Fans' View

Fans’ View: The Union season ticketholders’ town hall meeting

Editor’s note: For those who don’t know Staci Klemmer, she’s an absolute champ, and when she volunteered to write for Fans’ View a couple of years ago, PSP jumped for joy. She busted tail last week to write this account of Thursday’s town hall meeting for season ticketholders, and due to an oversight, we didn’t run the post Friday, when it was ready to go. We’re running it today.

A wise man once said to me, “You can’t force the words, they just need to flow.”

I have spent the last two hours staring at my computer screen trying to put into words the season ticket holder’s Town Hall meeting last night at the stadium.

Do I go with the facts, just lay it all out there from my notes? Do I interpret what I feel like are the important bits? Do I set up sections: this is what Earnie said, Jim said, what the questions were?

I have decided to go with a stream of consciousness, so please bear with me.

The message

Lots of folks last night. Close to 130 season ticket holders came to the club on a Thursday night to hear Earnie and Jim talk about the vision for the club. It’s a speech that I have heard often. We heard it at our fan council meeting on May 2nd. I read it in Earnie’s press conference last week.

Here is the condensed version:

We (the Union) have a plan, a system, and a vision. We are finding players that fit in this. We are building a foundation with young players. If we see a DP that fits into our vision, then we will get him. We are not going to change our system/formation/plan just for change’s sake. Players have roles within the system, and we want them to execute them every game. When that happens, we will be successful. Trust the plan, system, vision.

That’s it. That’s what I took from the two and a half hour meeting.

Earnie spoke passionately — about the players, the fans, and his vision. About the foundation that we have in Blake, Rosenberry, Elliott, Yaro, Jones and Bedoya. He wants players that have that passion — that are willing to dare to make mistakes and have the confidence to know that’s okay.

He says if you are only coming to see us win, he’s sorry, but don’t come. He can’t guarantee that’s going to happen every time.

He can only promise that he will do everything in his power to provide us with a team that will compete every single time. That he will find players with the passion and talent of Bedoya.

What he will not do is go out and spend a lot of money to get a DP that doesn’t fit in our system. Not going to happen. He believes that players like Yaro and Jones will be the DPs of the future.

He is aware that we need to beef up our scouting team so that we can find undervalued players, and that is a priority of his for the immediate future.

Jim Curtin spoke about what happens within the team to get to that place. Each player is given specific responsibilities — three offensive and three defensive. The club is working to develop a culture/identity that will permeate throughout the organization — game day, during training, off field. He is fiercely protective of his players — both he and Earnie mentioned instilling confidence in the players and a willingness to play the young players — allowing them to grow within the system.

Bedoya also had a turn with the mic and said repeatedly how happy he was to be here, that he always wanted to be here. He feels the team is going in the right direction and that we should know that he and the other players are just as frustrated as we are with the results.

After they spoke, the floor was opened for questions. They ranged from offensive positioning on corner kicks, to the diversity of the fan base, to who was Bedoya’s least favorite team/player to compete against.

On tar and feathers

I have to say, I was expecting tar and feathers, pitchforks and torches, but it wasn’t like that. It was three men, laying out a vision and asking us as fans to have faith in the system.

And before I get tarred and feathered — here’s why I drink the Kool-aid:

The Union are my team. Good, bad or ugly.

All I ask is that the players, coaches and FO show the same passion on the field that I bring as a fan. That I see a plan in place, where everyone in the organization is on the same page, moving towards the same goal.

There will be good years and bad years. Players and coaches will come and go. But I will be there. Every game. For the next 30+ years.

20 Comments

  1. el Pachyderm says:

    Vision.
    Philosophy.
    Plan.
    .

  2. Academy players are our DPs… paid with TAM (league money)… Come on!

    .

    This ownership is not serious about competing. Sugarman is following his real estate script: buy and hold.

  3. Unionjacq says:

    Good analysis of the evening. I too was there. I expected the fans’ questions to be more softballs, but they were not. It was not pitch forks and bonfires but more pleas from the fans to get this franchise going in the right direction as we want to the Union become a big part of the Philly sports scene, and not see professional soccer failures of days past. Wins on the pitch will make that happen.

    I thought the fans got their message across to the Union and credit Ernie, Jim & Alejandro for not being defensive or saying we are wrong. More than once did they say how frustrated they were with the poor start of the season.

    I was most impressed with Ernie’s passion for his vision, plan, philosophy and willingness to stay the course when many (including myself) thought changes to the coaching after the poor start to the season were needed. For that I am choosing to trust the process.

  4. Good recap. I left thinking that it’s almost impossible to imagine Earnie firing Curtin and equally impossible to imagine Curtin making any moves not blessed in advance by Earnie. Not sure that’s a good thing, but that is definitely how it seems to be.

    If you think that Philly is a small (soccer) market team or that Jay Sugarman has, and will always have, a limited financial commitment to the team, you left feeling good that this group has a plan and a passion that will make the most of the Union’s lot.

    If you think that Philly deserves to be as big and badass as any other club in MLS, you left disappointed, because that is not even remotely on the club’s agenda.

  5. scottymac says:

    I envy your belief.
    .
    I do not share it.
    .
    How many kids need to be in the academy at the U17/U15/U13/U11 levels today to generate 1 MLS ready player? 20? 50? 100? How many kids need to be swirled about the pan until that shiny gold nugget of a DP worthy player emerges? 100? 500? 1000?
    .
    So….to field a team of academy products requires a tremendous pool of kids to be enrolled. Today. Right now, Mom’s cutting orange slices, c’mon Timmy, we’re off to the academy. And if Timmy is the DP kid we’ve been waiting for, he’s 1 in a 1000. And little Joey and Jimmy down the street make 3 in 3000. That’s an awful lot of kids.
    .
    But 8 years in and they’re just now identifying the need to hire a couple of scouts? If this is a plan, they need to be introduced to the term “waterfall dependency”.

    • el Pachyderm says:

      It will be interesting to see how long the litmus strip is until MLS Academies begin producing and thereby selling players on the transfer market. Is it possible a player like a Jack Harrison could be the norm in a few years. Is it possible a Jack Harrison could be a DP?
      .
      So very intriguing what this all looks like in 15 years.
      .
      I have my doubts, but then I also wonder if these guys see and know something none of us do… i’ve talked to some europeans ‘in the know’ and they swear MLS is going to explode.
      .
      I do stand by my belief solidarity and training comp is on its way AND I think once that occurs ALL bets are off. I do continue to come back to the issue of where do all these talented academy players deciding to go on a ‘Pro Route’ when they all wind up playing in a country with only 24 first teams in MLS.
      .
      This then all brings me back to a model a guy like Barroldinho argues for on Twitter…. having an nearly 80 team first tier divided into four 20 team regions each as its own entity. This at least provides many more outlets to first team play which IMO is a major necessity. Maybe Union are a selling MLS team. I’d be okay with that to be honest…
      .
      By the way, I read a good article the other day from a mom who made an argument about the ‘Soccer Mom’ narrative as trite, overused and passe and how it pisses her off and its time to stop saying it. Interesting POV.
      .

  6. pragmatist says:

    I think we need to stop focusing on a single area of what was said. He absolutely wants to develop youth, but there was also the immediate need of improved scouting to bring in better players. Those are not academy guys. And if you believe them (I know faith is not in great supply these days), they say they will sign a DP that fits the team and the plan.
    .
    But every team in the league needs to fill 28 roster spots, and 18 game day spots. It would be best to have the bottom 10-15 be homegrown kids from your Academy, with the top 10-15 being players who are capable of getting looks (at least) from their national teams, or who have serious pedigree.
    .
    And I think everyone needs to stop thinking of “DP” as meaning Kaka or Giovinco.
    https://www.mlssoccer.com/glossary/designated-player
    We have 2 of those guys. And all signs point to Mo not being here next year. So you look for a like-for-like salary replacement, but that means ~$1M, not ~$7M.
    .
    We’re not signing Ibra, or Chicharito, or Balotelli, etc. But maybe we can set up a scouting network to find an Almiron, or Allessandrini.
    .
    Like Staci said, “The Union are my team. Good, bad or ugly.” I’m not going anywhere. I’ll complain when they are in the tank, but I still think this is Year 2 of a full rebuild. Hopefully the new guys are finding their footing after the past 2 games and we are seeing the fruits of their labor.

  7. Andy Muenz says:

    Thanks for posting this, Staci (and for the responses from those who were there). While I had a great time on vacation last week, the one disappointment was missing the town hall.

  8. Adam Cann says:

    This was great, Staci.

  9. OneManWolfpack says:

    Like many of you, I am Founding Member. Unlike some of you, I am fairly accepting of the longer term vision of the academy, youth, development, etc. However, the sacrificing of the first team, by not spending money well, by not signing a real impact player, etc. is no longer acceptable. As a fan base we have suffered long enough with this franchise.
    .
    The idea that because we are going the way of the feeder, academy based team – means we can’t (or won’t) spend money on the first team to compete for a Cup – are not mutually exclusive (I think I used that term correctly?) We can spend some money, be competitive, and develop youth all at the same time. We can. It’s not one or the other.
    .
    Sorry to rant… excellent post Staci… love reading your stuff

  10. Thanks Staci! Great article!

  11. First of all thank you Staci for your report.
    .
    From what Staci has written, the meeting was nothing more than what I expected. Honestly it seems like it was just a bunch of hand holding and reassurances. More of what’s been said already and a promise to keep the ship sailing over the next horizon. Yippee! (oh so sarcastic) So basically no recognition that the SD has made bad choices to fill out this roster. No promise to compete as the 4th largest market in the country. A promise to get every once of value from every dollar spent, though they haven’t been good at that so far. Just wonderful.
    .
    “He says if you are only coming to see us win, he’s sorry, but don’t come. He can’t guarantee that’s going to happen every time.” …Really? I understand not being able to win every game, but this just screams that they really don’t care if they do. Some of you can talk VPP all you want but when did sports teams in this country start out by aiming to be mediocre? Seriously? And some of you are ok with this? How far we have fallen. How disgusted I am with just the CONCEPT of such a thing. Please, if you’ve fallen for this line of crap, don’t EVER use Philly in conjunction with anything this team does. No Philly tough, or Philly work ethic. None of it. This team doesn’t represent My Philly at all. It’s a slur to use the Philly label with this team.

    • el Pachyderm says:

      http://www.topdrawersoccer.com/the91stminute/2017/05/how-each-mls-club-strives-and-struggles-to-find-authentic-identity/
      .
      .
      A bit of a rebuttal to your point. Will can annoy me at points but I think this is a pretty solid article with a sound POV.
      .
      I am most certainly not okay with being mediocre… by the way as I am unsure if that was a barb in my direction.
      .
      To my way of thinking I think Earnie Stewart is trying to express he is aiming to build something ‘more than a club’ that uses wins and loses as it only metric for success. At no point have I ever heard him say, we are not trying to win. What I hear him saying is, “I have a vision for the phialldehia Union as a whole entity that goes beyond whether we win or lose. I admire this as much as i admire Athletico Madrid supports singing LONG after being defeated by Real Madrid the way I admire bayern fans singing in the upper echelons of the away stadium LONG after being defeated the way I see South Americans in train stations singing songs LONG after the final whistle in defeat.”
      .
      If you argue for a wins are the only thing that matter, I’m sorry.
      .
      This is anything BUT being mediocre. this is culture Earnie Stewart is trying to build. May take awhile. May be maddening. But in the end I think we will all be very proud, so long as it is not only about wins and losses.
      .
      JUST
      PLAY
      WELL.

      • Was it a shot at you personally? No, not at all. Was it a shot at VPP being the end all be all, and more important than winning MLS cup, you’re damn right it was. I did not start supporting this team so they could be happy with being a feeder club. I did not start supporting this team so it could be happy being a stop on a player’s CV, rather than a destination. If they want to be a minor league team so badly, just sell the Chester Union and concentrate on BSFC. Do I care if a Union player plays for the national team? Not one Iota if the Union aren’t competing for a cup. You mean spending your hard earned cash on supporting a team that is ok with finishing anywhere from top to bottom is fine with you? Not me. Is winning the only thing? No, but it beats what comes second. I don’t get the point of playing if you don’t play to win. Sorry, it doesn’t compute. File missing. 404 ERROR. If this team’s greatest ambition is to grow players so other teams can take advantage of them, then no thanks. Sugarman can take his get rich scheme and shove it up his ass.
        .
        To the guy who left to support Atlanta, good for you dude, you saw this joke of an organization, for what it was. You may just be the smartest person in the room.

    • From other reports I’ve read, there was some humility on display, as well as the party line that is reported here… and quite rightly, for a team that had mustered a single win (at that time) over the previous 16 games. Like Earnie recognizing that the fanbase had been long-suffering since Day 1, that he seemed not to be aware of (?). Maybe that would make you feel a little better.

      And as someone who has ‘tarred and feathered’ in the past, much respect to Staci for the time and passion she expends on this team. I would argue, though, that being a die hard fan doesn’t mean you have to accept underachievement.

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