The Medunjanin manifesto

Photo courtesy Philadelphia Union

The Suncoast Invitational is the greatest tournament in soccer — and, possibly, all of professional sport.

Oh, sure, the games are played on a field designed for a totally different sport. There are apparently infinite substitutions, and we’re not sure anyone keeps score. Each match is broadcast on YouTube, with commentary by a pair of announcers who are hard-core homers for a USL team — a level of homerishness previously believed not possible.

Despite all that, it gives us our first peek at the 2017 Philadephia Union.

Imagine a Christmas tree with presents festively wrapped in blue and gold underneath its boughs. Sure, we have to wait until March 5 to tear open the wrapping paper.

But during the Suncoast Invitational, you can look at each of the boxes and imagine what wonders are inside. Even though you know that some will be duds.

After Saturday’s match against the Tampa Bay Rowdy Boys, it seems that the most intriguing package under the tree this year is shaped like a very tall midfielder from Bosnia.

It was just 45 minutes of action, but Haris Medunjanin’s tantalizing skill set should leave Union fans dreaming of what he can bring to the team this season.

Medunjanin showed tremendous vision and composure on the ball, routinely settling down play in the midfield and then springing 40-yard balls through the lines to streaking attackers. That’s something the Union were sorely missing at the end of last year, when the midfield looked more discombobulated than a pair of earbuds after a day in your pocket.

Losing Vincent Nogueira with almost no warning destroyed the 2016 Union. Bit by bit, game after game, it became apparent that the diminutive Frenchman provided a calm and balanced distribution that no other player on the roster could.

Union sporting director Earnie Stewart, to his credit, appears to have found a replacement. Medunjanin is like Nogueira if the latter were stretched out, like taffy, by about eight inches. Their physical presence on the field might be very different, but their cerebral, technical presence is strikingly similar.

Again, it’s only one game, and the Bosnian international was far from perfect. There were a couple of sloppy giveaways and the occasional half-speed jog. Both seem consequences of less than a week training with the team.

There was also the lack of production ahead of him. For all of Medunjanin’s creativity, his attackers let him down on more than one occasion with miscontrolled balls or curious decisions after the midfielder spotted them. A strange free kick routine late in the half featuring Alejandro Bedoya and Fabian Herbers also failed to impress — especially given Medunjanin’s reputation as a guy who can hit a mean curler with the left foot.

That’s all nitpicking though. Preseason is about possibility and positivity.

It’s a time to dream about the midfield that could be built around Medunjanin.

  • No more starts for the C & C Music Factory.
  • An Alejandro Bedoya who knows where he belongs on the field and doesn’t look like he wants to murder his teammates one by one, starting with Warren Creavalle.
  • A dynamic attack that forces defenses to account for the creative running of the Union’s front three.

That’s what the dream is after one match in the Suncoast Invitational.

There’s a shape under the Christmas tree that could be an All-Star-quality central midfielder.

Once the season starts, we’ll find out if that’s what Haris Medunjanin will be.


  1. Dan C (formerly of 103) says:

    He looked legit.

  2. The ultimate question is whether or not he can be a standalone 6 or needs a defensive-minded presence with him, but I think everyone who watched can agree that he was just what the doc ordered for the Union midfield.

  3. “with commentary by a pair of announcers who are hard-core homers for a USL team — a level of homerishness previously believed not possible.”
    As a fan of a different NHL team but living in the Philly area, all I can say is try listening to the Flyers announcers sometime…

    • Old Soccer Coach says:

      Or listen to a Phillies game with the other teams announcers doing the commentary.

    • For any Boston area fans or NBA league pass subscribers, Mike Gorman and Tommy Heinsohn are the gold standard for homerism when they do Celtics game.

      Most MLS announcing teams are homers. They’re employees of the club many times so what do you expect?

      Regarding TB’s team, I was just happy to have a good stream to watch. Also, my audio went down for a period of time so maybe that had something to do with it.

      • I’m not a big basketball fan but when I went to school in the Boston area and I had to listen to Derek Sanderson call Bruin games I wanted to throw up. It’s great that he beat addiction and all but he was a lousy announcer.
        If the Union are typical in that the announcers don’t travel, I wish MLS would go to NFL style neutral announcers so they would be at the actual games. Even if JP and Tommy are calling all the games at Talen, they could still be neutral and paid by the league with the broadcast shown to both team’s fans.

      • OneManWolfpack says:

        Speaking of Boston – try Bruins announcer Jack Edwards… the definition of “homer”

  4. Atomic Spartan says:

    Hey, go easy on the local broadcasters. Down in FL, if you tell the truth, they label you Fake News.
    Still, it would have been nice if someone had handed them a Union roster, or if they had read it to check the jersey numbers.

  5. I Am Citizen Insane says:

    “There was also the lack of production ahead of him. For all of Medunjanin’s creativity, his attackers let him down on more than one occasion with miscontrolled balls or curious decisions after the midfielder spotted them. ”
    HM: Hey guys here’s the key to unlock the door front and back….uh guys, you’re at the wrong house. How long till we get the VN hands up in the air WTF.
    Sorry…Couldn’t resist. Haven’t watched a minute but thought it funny.

    • I give the WTF hands up in the air from Medunjanin in game one first half when we see Sapong start and make no runs. Medunjanin will be delivering balls left and right and Sapong will be late to the party as usual. Resulting in Medunjanin thinking he has to take it himself resulting in holes in the back. And then in the second half Medunjanin will be calling for Simpson to be on the field.

      • Here’s to hoping that having actual depth at the striker position causes Curtin to actually make a switch when someone struggles, instead of riding that guy into the ground.

      • OneManWolfpack says:

        Agreed. I will not be silent for a second if Curtin sticks with Sapong for even 1 second longer than he should.

      • Seems like sapong starting in the Tampa game would suggest he is searching for minutes. Didn’t seem like he impressed anyone; more of the same hard work.

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