Commentary / Union

Should we feel better now that the Union have won?

Photo by 215pix

Finally, a Union win! That means everything will be better from here out. Right?


The optimistic side wants to see this as the Union finally turning a corner and living up to expectations. There are talented players on this team. In fact, there are a lot of them. Maybe not the flashy kind of talent you see on NYC FC or Toronto, but talent nonetheless. C.J. Sapong has tied his scoring record for last season and is tied for first with Cubo Torres in the Golden Boot Race. Despite Yaro getting injured and Marquez getting sick, the back line hasn’t completely collapsed, due in part to performances from Jack Elliott and Oguchi Onyewu that have exceeded expectations.

The lineup that faced Red Bull on Saturday was largely unchanged from the one that flailed helplessly to an 0-4-4 start. Two of the changes, Picault for Ilsinho and Onyewu for Marquez, were motivated by player illness rather than an attempt to address anything on the field. The only choice that even looked tactical was Ray Gaddis keeping his starting spot over Keegan Rosenberry.

For the first two-thirds of the game, play didn’t seem significantly different from the 15 winless games that went before it. Play was disorganized and uninspired, and every good chance the Union created was easily shut down by New York’s Luis Robles.

But in the 63rd minute, something unprecedented happened: Jim Curtin went to the bench early. Keegan Rosenberry got subbed on for the injured Ray Gaddis, and Derrick Jones replaced the winded Roland Alberg. This moved Bedoya back to the No. 10 spot. If that sounds familiar it’s because that’s the same position Bedoya played for the first few games of the year while Alberg returned to match fitness.

However, this time it kind of worked. The fresh legs on the field were able to better spread New York’s tired defense, and a lucky deflection put Sapong’s shot just beyond Robles’ reach. Then, in the 81st minute Fabian Herbers contributed to a second Sapong goal just three minutes after getting subbed on for Picault. Granted, the final goal was a PK, but a hat trick is a hat trick and in one game Sapong scored almost half as many goals as he did in all of last season.

So is everything better in Chester?

Should we feel confident in the team’s ability to get results going forward?


The changes that lead to this win were not a sudden tactical breakthrough. They weren’t caused by one of our players finding their form. They weren’t caused by any active decision made by anyone on the field. The players are no better. Jim Curtin is no more willing to adapt than he was a week ago.

It is possible that staying the course will finally start paying dividends, but it is far more likely that, if the Union continue to try the same thing week after week, they will continue to get the same disappointing results.


  1. Chris Gibbons says:

    All true, and yet it’s amazing what a few lucky bounces will do for a team’s confidence.

    • In both directions. Last years early run was lucky, this years early run is unlucky. Things have a way of reverting back to the mean. We shouldn’t feel confident going forward, but we also shouldn’t feel the negativity the end of this article suggests.

      • I really don’t feel that last year’s run was lucky. With Nogs in there, we controlled the pace and flow of nearly game.

      • And counted on Blake bailing up out like 4 times a game and Pontius popping up outta nowhere and never missing. It was lucky, even if some of us making some of our own luck.
        This year there have been games when Blake wasn’t superman. And when we missed the 1 golden opportunity that we didn’t last year.

  2. pragmatist says:

    A few years back, the PGA changed the rules of the Skins Game they play on Thanksgiving weekend with a deserved short-lived experiment. In order to actually win a hole, you had to “Validate” it by winning the next hole, as well. If you didn’t validate the hole, it went back into the mix and anyone could claim the previous hole.
    A long explanation, but it’s my way of saying that I am waiting for the Union to “Validate” last week’s win. If they can’t follow it up with something positive, we’re all going to go right back to our previous mental state with this team.
    The question is, what is “something positive?” Playing on the road against a capable team in crappy weather. Is a well-played draw enough? (For me, yes…but it requires the “well-played” part.)

    • Exactly. I am currently off the cliff of despair, because we have @DC, Houston, Colorado, and @RSL coming up. 3 of those 4 teams are as bad, if not worse than us and the Houston game is midweek so they may try to rest some players.
      However, if the team doesn’t get AT LEAST 5 or 6 points in those games, I’m going to go supernova because any shot at the playoffs is basically gone. At that point, I really don’t care if they make a big midseason signing unless they are making a run in the Open Cup.

      • OneManWolfpack says:

        Agreed. A point this weekend followed by at least a win and a draw (2 wins is ideal, obviously) and you will have turned it around. You can go from 7 points to anywhere between 12-16 with a good 2 weeks… against beatable teams

      • Sad thing is that if all of that happens we really haven’t turned it around, we’ve just given ourselves a chance to get hot and make the playoffs. Get some points and we can go from “historically bad” and improve to “pretty low on the table”.

      • pragmatist says:

        We’re 4 points from a playoff spot. A lot can change in the course of 4 games.
        I’m not saying we should expect 12 points from the 4 games, I’m saying the narrative can turn quickly.
        Plus, let’s see what other teams go through. Anything’s possible…

  3. el Pachyderm says:

    A game? One win?
    Not on your life. Didn’t even play well.

  4. Yes/No. Yes because they won a game. No because this is still the Union. Celebrate the victory by all means but we demand and deserve more. This team sits in the 2nd largest market in the eastern USA and a top 4/5 in the country. It makes no sense that this organization is what it is and that this fan base(in my opinion) is expected to be patient and trust another “process!” Sorry not good enough! Not anymore! The summer transfer should show us how serious this organization is about turning things around. They won a game before the “Town Meeting.” I hope it will at least be frank and honest. I hope the Union aren’t allowed to just filibuster. I hope there will be tough questions,opinions and well reasoned push back from the supporters. I for one would like the Union’s version of “Money Ball” tossed out of the window. It doesn’t work in today’s MLS.

  5. should we feel happy? no. as philadelphians we must remain unhappy in the face of a positive event

    • agree, we really owe it to the city and to the nation, otherwise, who are we? if we wanted to be happy we’d move someplace else

      • pragmatist says:

        Like Florida. They don’t get upset about anything, outside of college football.

  6. Well, the win certainly feels better than if it had been another loss. But I don’t think anyone is getting excited that this team will race up the ladder in May. I don think there is a chance the Union can string some results together over the next month or two. As poor as they’ve been, I don’t think the team is any worse than New England, Montreal, or DC, and I think it has enough quality that it could get results against Chicago, Red Bull (again), Columbus and Atlanta. If the team has a transfer in them once the summer window opens, it might even manage to get into one of those final playoff spots. They’ve signed good players the last two summers (Barnetta and Bedoya), so there’s no reason to think another is completely out of the question. I’m done fretting about it. This team is what it is and I don’t have expectations. Just gonna watch.

  7. SilverRey says:

    Some good some bad. After the 75th minute we should have been down 2-1. They had two absolute sitters around the time that Sapong scored his first that we totally lucked out on.

    That being said, SAPONG SCORED A HAT TRICK!!!!
    I’m very happy about that!

  8. THE EARLY SUBS HELPED WIN THE GAME! If Curtin stays on as coach he has got to change his M.O. Making subs so late doesn’t give the players enough time to find a rhythm. If we are not winning at the half, then a new field player should be coming on for the START of the second half. EVERYONE on the field should know that if the the team can’t put the ball in the back of the net, THEY might be subbed out. Fresh legs and a fresh attitude will help us win.

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