Fans' View

Fans’ View: It’s not all bad

Photo by Paul Rudderow

Those of you who have read my other posts will have noticed that I’m a bit of an optimist in regards to the Union.

While everyone else is lamenting another sub-par season and criticizing the front office for a lack of moves in the transfer window, I’m going stay in character and look at the positives.

What positives you say?

Well, we have some promising young talent who still have room to grow. Among my favorites are Derrick Jones and Jack Elliott. Two players were called up to play for the USMNT (Bedoya and Pontius). Sapong is having a career year. And let’s not forget we have probably the best goalie in the league in Andre Blake. Though Blake’s been injured lately, John McCarthy has been doing an admirable job as his replacement. So well, in fact, that I’m less worried if a European team comes and snatches Blake.

I’ve been saying all along that this team can win with the players they have, so I’m not particularly concerned that they opted not to sign anyone during the summer. Although it would take a drastic turnaround to get into the playoffs and win a series or two to salvage this season, I don’t think it’s impossible or even unlikely. If they don’t make it to the playoffs, then it will be disappointing, but I see progress nonetheless. That’s what really matters to me. That progress is in having a direction and a vision that wasn’t there before, when Sak was still in charge. A big part of that vision is growing the talent at home. This takes time. The Union don’t have the already stocked farm systems like the Flyers or the Phillies who are also taking a long time to be competitive despite that advantage. They’re taking a step back from last season, but that was for unforeseeable circumstances like Nogueira’s sudden exit, Edu’s injuries and Barnetta leaving. The Union had to build off of what they had and improve what they could.

Some still complain that we don’t have a superstar. Some have not yet accepted the fact that this is a small market team. Many of those complaints have been directed towards the ownership for not paying for better players. Being a small market team means that it’s not just about paying these players, but it’s also more difficult to woo star players. Yes, Philly is a big city, and all of the other teams have big budgets or at least capable of one. The Union are simply not as popular as those teams yet. A lot of the soccer fans in the area would rather follow European teams, and most of the other sports fans simply aren’t interested in adopting another sport.

It’s hard to be patient as a sports fan especially in this current climate, but we don’t really have a choice. This is the hand we’ve been dealt.

I prefer to look at all of our teams being on the rise with the Union included.


  1. Honestly, as bad as it is, and as angry as I am, I still have 100% faith in ES.

    His pedigree is awesome. He has soccer pedigree in a finger than anyone else in this forsaken organization ever had. Long time and respected NT player. Played at a high level in a good league, still spent some time playing in MLS. A accomplished TD at a team in a good league that mirrors the Union well. Proven success bringing in players and in the transfer market.

    Yes, he is off to a slow start. Yes, he has some stuff to learn about MLS. But I feel that anyone calling for his firing is as dumb as a brick. ES is the only one ever associated with this team to have a legit soccer resume. If you won’t let a guy like him work, we are hopeless.

    • I know that Earnie has had success in his previous stops before Philadelphia so my one question is this: Has Earnie made the right signings/draft picks in his time here and the problem is that the Union don’t have the right manager?

      • ES has made plenty of “good” signings/picks: Elliot, Haris, Fafa, Gooch, and to a lesser extent players in his first year like Herbers, Rosenberry, Bedoya. Also his HG signings look good to everyone who knows about young prospects: DJ, Trusty and Fontana.

        As far as as manager goes, I agree. Curtin sucks. That being sad, I think ES looks at Curtin as a Brett Brown situation. ES may want to stablize the pipeline, bring in “his” players over 1-3 years, THEN start to judge Curtin more harsly.

      • James, I didn’t say Curtin was a poor manager. I was just throwing out a question. I don’t know how much input Earnie had for the 2016 draft or for Trusty/Jones signings for that matter. My issue is this: If the Union/Earnie/whoever have adopted a 5 year plan then you have to start improving well before year 5. The first 2 years have produced nothing to show that and we may even be going backwards. Next year is going to be very telling. By year 5 the team should be competing for a supporters shield or at the worst a home playoff game. We’re miles and miles from that right now.

  2. Bless you child.

  3. Glad you’re able to see the glass half full (or more like a quarter full). And I don’t really disagree. This team has things going for it. Though, from my perspective I think the fact that this team has some talent makes it all the more difficult to accept what I think is on the whole a performance below expectations.

    That out of the way, you have one perspective that is a bit flawed. You write “Some have not yet accepted the fact that this is a small market team.” In truth, the only thing that makes the Union a small market team is the Union. The Philadelphia metropolitan area is the 9th largest in all of North America, yet we’re under performing and under spending teams in Portland (33rd) Orlando (34th) Columbus (45th) and … you get the idea. This premise is entirely false. We have a small *minded* and small *walleted* owner by choice. His choice. Not ours.

  4. OneManWolfpack says:

    Personally, I am not nearly as high on the Union as the author is. Are they trash, I mean, I guess not no. But to me – and this is what’s really concerning – they are not showing me anything that says they are ready to compete in the new MLS. They have an owner that won’t spend significantly / appropriately (specifically DP positions of need). And a coach who is an extremely great person, but is three years on the job, with no signs of being fired – despite the fact that he is clearly limited and not gotten any better.
    If the players aren’t good enough, then it’s the owner / GM. If they players are good enough, then it’s the coach. It can be both, but it can’t be neither.
    This team has just gone around and around over the years and never taken any steps forward. Our biggest step in 8 years was the firings of ‘Wak & Sak and then starting over. Sorry if I’m a bit jaded and not optimistic.

  5. The team is currently in 9th place, despite having played more games than half the teams in the conference. Their upcoming schedule and road form make it unlikely they will improve their position by season’s end.
    You are what your record says you are. Our record says the Union is a failure when it comes to playing soccer in MLS.
    I sincerely question that we are on the “right path.” Our record is worse this year, and we are going to blow up the team again in the offseason. That’s another throw away year for all the new guys to “gel” or whatever the excuse is.
    Simply put, if you are a STH or want to go to a game, do it because you like to go to the stadium and hang out with friends. Don’t do it because you want to see a winner or good soccer. That is not happening anytime in the near to mid future in Chester, IMO.

    • Old Soccer Coach says:

      Say Consistently good soccer, and I agree.
      I doubt anyone who reads here would call the way they played against Dallas at home poor soccer.

  6. pragmatist says:

    I’m sure this will be overly simplistic, but are we a Schweinsteiger away from a comfortable top-4 seed? I’m not saying we’ll drop that kind of money on anyone, but is that all it would take? Or are we so far gone that even one superstar like that wouldn’t send us over the top?
    Is Paunovic THAT much better than Curtin as a manager?
    I’m not defending anyone. I’m curious how thin the line is. If we turn 3 losses into wins, we’re at 38 points and planning for the playoffs. Does one extraordinary player convert those 3 losses to wins?
    Again, I’m trying to find out exactly how far away people think we are.
    We have a great keeper, and a solid backup.
    We have central defenders: Elliot, Yaro, Trusty, Marquez, Gooch
    We have solid 6/8.
    We have a solid, if unspectacular striker.
    We have wings with potential.
    Does the Superstar #10 get us 9-12 extra points through the course of the season so far? And if so, what does that do for the tenor of arguments?
    Sorry for the punchline, but we all know that guy isn’t coming. But if I dream about ownership that isn’t pulling out empty pockets, I want to know how quickly this can be turned around.

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      I agree with your premise. I guess the issue is, we are a “Schweinsteiger away” with a FO that will never buy a “Schweinsteiger”. So we are perpetually just always out of reach of being good enough.
      With the current structure, we need EVERYTHING to go right in our season to make the playoffs and MAYBE then win a game or round. If anything goes wrong, like this year starting the season 0-4-4… we are cooked. That’s the “thin line” we deal with… unfortunately.
      That said, if ES supplies this team with a DP #10 and another impactful, possibly DP player, I think we are definitely a top 6 team in the East.

    • Zizouisgod says:

      To answer your question, we are far away. You can talk yourself into being one player away, but things change. Players get old, injured, fall out of form, etc. You either are getting better or getting worse every day, things don’t stay the same. And while you assume that someone like Elliott will continue at or exceed his current level of play, I can give you plenty of examples of player’s performances dropping after a very good season (e.g. – Pontius, Rosenberry, etc.)

      Schweinsteiger wasn’t the only impact player that was added to the Fire this season, there were other pieces that got improved as well.

    • As I’ve said all along, I think a real #10 hides a lot of faults this team has. By no means does it cure it all though. This team seems to have many problems. They can’t hold shape for more than one game, sometimes not even a whole half, at a time. The team wants to play high pressure without the CB’s to do it. The CB’s are always too deep as they are afraid to get beat for speed. This, to me, is what hurt Rosenberry so much. To me the problems this team has are more from coaching and misidentification of talent that would fit in their system by the GM and scouts than it is the fault of the players’ quality themselves.

      • Zizouisgod says:

        Spot on!

      • Our “high press” is hilarious. I love watching the other teams goalie pass to a center back who then dribbles a little to quickly pass it in the middle of the field to the 6 or 8. They of course have plenty of time and space and can dribble down the middle before passing it to the winger who is 25-30 yards from goal. The other good one is that when we get some compact the opponent can just hit a diagonal pass all the way across the field to someone who is wide open on the sideline with plenty of room. This team has so many deficiencies. One thing I’ve always wondered was that the Union wanted Bedoya in 2015 and didn’t get him. Was Earnie then stuck going after him in 2016 instead of using that money for something else? Maybe so. Maybe not. Just my 2 cents.

      • Jason, it would be hilarious if it weren’t so damn sad. Same issues year after year, except maybe they finally figured out how to mark players on set pieces, though that too isn’t quite solved. But hey Curtin is a great defensive coach, right? Right? Now that’s hilarious.

  7. The Chopper says:

    I look at this another way. Have the Union improved under Stewart? I don’t see it. Sapong is the still the starting striker, he inherited him and all attempts to upgrade that neccesary position under Stewart have failed. He had Barnetta as a ten and he left, that position has yet to be adequately addressed. The coaching staff has not changed.
    Blake was already here. The Academy was already here. Bethlehem Steel was already here.

    His biggest move was the signing of Bedoya. A great guy to have on your side, but maybe not the best investment for all that cash based on what he does and what you really need.

    So outside of adding some vets like Pontius and Gooch, some promising draft picks (and the draft is as much Albright and Curtin as it is ES) I am waiting to see what E.S. has really brought to the table. So far, I don’t see much.

    • Bethleham Steel Started play last season. ES helped to launch that team. The Academy, while technically here, was not at the level it is at today.
      People like to quickly forget just how big of a mess ES inherited. Curtin and Albright were thrust into positions without someone to learn from, and have been learning on the job ever since. There was ZERO scouting staff, ZERO plan, and no defined roles for any of the staff. Fans don’t like to hear it, but this club is now positioned to actually grow 18 months into ES’ tenure.
      The infrastructure is now in place. IF they don’t make a leap next season or have a horrible start like this year, Curtin will be out. That much is evident

      • Old Soccer Coach says:

        The infrastructure is not fully in place yet.
        Scouting and analytics have been mentioned in my hearing as projects within the front office.
        Probably adding locker space to the annex so the Steel can dress there also for practice.
        Better physical and technical support for the remote self-education processes of the academy boys practicing regularly in Chester.
        Discovering whether Lehigh University is willing to have its stadium upgraded, e.g., lights, or whether a soccer specific stadium closer to the Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton population center is going to be the longer-term need.
        Doing whatever is necessary to adapt Union communications to current and future developments in social media.
        Figure out better mass transit access to the stadium in Chester.
        Figure out better ways to evacuate the parking lots after games in Chester.
        Develop such property as the organization may own along the waterfront in the general area of the stadium.
        All these are things I can imagine as future infrastructure projects.

      • OneManWolfpack says:

        I’d love to think that was true – regarding Curtin and the start next season. But nothing has shown me it will be. Actions will speak louder than words for this team for a very long time.

      • Zizouisgod says:

        To be fair, Sak launched Steel. It was born under his tenure.

      • The Chopper says:

        The Operating agreement for the creation of Bethlehem Steel was created while Sak was still running the show. It began play after Stewart was hired, but it was not his creation. Brendan Burke’s signing was announced two days after Stewart came on board, but that deal was already done.

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