’s been such a downer to see things fall apart in this second half of the season since cry baby nogs had his ‘family crisis’ or whatever they told us was the reason. Some unfortunate events, but the U will look totally different next year. You failed to mention that we will most likely be losing Blake, and wouldn’t be surprised if Keegs gets some serious overseas interest.

    • RE: Vincent Noguiera….Totally uncalled for…
      .
      Please wake up.
      .
      .
      Have you ever for one minute dealt with genuine mental health issues… or been around someone holding on for dear life? You know NOTHING of the context.
      .
      What an asshole comment.

    • Please enlighten us all on your inner knowledge of the Nogs situation. Or better yet, resume not commenting as usual.

    • Just Rob f/k/a Rob127 says:

      Congrats S-Dad. You’ve achieved a level of douche baggery rarely seen here at PSP. Kudos.

    • To call Nogs a cry baby has to be the worst thing I have ever seen on this site. You sir should be ashamed of yourself. Nogs was one of the few professionals this team has ever had on it. In my opinion I find it disgraceful that you are even a Union fan and saying something like that.

    • I can’t really add much to what was said above me, but wow soccerdad are you clueless. I don’t know what’s scarier, your comments or the fact you may actually have children.

    • Nogs gave us everything. Thank you everyone for sticking up for him.

    • Philly fans get a bad rap for comments like soccerdad’s, but kudos to everyone who stuck up for Nogs. All we should be doing as fans is wishing him the best back home.

    • He is been playing lots back home. See http://us.soccerway.com/teams/france/racing-club-de-strasbourg/898/squad/ . Think it was more of an issue of missing France than a mental issue. Problem is that the Union should have done a better job getting him to love living here. But they can not even get us to Toronto to support them so no wonder they could not make feel Nog at home here.

      • It was too sudden and after too much time to be only homesickness. I don’t want to speculate any farther than that.

      • Old Soccer Coach says:

        I will go no further on Vincent Nogueira’s departure than two words. And intellectual honesty compels the statement that the hypothesis about the two words is based on one, single observed datum.
        .
        Chris Parke.

  3. well spoken. hard to argue with any of this, even the luster of the “In Ernie We Trust” wearing off.
    i’ll watch tomorrow, hoping something of an upset can happen.

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      Man…smh… It’s been one transformative, mildly successful season, and the “In Earnie We Trust” is wearing off?
      .
      People need to calm down. This season, we were very good, and now we are pretty bad. In the past 5 seasons were pretty bad for basically all 6 months of the season. ES has had one… ONE… offseason to work. In hindsight, yes, the Euro moves were not as impactful as we might have hoped. But the draft was pretty damn good. ES knows how to build a team, and an academy, and develop players. The contract and cap situation is under control and now he can add to some of the pieces we know can build around.
      .
      Just give it a couple seasons to develop. Hell, we’ve waited since 2011 to have anything even remotely close to not being total and complete shit… I think we can wait a couple more to see a real soccer director craft a team.

      • i was merely commenting on Dan’s “Earnie Stewart’s magic touch looks less magic in retrospect” line. it’s the first outspoken criticism i’ve read. i didn’t call it a failure, rather see it as needing a good shine this off season. even if we went into the playoffs more optimistic, we’d likely be criticizing the Euros’ impact. only, we’re writing the epitaph for a team not dead yet, but it will be dead soon.

      • John P O'Donnell says:

        Is Ernie really responsible for the draft? You would think he didn’t have enough time to get enough information about college kids playing in America to make the call. I would guess that Curtin and Albright did all the leg work for the past draft. They also probably were the ones that scouted Noguiera & Barnetta. I think the big difference Ernie had made is getting the owner to sign off on things quicker.

      • Old Soccer Coach says:

        Nogueira arrived under John Hackworth.

  4. I vehemently refuse to accept anything negative towards ES.

    I wouldn’t call Illsinho a bust. More so a talented players with flaws.

    Matt Jones was nothing other than depth, who cares about him.

    Anderson was nothing more than a body to try to win a CB job, with Tribbett and Yaro here he failed. He is gone after this year. No harm no foul.

    Alberg is not a bust either, a player with those goal totals who has helped us win games is not. Less impactful than hoped? Sure. A bad influence? Sure. But not a bust. not to mention, I dont think not being able to supplant the best player on the team is that big a deal.

    • Old Soccer Coach says:

      Earnie Stewart walks through water just like the rest of us, not on it as is alleged, by highly biased sources, once a couple of millennia ago.

    • I’d consider Illsinho a bust considering his salary. You don’t pay someone 400k to come off the bench and not have the ability to play 90.

  5. So it’s fair to say from reading this you would place blame for this seasons failures (it’s not an overall failure) on the players (certain ones), Ernie Stewart and Jim Curtin, in that order. It’s an interesting take, and might ultimately be correct. I would be really interested to find out who has created the system wide formation and plan mandate. The idea is certainly a strong one and smart one, but what do you do when the senior team is failing miserably for half a season under this mandate?
    .
    In the end, you’re overall theme here is correct. everyone will watch and cheer tomorrow, but all minds are half way into the offseason already, when we look to possibly replace all 7 midfielders who figured to be focal points this year. (Edu, Nogeuira, Barnetta, Ilsinho, Alberg, Pontius and Carroll). All the while we will need to acknowledge our Forwards scoring problem and pray that Blake doesn’t leave. All is not Sunny in Philadelphia.

    • That statement about the midfielders is a bummer.

      • Old Soccer Coach says:

        I would guess Edu is back and healthy. I have no information about his contract’s length. Looking that up may be something get to one of these days if it’s available.
        .
        Ilsinho is probably too old, to flawed for the MLS game, and too expensive to be taken in the expansion draft.
        .
        Should the FO view it this way, use Alberg’s money to pay Pontius. Letting him go would be unfortunate. He has created a sellers market for himself.

    • Re: blame, I’d say look at my column from last week. There’s a lot of nuance there. Stewart had a very narrow window in which to work after he was hired, for example, and Curtin had to deal with Nogueira’s departure, among other things (as noted last week).

  6. Alberg’s situation is tough. There are so many really good athletes in many different sports who fight the same battle between putting their talent to use or letting their personality get the better of them. Good strikers are selfish by nature, but he needs to get past it. I feel like he may benefit from a chat with Stewart who can say, “Look, you turn up to be a bust on this team and your future isn’t going to be bright.” I’d love to see him refocused, though I don’t think he is suited to play as a #10. He needs to be a striker or a winger. That’s it.

    I’d also be fine with keeping Illsinho, but agree he needs to shapen up.

    This team is left needing to shore up it’s center. #9, #10 and #6 all need an upgrade or replacement.

    • Alberg is not a good striker. Players NEVER change when they are that old after a so called chat with anyone. His personality is set in stone and it is not good. Why should Illsinho change? He is an old pro here to make a buck. Costa is a jerk but he is a good striker, so you put up with him. The fundamental issue is that Curtin has lost the team. The players do not view him as credible. Bedoya is certainly scratching his head wondering why he was playing. I think Barnetta could see the problems and decided he could not wait that long. Curtin is a nice man but he aint the one.

    • As soon as I saw Ilsinho take that dive I wanted him gone. That was disgraceful. And he has almost no production to go with his flair. His money could be spent on a more useful player.

      • that dive was pretty bad…. can’t defend it. And I generally don’t mind a well crafted soft dive. It’s an art.

      • I’m not a fan of the dive but I agree it can have its place.

      • OneManWolfpack says:

        I was in 127 – it was right in front of me – and it was a bad dive, but I also loved it. HA 🙂

      • Man, I watched the game from Brazil, the morning after going to see Atletico Mineiro play here in Belo Horizonte. (I’m visiting my in-laws, and my wife and I are working on a documentary here.) The comparison was laughable. That’s even an extreme dive by Brazilian standards, though obviously we’ve seen that sort of thing before. I showed it to a Brazilian friend here, and he just laughed and shook his head.

      • el Pachyderm says:

        All I can say is holy shit that is a great trip.

    • I agree with you on Alberg and have defended him most of the season and will continue too. What I see from him is different than your typical MLS player. He has drive, yes he can be selfish, yes he gets pissed off, yes he can be childish. These things are all attitude which can be changed his skill technical ability are some things this team lacks. I agree all year he was played in the wrong spot he is not a #10 he does not make a team work together he is a winger/second striker, he is going to be selfish, but I can deal with that if he pushes the issues and scores goals. If you look at it when things are going well his game get is elevated, when the team goes south and has a bad string he breaks away from them. This can be changed with coaching. I still think Alberg has a role to play on this team. His aggression needs to be honed in and used to his advantage it was one season where he had good and bad stretchs I still think there is adjustment that needs to be done with him.

      • Well stated and I have to mostly agree, although I’m not sure his attitude adjustment is as easy as you make it seem.

      • A. Agree it might not be easy for him to adjust but he is only 26 there is time.

      • Therein lies the problem. Freddy Adu had great technical skill as well.

      • Old Soccer Coach says:

        Then why was he available last winter? Good players are rare.

      • He was available because he wanted out of a team sitting in last place. Plus didn’t we pay a transfer fee?

      • The question is are his positives worth changing our entire formation just to try to negate his negatives. I’m going to say no. After his initial burst teams scouted him and he has been rendered completely ineffective.

      • I’d disagree that he is not completely in effective. I’d argue he hasn’t been given as much time in games to be effective when you come on at the 75 or 80th minute how much can you actually change the game, especially when the rest of your team is tired and you are down a goal or two.

  7. I warned Earnie during the summer that the team was peaking at the wrong time and he told me that all was under control since the dressing room had the best atmosphere of any he had been at. Funny how things played out.
    .
    If the team had any chance I would drive up to Toronto but the Union also does as if they do not want us there. There is absolutely no communication to fans who would be willing to get up there (i.e. to help them get there, to facilitate their stay, etc.). Their communication intern keeps on posting on Facebook and Twitter how we should go to work in our jerseys tomorrow. Wouldn’t they rather have 500 supporters in Toronto?!

    • i think the short window before the confirmation of Toronto and the poor on-field performance might contribute to the lack of “get up to toronto! here are 500 tickets! here’s how to get there. here’s where to stay.” but a savvier communication team would have been prepared for this. makes that quarterfinal for Open Cup to Red Bull last year seem like a one time deal. that was the best i saw the organization try to get away supporters

  8. Lucky Striker says:

    …….and after all that……..

    Amen, Mr. Walsh. A freaking men.

  9. Is it possible Jim Curtin has mismanaged Roland Alberg?
    .
    Is it possible a player with an almost preternatural ability to score goals needs to be fed?
    .
    Is it possible a team that attempts to cross the ball as a means of scoring to an almost pathological degree is entirely maddening to a player who just last year played in a league wear more often than not play is built through the middle and channels.
    .
    Is it possible Roland Alberg checked out about six weeks ago watching CJ Sapong fumble fuck nearly every single opportunity while he sits on the bench? I remember being a kid and hardly ever playing basketball on the middle school team and heaving shots from half court to ‘get mine’… when the random opportunity warranted.
    .
    I’m not making excuses for him… but I find it kinda curious that a guy with almost as many goals as the current EVERY minute striker over the entire season may have a leg to stand on regarding his clear lack of minutes played… which all comes back to me and my belief the manager has NO imagination.
    .
    That’s all.

    • He had a hot streak and penalty goals. His finishing wasn’t great last game and he rarely touches the ball. Now I don’t disagree that Sapong was bad overall this year or that Curtin is the end all be all, by why the excuses for 1 player and the criticism for everyone else? I think you are overrating Alberg a lot.

      • I understand but you have seen some of the goals he’s scored right?
        .
        Clearly a quality goal scorer…did you see the shot he got off on the Herbers mis touch in the first 20 minutes of the game this past week- took the ball out of mid air settled it on the half volley and hit a tracer JUST wide– stunning display of agility and quickness.
        .
        You can’t teach that…
        .
        If the ball goes in…which it almost did..nobody is mentioning how he launched one into the river at the end of the game or told The Calm to ‘fuck off’… what we are talking about is…why wasn’t that guy on the field more.

      • Fair enough. He just literally does nothing else. To me he’s basically Maidana except he scores instead of assists. Maybe I’m being unfair.

      • el Pachyderm says:

        I don’t think you are wrong.
        .
        Just enjoying the discussion.

      • I mean I like Alberg more than Maidana as I believe you can do things to hide his weakness much easier. Unfortunately we do not look like we will change for a player and that decision seems to have come from the top.

      • Also he told Quillo to “Fuck off” right after Herbers missed the perfect opportunity to hit him with a one time cross to score. He took the shot to try to make up for the lack of cross was it the wrong move, Yes. Did he need to curse out Barnetta no, but that is where his attitude needs to be adjusted.

      • Also the type of thing you expect the veterans like Barnetta, Carroll, Bedoya, Edu, Davies, Pontius, etc to address with him behind closed doors. I suspect we will hear nothing about it for anyone associated with the team.

      • Agreed and I bet Barnetta did have a discussion with him. Alberg is a hothead, but it is not always without justification. He needs to learn how to control it though, I am on the side of thinking he can do that by next season if he still wants to be here.

      • Agreed. Not trying to defend Alberg here, but that long blast of his was clearly taken out of frustration over the earlier missed opportunity by Herbers to get him the ball.

      • Old Soccer Coach says:

        I would change “goal scorer” to “shooter.”

    • +1

      .

      Sucks for Sapong too – Curtin continued to play him in the same formation when it became clear he wasn’t going to play himself out of the extended funk. I imagine his confidence is shot. Why didn’t Curtin give him a game off or sub him on after the 60′? Let him run at a tired defense.

      .

      I don’t see where Curtin has grown or improved as a coach. Refusal to change formations, late/non-existent subs, lack of squad rotation. Team hasn’t won in two months yet we’re told he needs more time…

      • Sapong is Andrew Wenger 2.0

      • No one can be considered AW2.0 until they dribble out of bounds.

      • Old Soccer Coach says:

        So we started the season losing ten straight games?
        .
        Or the technical staff did nothing in February that had anything to do with recovering from the Dallas debacle to be expectation-changingly successful in the rest of March, April and May?
        .
        When you evaluate look at the entire body of work, as well as recent trends. Both matter, not just the recent trend.
        .
        That is not being an apologist, that is the fairness that every parent demands of every teacher when evaluating the kid’s year.

    • I think this is the most interesting/confounding issue of this season.

      I’m looking at Alberg’s game log after he scores the hat trick against Chicago on June 22. In the next 5 games, he played 408 minutes, logging 3 goals and one assist, making him a part of approximately a goal per 90 for that 5 game stretch, in which he played at least 57 minutes.

      Over the next 4 games he never plays for more than 28 minutes, but grabs 2 goals and two assists in 95 minutes(!)

      He gets a full 90 against Chicago on Sept 3 managing 3 shots but no goals or assists.

      After that, he gets buried on the bench, getting 8, 11 and 10 minutes during the three-game road trip, gets 19 against Orlando and finally returns on Sunday for 90.

      His production rate in the 9 games he played after the Hat Trick were as high as nearly any goal scorer in the league. He laid a couple goose eggs for 90 in the second half of the season, but one wonders what could have been had he been given more time and maybe featured in a plan….

      • Look at the goals against in those games too. Not that I would agree on if that should have benched him or that it was even his fault, but I have a feeling that was the reason along with Barnetta being the first choice and Albergs lack of interest to play d on the wing.

      • There’s really no correlation in goals conceded that I see. If I had more time to do the math, I bet the Union’s win percentage when Alberg plays more than 60 minutes is pretty good…The point though, is he’s the guy most likely to find the back of the net on this team. And he rode pine more than the pitch. Maybve Curtin had reasons. Who knows. I don’t think, though, that he was such a big defensive liability.

      • Yeah. I think it was more they liked Barnetta better and Barnetta is not good at the 8. They didn’t trust Alberg out on the wing and he didn’t look great when he was up top alone. Personally I think they probably should have tried him up top again or moved Barnetta out to the wing but who knows.

      • Right. And your comment raises question for me. Why didn’t Alberg start at right wing over Herbers after Ilsinho was injured and LeToux was shipped off? I suppose it all comes down to defensive poise. But, again, you have your best scoring threat soaking up pine and starting a rookie ahead of him…. All because of defense?

      • Also, while down the Roland Alberg career stat blackhole I keep slipping into here between actual work tasks, he played a lot more minutes for his Eredivisie side … more than twice as many minutes in as many games in his two full seasons with that club. He was a regular starter for ADO Den Haag. He didn’t score at the same rate, but it’s hard to believe he’s happy sitting on a bench in MLS when he was a regular starter before coming here.

      • Old Soccer Coach says:

        Pete, differentiate the penalty kicks, please.

      • 2 of all those goals in that first 4-game period were penalties, which diminishes that group somewhat. But the two goals and two assists over 95 minutes in the next group of four games all came from open play.

    • Agree 100%. This is how people should be thinking of Alberg.

    • Yes.

      Yes.

      Yes.

      Yes.

      Also, yes to every comment made by A. in his responding comment. And that’s the conundrum with Alberg.

      • Alberg is a tough case because he does the hardest thing in soccer very well: score goals. He’s got a very powerful and accurate shot with both feet, he has pretty good positional awareness around goal, he’s not afraid to take shots, and has that little quickness burst to get the shot off too.
        .
        That said, something is still lacking there. Maybe he needs more time to adjust to MLS/living in a new country, maybe he needs a different position/system, maybe he needs better players around him, maybe he doesn’t want it enough. I have no idea. I wouldn’t be heartbroken if he left this year but I would certainly welcome him back and rather have him back than gone.

  10. As soon as we acquired him, I was curious to see what flaw caused Alberg to fall out of favor with his Dutch club after he was one of their top producers two years ago. I trusted that Earnie knew what he was getting, but over the course of this season, Alberg has shown a few examples of being a bad teammate. Some of it I’m sure was frustration in not playing as much as he would like, but this Barnetta incident is not a good look at all. Maybe a full offseason and training camp with the team will enable him to find his place in the starting XI, but I fear his bad attitude might make his stay in Philly a short one. Silver lining, this could give us a little insight into whether Earnie is willing to admit to a mistake and move on from that player.

  11. Alberg is not a good striker. Costa is a good striker so you put up with his crap. Alberg is set in his ways ,a stereotypical old pro.He will do what he likes. Neither Curtin nor Barnetta can tell him what to do. Illsinho is no fool. Why should he get in shape if he doesnt have to. He is here to make a buck on the downside of his carrier and its working out just fine. Curtin has lost control of the team , the old pros see he cant make tough choices. Bedoya must have been holding his head thinking, “Why am I playing today?.”And remember , there are a lot of old pros on this team and the best ones have left or are leaving. Anyone wonder why? Curtin is a nice man, but he aint the one.Earnie never knew what hit him. Lets hope he regains his equilibrium.

  12. Wilkerson McLaser says:

    Nailed it. And agree with the lack of identity comment. One inconvenient reality is that under any other coach/FO, the supporters would be up in arms by now — even with the same record. Earnie is a lot more respectful of the fans compared to Sak (who was and remains a snake), and that means a lot. But the truth is that Earnie and Curtain oversaw the dismantling of a talented and largely popular, if poorly utilized (and arrayed), squad. The shipping out of fan favorites like Le Toux, Okugo (USMNT fringe material in Philly), the Marfans (I’d still take Garfan back as LB in a hot second), and McInerney may have been justifiable in their own way individually, but collectively it saw what was the semblance of a Union identity flushed and bleached. I’m not saying we need to bring back those players (though Le Toux as a player-coach ought to be an obvious and dignified move, and we could probably regain Okugo for cheap), but there’s no sense that the guys out there right now are playing for the badge, much less Philly.

    • el Pachyderm says:

      Phew this is so hot I had to step back and raise my sleeves. All Okugo commentary accepted.
      .
      Entire problem solved if he was still patrolling the HDM. Course we know I had a crush on Amobi. Loved his game.
      .
      Stuck in MLS soccer limbo. I admit to having an axe to grind with the manager simply because of that frievous gucking error.
      .
      A total lack of understanding and giving in to the whimsy of who the hell knows what new car DP Edu player smell. Only to watch him galavant the hell ALL over the field. Oh my God…. please I can’t stop reviling. Still so sad.
      .
      Can you imagine for one second the 6 and 8 with Okugo and Noguiera here and Barnetta the last few years…

      • To be honest… I have an almost, almost… complete lack of respect for anyone’s soccer IQ who thought he wasn’t very good or even more… overrated. Loved his balls for Roger.
        .
        On a team rife with turmoil in his first professional gig ever on a team built from scratch the one thing you could count on was #14 generally closing down the midfield and making the right choice to move the ball quickly and cleanly both laterally and vertically— sometimes over the top- usually attempting to build play with patience…as I said a 100 times— doing in one or two touches what most take two or three (+) for —especially the player who replaced him– Maurice Edu.
        .
        .
        Cringed each time he would dribble up field at least twice or three times as though he was Patrick Viera only to be dispossessed leaving his defense completely out to lunch and people ate it up ATE IT UP… oh that’s Maurice Edu…. we should BE so lucky…

      • Loved his balls for Roger… wait a minute there….

      • I always liked, Okugo. Not as much as you, but I liked him and his situation always confused me. That said, my gut feeling is that Sak was the main driver behind all of the bad feelings and fallout there. I think that whole disaster came down from above.

      • Wilkerson McLaser says:

        Okugo has (had?) a lot of the qualities that made Geoff Cameron and Perry Kitchen very successful and versatile MLS players: strong, athletic dudes with very good ball control, disciplined defense, and the ability to make key forward passes — sometimes of the backline splitting variety. I don’t mean to make this thread about Okugo, but the team-destroying “rebuild” did have its casualties from which we have yet to noticeably recover.

  13. The union will win Wednesday because the only worse thing they could do than lose to Toronto is lose by a touchdown to New York in a home and home

  14. Great intro, Dan. Couldn’t agree more with the sentiment.

  15. Kevin Kratz Fanklub says:

    What?! Earnie Stewart’s Cult Of Personality is entirely too big to fail. Plus, an awful lot of time and energy went into propping up brilliant signings such as Leo Fernandes and Walter Restrepo. Blame everything on the Villanova basketball fan if one must, but stay the course, please.

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