A View from Afar

It’s time for major changes at Philadelphia Union

Photo: 215pix

It’s time for major changes at Philadelphia Union.

The club is winless since August.

Union head coach Jim Curtin needs to immediately change tactics, lineups and, more importantly, the results if he’s to save his job.

We can debate what those changes should be, but we can probably all agree that a new wrinkle here and there isn’t enough.

And if there’s anything Curtin has demonstrated during his nearly three years as head coach, it’s that he’s slow to change anything, whether it’s formation, starting lineups, tactics, or even substituting players. Once a notion has settled in, it stays with Curtin, ever the stoic, stolid, hard-working center back.

Curtin’s resistance to change has unfortunately defined his coaching career. Either there’s a lack of imagination, adaptability, confidence, or recognition, or he’s just stubborn.

Granted, there is something to be said for consistency, particularly for anyone who remembers Peter Nowak’s mad science experiments and his clear perception of himself as being greater than the team.

But to paraphrase Bruce Arena about Clint Dempsey, Curtin needs to try stuff. Now. Here are some suggestions.

Formation switch

Why did the Union acquire Haris Medunjanin if their highest paid player, Alejandro Bedoya, felt he functioned best as a No. 8 and didn’t feel confident as a No. 10? Did they really think Bedoya was going to be a destroyer No. 8? Didn’t they know that Medunjanin was more a Pirlo No. 6 than a defensive stopper? Is Earnie Stewart just giving Curtin time to fail so he can bring in his own pick for head coach? Those are questions to ask Stewart.

Curtin has to work in the present and figure out a formation that puts his best team out there.

Some say formation matters less than what players actually do. True, but it’s semantics. Formation provides a tangible label and structure to a broad range of responsibilities that can generally be assumed to fit each position.

Here are some options.

  • 3-5-2/5-3-2: It’s not yet clear the Union even have two healthy, MLS quality starting center backs, let alone three. Let’s move on.
  • 4-4-2: If your wide midfielders aren’t true wide midfielders — Pontius and Ilsinho like to cut inside — then no thanks.
  • 4-3-3: Curtin deployed a 4-3-3 with an inverted triangle in the second half against D.C. United, with Derrick Jones sitting behind Alejandro Bedoya and Haris Medunjanin. It was an improvement. Consider it.
  • 4-4-2 diamond: The Union have a handful of quality center midfielders, fullbacks best deployed as wingbacks, few true wingers, no real No. 10, and a bunch of second strikers masquerading as miscast outside midfielders or target men. Their highest paid player is a tweener whose best position is as a center midfield shuttler. Jason Kreis might love the Union roster, because a 4-4-2 diamond might fit their personnel.
    1. Start with the aforementioned inverted triangle midfield (optionally flip Medunjanin into the deeper role and deploy Jones as a shuttler/destroyer).
    2. Put C.J. Sapong at target forward.
    3. Choose from among Chris Pontius, Jay Simpson, Fafa Picault, Marcus Epps, Ilsinho and Fabian Herbers to play the free-floating second striker who often starts out wide, a la Fabian Espindola under Kreis for Salt Lake.
    4. Try Adam Najem at the No. 10 and hope the rookie is as good as advertised.
    5. Bomb your fullbacks up and down the wings for width and send in Ray Gaddis as a second half replacement for whoever tires first.
    6. Pray your players take to the formation more quickly than  most other clubs.
Personnel changes

Had two players in front of Richie Marquez not gotten hurt during his second season, Marquez would not have sniffed the starting lineup under Curtin. Consider that for a moment.

Now consider the following:

  • Marcus Epps has yet to feature for the Union after a stellar preseason.
  • Adam Najem is impressing for Bethlehem.
  • Fafa Picault is riding pine after briefly showing he was quicker than every other Union attacker.
  • Jack Elliott fared well in one Union game and even better in a start Sunday for Bethlehem Steel – at defensive midfield.
  • Fabinho is still starting for Philadelphia after consistently finding new ways to make spectacular goal-inducing mistakes. He even made the lowlight reel for bad throw-ins two straight weeks.
  • Oguchi Onyewu’s immobility has cut out the single best trait that Keegan Rosenberry brings to the team, namely his ability to get up field, contribute to the possession game, and provide width in attack.
  • Ilsinho has averaged 1 goal and 1 assist about every 10 games in a 252-game career. That’s about what he’s done for the Union. Don’t expect more at this point.

Some changes need to happen, and they need to be smart. You can’t just overcompensate for a lack of attack by throwing four forwards on the field, as was done in the second half against Portland, and hoping one of them learns to create for others. (Yes, Roland Alberg is a forward and Fabian Herbers probably is too.)

Changes should involve these players.

  1. Rosenberry needs to play like Rosenberry, not Onyewu’s security blanket.
  2. If Onyewu can’t produce under those circumstances, then it’s time for Jack Elliott or Ken Tribbett, both of whom look quicker and display superior ball skills.
  3. Picault and Epps need to get off the bench to show what they can do.
  4. Najem was widely considered the best player in college soccer less than a year ago. He is 22 – i.e. not a kid. Let’s see whether he’s a No. 10 or No. 8 – or nothing – at this level.
  5. Fabinho’s time as Philadelphia’s starting left back needs to end. Perhaps he would fare well as a left wingback, as Justin Morrow has for Toronto, with more support behind him, but that isn’t happening in Chester. If Dutch import Giliano Wijnaldum isn’t capable – and early reports aren’t good – then the Union need to find someone who is. It’s been six years since the Union traded away Jordan Harvey, and they haven’t had a good, left-footed left back since.
Expand your horizons

Nobody who follows the Union wants to see Jim Curtin the man leave the club, for various reasons laid out in this publication on numerous occasions. Even his critics are likely rooting for him.

The problem is that you have to balance that with results under Jim Curtin the coach. He remains the youngest coach in MLS after nearly three years on the job and, while it’s not his fault he wasn’t returned to an assistant role after a solid debut as an interim coach, he obviously wasn’t ready when he was thrust into the role of full-time head coach. He has surely learned on the job, but at some point, patience runs out.

If you have MLS Live, watch the Atlanta-Toronto game from the weekend. It was a fantastic chess match that demonstrated how a manager can change a team. Toronto rolled out their 5-3-2 formation, which head coach Greg Vanney enacted last season with extraordinary success, making his club the only one in MLS to regularly depart from a four-man back line. Atlanta played fast, end-to-end, exciting soccer — on the road. Manager Tata Martino adjusted to Toronto’s formation by dropping defensive midfielder Jeff Larentowicz into the back line and pushing his own fullbacks up in a 3-4-1-2 of sorts.

Good coaches make changes. Curtin has to do the same. He’s almost out of time.


  1. I really hate the idea of playing bench players just so we can see what they can do. It’s frusterating to fans, but in most cases bench players just don’t outperform the starters, and for good reason.
    I’m all for the idea of the diamond, except I have no idea who would work best at the tip of the diamond.
    Personally, I’m ok with the idea of 4-4-2 with Bedoya out wide. He can cut in and give our two central midfielders additional help in possession (this is something he does naturally and most likely his position on the National Team going forward). But, like everything else, the problem is Gooch. If Rosenberry is going to stay home and cover for Gooch, we can’t have our right wing cutting inside all the time (or not being a threat to move like Ilson).
    The two big, big tactical problems I see is that Gooch is really limiting our ability to play on the right sideline. The other issue is that Bedoya makes good runs to stretch the defense… but we really don’t have a winger or central midfielder who is good at filling that space. Pontius was trying in the DC game, sometimes playing on the right side of the penalty spot!
    As a final note, Pontius not scoring this year is a big, big issue. Hopefully he’s just not getting enough service and this isn’t going to turn into a 2014 Conor Casey situation.

    • I agree in some cases Kevin, but this isn’t a matter of benching someone who is producing or even marginally producing. In the case of Najem we don’t have a player on the senior team like him, so lets sit down whomever is currently attempting to fill the #10 and see if we have one. If we are going to struggle I for one would rather do that with young players who might, just likely, have an upside not someone who is currently on the downside of a less than spectacular career which is the case with way too many Union players.

      • It’s a difference in preference really, I’d prefer to change formations and play without a 10 rather than toss out a guy the Pink Cows felt wasn’t worth more than $35k.
        But I’ve always been someone that feels that you should change your tactics to match your players as well as the opponents preferred style.

    • Totally agree on Gooch killing our right side and Pontius killing our left. Those are our 2 biggest issues right now.

  2. Why wait? We will be 20% through the season at the end of this home stand, with a tough trip out to LA up next.


    Time under Curtin is a sunk cost. Let’s move on now.

    • Andy Muenz says:

      Is there someone the Union could hire now or would it just be a case of promoting Mike Sorber to interim coach? If the latter, then I say wait. Otherwise what will happen is that Sorber will win 2 or 3 games, get the interim tag removed, and we’ll be having this same conversation in 2019.

      • John Harkes

      • Brendan Burke. He would change things up.

        Guy knows how to coach and manage players.

      • thats why Brendan Burke finished in last place he is a great coach?????

      • Burke was doing a damn good job last year on a shoestring budget — had his team in the playoff hunt in July — until they sold his best players so they could play the kids.

        Not saying he should be promoted to Union head coach, but he’s quality worth keeping.

    • el Pachyderm says:

      I’m not at this level yet. On the record for having a new manager but also trying to be objective and not emotional and really believe a switch in formation saves his job.

      • Respectfully, I would counter with this fanbase generally is already too emotional and not objective. Curtin is known quality. His PPG are lower than the guy he replaced. He has stated he will not change his formation. He’s played his hand. Let’s move on before we lose another season.

      • we need a new people in the organization from top down , whit these amateurs it the SAME OLD SH-T DIFFERENT YEAR , Get a latin, eastern european , coach that’s where the best players are coming and there not as expensive as european coaches , the English, Scot Irish stuff is the worst soccer in Europe

  3. pragmatist says:

    You could just decide to burn the house down. Might be a bit extreme, however…

    CJ – Alberg/Ilsinho/SImpson/Alberg/TBD
    Fafa – Jones – Najem – Herbers
    Reymann(BSFC) – Marquez –
    Yaro/Elliot/Tribbett – Rosenberry

    It’s not so much “play the young guys” as it is move the over-priced guys to other teams, free up cap space and go get new players to fill in the holes where these guys don’t work out.
    This is the benefit of no relegation. Team going downhill fast? No worries, experiment, shake the Etch-a-Sketch and start over.
    Yes, this is too exteme, and as the Sixers have shown, it’s a little too painful for a lot of fans. But it’s not without merit, as long as you have the right person in charge of it, and the money to fund it.

    • I tried to stick with the same formation but the 4-4-2 looks good/promising here. I would like to see Najem/Epps and Elliot get some time.
      I’d be interested in seeing how difficult it would be to move players like Edu, Fabinho, CJ, Creavalle, Bedoya, Gaddis, ALberg.

    • Not extreme enough!

      Bedoya has been a waste of money.

      Pontius, cooked, ditto (he looked lost in DCU of all places!).

      Haris ditto.

      Gooch ditto (PLUS restricting Keegan),

      Fabinho ditto (ridiculous give-a-ways).

      Simpson ditto.

      Ilsinho needs to be sold to Italy Serie A teams, his style fits perfectly there!

      Alberg has not gotten the chance, but trade him too.

      Let Brian Carroll play again! That’s how bad this has all become! Just ridiculous!

      Trade them all, for draft picks, former draft picks and allocation money. Trade everyone especially if “they” are going to keep Curtin (just watch, they will). If so, then get rid of all the underperforming “talent” and be the 76ers of MLS. Tank the season, trade for more draft picks next three years… AND LOWER TICKET PRICES JAY FOR ALL THOSE THAT HAVE SUFFERED THE PAST 8 SEASONS!!!! We are a USL , developmental club for other REAL MLS team! Just admit it!

      … and we all know Jay’s gonna do it, so just do it… sell Blake to EPL or Bundes for $10m. Jay, you know you’re gonna do it, so JUST DO IT! You can always find other loc al fans to fill that ridiculous placed (FREE LAND!) stadium.

      Just do it!

      In Earnie we trust.
      August 27, 2016

      • I hear eating your Wheaties helps.

      • Posts like this are why I’m glad we don’t have a call in show after the games.
        Why would you tank a whole season in MLS? The Sixers are basically hoping to get the basketball equivalent of Pulisic in the draft. You’re not getting anyone near that quality in the MLS Draft.

      • pragmatist says:

        ^This. Basketball is a very unique creature. My (admittedly extreme) argument is based on the assumption that you are clearing space, but roster and cap, to start over again with new talent. But it doesn’t come from the draft.

  4. .KR Gooch RM RG
    . DJ JE
    .AB Ilsinho/RA CP/epps/FP
    . CJ
    I haven’t seen any real reason to keep deploying HM. Yes, he is a general, yes he is pointing and talking and dropping deep. Yes he can drop dimes now and again. Sadly though his mobility and one-footed-ness (that’s a word right?) combined with scouting reports are dooming him to be ineffective offensively.
    I think Elliot showed pretty well when he came in for Marquez and from what I’ve read he is impressing at the 6 with BS.
    I’d like to see Bedoya wide; I don’t think I’m alone in this. He natural tendency to shift wide and forward would make him a better version of the target winger that we have used in the past.
    Alberg is a mystery this season so I put him at 10, but really take your pick between him for Ilson Jr.
    on the opposite wing from Bedoya it’t up in the air: Pontius needs a proper 10 before I drop him to the bench. Epps showed well in preseason. Whatever is going on with Fafa i don’t know. Maybe Ochocinco offended Curtin at some point in his life…?

    • I like pretty much all of this except Elliot and Jones is going to give you almost no o from your central midfield. You gotta keep Medunjanin or Bedoya there, but I agree to wanting Bedoya outside. I think Gooch should be replaced by Elliot though because he’s killing Rosenberry.

      • I’m just wondering where all the Gooch defenders from the preseason went? Too slow and a liability? Yup.

      • I don’t think he’s a bad option for a backup CB.

      • Except he’s not a backup now. When he’s playing every game, that’s a starter. Quoting myself…”If Gooch plays significant minutes this year, something has gone horribly wrong.”…Yup again. And don’t throw in the Yaro being injured, cause if you didn’t realize there was a good chance he’d be injured this year too, then I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.

      • While I didn’t think Yaro would play in every game this year, I certainly didn’t think he’d miss 3 months of the season.
        We have no width on the right because our RB can’t get forward AND our right mid is immobile (Ilson) or not dominant enough to go it alone (Herbers)

      • I totally agree, but they also have to stop babying Gooch. Let him deal with fitting into our style if he’s the starter. If it was a 1 game thing than whatever, but it’s not.

      • From my perspective, with as much time as Yaro missed last season, with concussions or shoulder issues, they should have known that playing 34 games this season would be difficult for him. Especially being undersized as he is. His speed and ability in the back line covered a lot of deficiencies this team had last year. To get a back up that hadn’t played in two years with injuries and was never fast to begin with, is just criminal. If they wanted him to teach the young guys, fine, make him a coach. I’d be fine if he were the 3rd or 4th option, as long as he never saw the field.

      • Which brings up another question:
        How many “injury prone” players can be reasonably included on a roster restricted by both a player limit and a salary cap?

      • I have him there because Yaro isn’t back yet. Once Yaro is fit Gooch would be the back up.

  5. el Pachyderm says:

    My response to your thesis…just pulled on over.
    el Pachyderm April 11, 2017 at 8:59 am
    funny the difference between thinking and knowing…for a few weeks we’ve talked about formation changes here and I thought they would be helpful but last night I woke up in the middle of the night… knowing if Jim Curtin inverted Ilsinho and put him on the left of a flat 4-4-2 moved Bedoya to the 8 with HM and DJ and used permutations of Simpson, Sapong and Alberg up top with Fafa Picault and Herbers as subs this team is all of a sudden completely dangerous….
    I also am certain without making this formation tweak, the manager is likely to lose standing within the organization.
    A then commented:: So basically how we ended last game?
    el Pachyderm April 11, 2017 at 9:36 am
    Pretty much…but a key part of it IMO is Ilsinho being on the left because there will not be a true 10 so the most creative guy on the field needs to be able to cut in on the ball and start pulling people out of position.
    This allows KR to stay home a bit for OO and provides offensive and defensive cover on the right with Ale.
    Like this team makes an ascent up the table knowing it. All of a sudden scoring opportunities abounding solid defending knowing it.
    Like knowing it in my bones..kind of knowing.
    This is the only way I see the manager surviving…showing a willingness to adapt to an obvious, at least IMO and many others, formation change which allows individual cells to suitably benefit the entirety of the organism.
    He makes this change I believe he saves his job.

  6. Old Soccer Coach. says:

    Dan, do remember that Adam Najem’s gaudy statistics from Saturday came against a ten man side after the 24th minute that had sacrificed the most creative player out of their central channel to preserve their threats on the flanks.
    That decision meant Najem and Jack Elliott faced less resistance in the center than normal, suggesting caution in evaluating results, there were only two central channel midfielders, not three, and cincy’s attack pattern – long to the wings – tended to pull McGlaughlin and Dacres wide, away from central channel defense.
    The technical staff see Najem practice everyday, remember, too.
    Different topic, in re Curtin, in yesterday’s auto da fe in the comment section of Peter Andrews’ article, nobody remembers who made the decision that has been the best one of the year so far, Derrick Jones.
    The man made the Jones decision after seeing it in action twice in preseason. 1. Credit him with its boldness, please. 2. How do we get him experimental opportunities that do not threaten points in the standings? Do Italian clubs have the equivalents in in-season friendlies to test stuff? Psychologically the man seems risk averse. Head coaches in my experience have often tended in that direction. Not everyone is Admiral Farragut at Mobile Bay in 1864. “Damn the Torpedoes,” etc.

    • Old Soccer Coach. says:

      McGlaughlin and Dacres were the flank maids. Quinn and Walker were the remaining two central channel minds after Weideman was taken off for Nicholson’s replacement in the back.

    • Its not a matter of statistics for Najem, or Elliot for that matter, its how they played agains 11 or 10. Just because the technical staff sees someone in training every day doesn’t mean they will get a sniff because of Curtin’s reluctance to change anything. His competition for all jobs has quickly gone down the drain, just look at the lineups he has run out so far.

    • I can’t give much credit to Curtin over the Jones decision. The kid played better than the C+C factory so there wasn’t much of a decision to make. This idea that there is courage in playing the better player, even if they might be young/er, is just ludicrous. There’s no courage there. It’s just doing what’s right for the team. It’d be idiotic if he didn’t start a better player because they were young/er.

    • The technical staff saw Marquez every day in practice too but kept him on the bench till they had no choice but to do otherwise.

      Najem was a good enough prospect as a homegrown that he could hold out and force a trade rather than sign with NYRB. Not sure any homegrown player has ever done that before in MLS history.

      I’m not going to hang myself on a Najem argument. The overall point is there are bench guys who have shown well in limited appearances — Epps, Picault, Elliott — AND, certainly in the case of Onyewu/Elliott, there appears to be a potentially better option than the one trotting out every game. While it’d be nice to give Epps 90 minutes a game for a season in Bethlehem, he impressed in preseason and could potentially be ready for MLS now.

  7. QuillosMyCat says:

    > Had two players in front of Richie Marquez not gotten hurt during his second season, Marquez would not have sniffed the starting lineup under Curtin. Consider that for a moment.

    > Najem was widely considered the best player in college soccer less than a year ago. He is 22 – i.e. not a kid. Let’s see whether he’s a No. 10 or No. 8 – or nothing – at this level.


  8. Benjaminho says:

    Dan, did you really just use Tata Martino’s tactical guile as a benchmark to compare Curtin too?? C’mon man. Not a fair comparison for any coach in this league.

  9. How about lets start by playing Bedoya in his best position. He is definitely not a number 10 and we have a glut of wingers. Its mind boggling that so many people want to deploy him elsewhere. He is a #8 in a 4-2-3-1 or flat 4-4-2,or also a shuttler in a diamond. Play him anywhere else and you are wasting your money. I love Derrick Jones but playing your highest paid player out of position to accommodate young talent is fool hardy at best.

    • Honestly, I don’t feel we should play him as an 8 unless it is as a shuttler in a three man midfield.

    • Collin Deckert says:

      Medunajnin also has created the most chances in the league, although I question his defensive ability, he can still create. He needs someone next to him thats a ball winner #6

  10. Have an obligation for this Friday and won’t be making much effort to catch any of the game. Curtin’s marquee stagnation will prevail until his departure from the club.

    Edit: All your suggestions sound nice. Change sounds nice. It just won’t happen.

  11. Roland Orzabal says:

    You walked in to the room
    I just had to laugh
    The face you wore was cool
    You were a photograph

    When it’s all too late
    It’s all too late

    I did not have the time
    I did not have the nerve
    To ask you how you feel
    Is this what you deserve

    When it’s all too late
    It’s all too late

    You can change
    You can change

    And something on your mind
    Became a point of view
    I lost your honesty
    You lost the life in you

    When it’s all too late
    It’s all too late

    We walk and talk in time
    I walk and talk in two
    Where does the end of me
    Become the start of you

    When it’s all too late
    It’s all too late

    You can change
    You can change

    What has happened to
    The friend that I once knew
    Has he gone away

    When it’s all too late
    It’s all too late

    You can change
    You can change

  12. Adam Schorr says:

    You know, when you lay out the formation options, it’s really hard to come to any conclusion other than “Earnie really failed miserably at putting together a coherent, cohesive, talented roster”. Not only are we short on talent, but we’re short on variety. I posted the 2011 Union roster comparison on here in another thread, but what stood out to me going through it was the variety of players. There was skill. There was speed. There was defense. Some of those guys may not have been super-talented, but each had a role they could fill, and they were *different* roles. Having Jack Mac, Roger Torres, Keon Daniel, and Amobi Okugo on the bench meant that there were different options for different circumstances. On the road, they could insert Daniel and Okugo into the lineup. Chasing goals, they could go to Mac and Torres (and Freddy Aduuuuuu).

    Look at their gameday 18 from this week: http://matchcenter.mlssoccer.com/matchcenter/2017-04-08-philadelphia-union-vs-portland-timbers/lineup. Let’s say Curtin wants to make a change. He has depressingly little to work with. Epps/Fafa are the only players who bring a significantly different element to the table. Of course, therein lies the problem with Curtin – he has two players who could really make a potential difference in style and neither of them can get on the field.
    Curtin obviously needs to go, but as far as I’m concerned, Earnie can go as well. His tenure here has been nothing short of abysmal. This isn’t a money thing. It’s been covered in a few places, but the Union aren’t even the lowest spending team in the league. The money is being spent really poorly by Earnie, that’s all.

    • And that includes Earnie being helped by young players that were not fully if at all aquired by Earnie (Herbers, Yaro, Rosenberry, Jones). I still believe in Earnie because he’s shown he can do it in the past (maybe the dutch league is too different?) and it’s hard to know a ton about the players brought in this year yet, but man, it’s hard to say he’s really improved this team.

    • I’m finding it harder to argue that Stewart isn’t a problem too. Though I will say that Edu and Bedoya are the biggest wastes of money on the team, and they aren’t on Stewart. Edu is continually the savior that never sees the field and arguably doesn’t even have a position on this team any more. Even when he did play it was mostly not in his preferred position, which he may not have fit in, in the first place. The money spent on Bedoya to play in D-mid or on the wing is just illogical, being that either/both position(s) could be argued as strengths for this team. How this organization can justify spending 1.7-1.9 million on a defensive position in MLS is beyond me.
      The more I think about this team and Stewart, the more it really does seem like he wanted his own guy to begin with. He came to understand he wouldn’t with Jim here. So basically he gave Jim what he wanted and let him fail at it. Knowing all along it would fail. Part of me hopes this is right because the other option means Stewart is terrible at player evaluation so far.

      • I don’t think Bedoya is a waste of money, but playing him out of his best position certainly is.

      • Ok maybe not a waste, but how about misallocated funds?

      • Agreed. They really just want a national team player. Which is why they went for Edu and Bedoya. I can see the appeal but it means nothing to me personally.

    • “Of course, therein lies the problem with Curtin – he has two players who could really make a potential difference in style and neither of them can get on the field.”

      So you find the answer to the question of “what’s wrong with this team?” through process of elimination, with the first step being the elimination of Jim Curtin. If a better manager fails to make much of the roster, we can begin to better judge Stewart’s skill at team building. Right now, I have insufficient evidence to grade Stewart.

    • Pretty much, re: your first sentence, but Steve Whisler stole my column Friday. 😉 I wanted to write this week, and then Peter stole the rest of my column. So … here’s what I got.

    • el Pachyderm says:

      now people are clamoring for Earnie Stewart to go. Only in Philadelphia.
      Truly. Only in Philadelphia.
      Let’s first figure out if its the manager before ostracizing the sporting director, who while not perfect thus far did put together a PLAYOFF team last season.

      • Zizouisgod says:

        Spot on.

      • I’m not calling for Earnie to leave but he’s not brought in great players so far. And how many of his additions made us a playoff team. Earnie gets not credit for the playoff run last year in my mind. Honestly getting rid of Le Toux probably made us worse last year.

      • El Pachy – I am not on the ES must go wagon. But with all due respect I must point out a major contradiction on your point here. You are the champion of “play well” over stumbling into a low-end playoff spot as a metric for this team’s progression. (I agree for most part). The on-field play has been pathetic for how many games in a row? And only getting worse. There must be accountability somewhere. The two biggest reasons we snuck into the playoffs last year (beside Blake) were Nogueira and Barnetta. Not ES guys. They are gone, replaced by his guys in is formation, and the end product is worse. We can argue the reason is Curtin’s management or ES evaluations/acquisitions. I believe Curtin should be replaced and ES given a chance to get his guy. But he has to get that right, because after JC goes its all on ES.

      • el Pachyderm says:

        My playoff comment each time is for sarcasm.
        Sorry. Figured that was a given with me. 🙂
        that said, i really believe when he came here he thought. Hey alright. I got a solid distributor in Noguiera and a really solid midfielder in Barnetta… we’re pretty tidy… now if I can fix this and this, we may be pretty good….
        I do not at all account for the Sporting Director figuring he would have to replace both of his best players this offseason.

      • Fair enough. And my bad, sarcasm radar must be failing today! Should’ve known better. 🙂

  13. Not sure why we are continuing to talk about Ilson Jr as the most creative guy on the field anymore either. Yes he is good at running at people and wrongfooting them, but because everyone in the league knows that, as often as not, the next defender slides in and takes the ball before he does anything productive with it. Alberg’s had his chances, be he is really just a poacher with an awesome shot who offers no defense and no creative movement. Pontius is a true porfessional but in offensive slump and fighting the age/speed battle we all lose eventuality. The whole team looks so slow – which equals not dangerous.
    Would love to see the 4-4-2 diamond midfield like Dan said, but we don’t have a #10, so maybe flat 4 but with speed and workrate on the wings. Drop Pontius back to solve Fabinho problem. So he cant tackle as well – that’s more than made up for by being smart with the ball and getting defensive angles right.

    Ronseberry, Elliot, Marquez, Pontius
    Bedoya, Mendunjanin, Jones, Picault
    CJ, Simpson

    Defend first, then have 4 real threats to counter with speed, and have two strikers with complementary skills to play off each other. Also frees up Rosenberry to start bombing down the right flank again.

    Other possibility would be to go midfield diamond with Najem, but seriously doubt Curtin would change that much. If Najem sees the field as a starter suspect it would be in existing formation as #10.

    • I’m on board with everything you said except for the Pontius bit. He may look a lot better under a new formation or if he can get better service on the right.

  14. pragmatist says:

    We have an article explaining why it’s time to hold Curtin accountable.
    We have an article explaining why it’s time to hold Stewart accountable.
    Where the article holding ownership accountable?

    • Adam Schorr says:

      While the Union were on the low end of the salary scale last year, they were not so far off the pace that ownership can be blamed. And since then, they’ve spent to bring in Bedoya, Simpson, Medunjanin, etc. They’ve upgraded practice fields and the Academy. Is ownership perfect? No. But I can’t put any blame on ownership for bringing in a real Sporting Director and giving him roughly the same budget as about half the league.

      • Pretty solid points. And ownership was pretty responsive in getting rid of Sak. Maybe it should have happened earlier, but it’s tough to get rid of a guy who was really not an employee but a founding owner. I get that people want to take shots wide and far at anyone with any authority over this club, but that just really complicates what most of us all know is a relatively simple problem. We have a manager who is too stubborn to change, (or doesn’t believe it, is afraid of it, whatever). At this moment, he’s accountable for this run of poor results. If he continues to insist on the same formation and lineup — and EVERYTHING he’s done since he first became manager suggests he will — than the answer is simple: Replace him with someone who has more experience and tactical know how. Bob Bradley is intriguing, but I think he is likely too big a name and therefore very unlikely to land in Chester. This club needs a good, experienced manager who can get this team playing with a real game plan and organization. I think a Gio Savarese is a comparable I’m looking at. Also, Earnie probably knows some good Dutch managers who would make a go at it. Curtin is not going to change his approach and therefore the club needs to change managers.

      • Pragmatist says:

        I was looking at those articles as academic exercises, of sorts. I think it would be interesting to examine the interest of ownership, their view for the future, and how much capital they actually have available.
        We have argued before that the top players may cost $2M-$6M/year or more. Are we capable of reaching those heights, based on money available?
        I know Ritchie Graham is involved more, but does he have money to spend?
        And did Sugarman really want to be involved in the first place? Or was he convinced to join the league by Sak and Garber?
        Just an interesting exploration of the state of our ownership.

      • I think you miss the point, in a Ryan Howard low breaking ball kind of way.
        Sugarman has made the absolute minimum table stakes investment every step of the way. They threw some sod over a parking lot. The “Academy ” is a Richie Graham production with an equity swap to give the Union affiliation. These were separate swim lanes until they merged, tough to give Jay credit.
        There’s no infrastructure in the FO for scouting other than Albright, a guy still learning (?) on the job. They utilize unpaid interns that churn over every year for almost everything. Have you noticed you get a new ticket rep every year? What does 80% turnover in staff say about management?
        Earnie doesn’t have the “same budget” as half the league. We spent $1M on buying Ale and his $600k over budget salary. Otherwise we use TAM/GAM to get everyone else onto the MLS budget. We try to draft GA players to not pay them at all. Every possible loophole to not use actual hard currency is pursued. That’s on one man.

      • I think you overstate a lot of what other clubs have because you are not as familiar with them. While I am not either, I don’t think most clubs have been infrastructure than us or these huge scouting networks.

    • Check back later for that column.

      (We didn’t plan this as a series. Peter is often at his best when writing in response to another column.)

  15. Sit Fabinho & Gooch. Move Pontius back, start Elliot, switch Bedoya and Ilson, Jr. Simpson or Alberg start.
    Curtin has to stop playing for 1-0 wins.

  16. The Chopper says:

    Simple equation.
    Jim Curtin doesn’t have a lot to work with. Jim Curtin doesn’t get the most out of what he has.

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