Fans' View

Fans’ View: Leadership on the pitch

Photo: Paul Rudderow

As the Union enter their fourth game of the season, we have so far witnessed a team that seems to have the talent to compete without the results.

All the pieces seem to be in place as they look like a team that could stand with the best. But instead, they struggle to assert their will. They are putting in the effort but getting a minimal return. It’s still early in the season for any kind of judgement, but they can’t fall behind and try to catch up. As a Philly sports fan, we know all too well how that ends up.

In my attempts to understand why they can play well and still not win, I’m reminded of my own experience in the Army.

There are more than a few parallels between sports and being a soldier. Both are physically rigorous and require tireless study, practice and teamwork. More importantly, both require experienced leadership to work together as a team and instill the confidence needed to win.

Leadership is something that is thrown around a lot in sports, but rarely it is defined.

The Army has a definition of leadership: “The process of influencing people by providing purpose, direction and motivation while operating to accomplish the mission and improve the organization.”

What does that mean in practice?

NCOs (non-commissioned officers) like me use the “Be Know Do” method day-to-day to remind us of our role. To be a leader you must:

  • Be the type of person that you would follow by staying calm under pressure and using sound judgement.
  • Know your craft better than anyone else by putting more time and effort into refining your skills.
  • Do all the things you ask of everyone else and lead by example. Practice what you preach and don’t think that you’re better than the others.

This team appears to be missing that leadership.

It doesn’t matter where it comes from, but the Union need it now, not at midseason. Someone needs to step up and assume that role or we’re going to see a lot of close games that will end up with points left behind.

I have a lot of faith in this team and believe they will find the leaders inherent in themselves and build the character necessary to win those close games. But for now, it looks like the more experienced players haven’t learned how to go beyond playing well by helping the others who are struggling to play well.

When they do, they will get everyone on the same page. They will be selfless and facilitate their teammates’ success. They will bolster in them the confidence to dig deep when the odds are against them and pull out the win.

There’s a lot of young talent on this team and others waiting in the system in Bethlehem or the academy. As thousands more at home or at the game looking for their role model, they need to inspire not just their teammates but future players that will someday bring the trophy home. That is the true sign of leadership.


  1. el Pachyderm says:

    In homage to your personal military career and Leadership capital L, Ownership capital O as it relates to this article I offer only this…
    ….Union need Jocko.

  2. leading anything in the Army is a cakewalk compared to leading a bunch of crazy soccer players. Its more like the old saying “herding a bunch of cats” instead of leading an army (No disrespect)

  3. Who do we suggest should fill this role? Behind the scenes, I think Mo is still the guy, but he needs to get on the pitch. Bedoya and Gooch, despite being new to the club, both have the credentials to be leaders if they choose.

    • Andy Muenz says:

      Don’t forget Medunjanin. I think he has that ability and he seems a bit more outgoing than the others.

    • el Pachyderm says:

      Have to wonder about what role Maurice Edu is playing with this team. Is he?
      He wasn’t at YSC even working lightly on the sidelines two weeks ago. Not that he needed to be there but I noticed his absence. Jay Simpson with bruised lungs and Josh Yaro with torn shoulder were both there… no Mo. Less he went surreptitious.
      More to the point. Where will he play, cause if his addition puts Derrick Jones on the bench, I’m not for it. Derrick has shown he belongs and needs the minutes.
      A quandary or is it a conundrum?

      • Based on Curtin’s comments at his press conference early today, I think the next update on Mo will be telling from Curtin (or the organization).
        He said something along the lines of: Mo is getting more scans done as we speak and there is a meeting with the doctors/sports science staff to determine if he can ramp things up or “have to take a new approach”.
        The former sounds promising, while the latter sounds like a “will not play this season”.

    • I had the exact same thought as I read this piece. Mo is that guy for this team, but only if he’s on the pitch. Last year, in his absence, ‘Quillo took on that role to some extent. This year I might’ve hoped that Bedoya would be the guy, but that hasn’t been the case. Maybe that’s just not his temperament. But there does seem to be a leadership vacuum. It’s a good point John makes. And it makes me miss… Faryd Mondragon. Even while Andre Blake is twice the keeper he was.

  4. “All the pieces seem to be in place as they look like a team that could stand with the best”…really? I have seen nothing so far that indicates this. This team is missing more than leadership.

  5. Why would Mo even be considered a leader at this point? Sure, he is a nice guy. But he has a few things working against him. He is rarely if ever on the pitch, he has never reacted even remotely pissed off after a loss, and he has come up short in numerous situations when we needed him to come through. I hope the club doesn’t “d” us around with this again all season. It’s time to cut ties.

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