For Pete's Sake / Union

The same old same old from the Union

Photo: Earl Gardner

An hour before the Union kicked off against Chicago Fire in the meaningless 33rd match of the 2017 season, the team released its starting lineup.

It featured all the usual suspects, and not in a good way.

Fabinho and Ray Gaddis started at fullback. Chris Pontius and Fafa Picault manned the wings. Ilsinho had “CAM” written next to his name, even if that isn’t the position he actually played during the game.

Up and down the lineup, it was the same old, same old.

With nothing to play for, there was nonetheless no room for Adam Najem, Derrick Jones, Auston Trusty, Keegan Rosenberry, or Marcus Epps — youngsters who’ve been sold as part of the club’s future. Josh Yaro and Fabian Herbers would be on that list, too, if they weren’t injured.

This failure of inspiration, of conceiving of a new way of doing things, and of recognizing the futility of the current approach is one of many reasons why folks are so frustrated with the Union. Myself included.

If the Union aren’t going to try new things, why should I?

To that end, the rest of my column will consist of sentences lifted verbatim from previous editions of my column this year. Somehow, I think they describe Sunday’s match against Chicago.

It’s amazing how consistent the story of 2017 has been.

There’s no place like home. At least, it seems that way for the Philadelphia Union, who’ve been a completely different team within the friendly confines of Talen Energy Stadium so far this season. (August 8.)

The Union didn’t try to walk too fast on Sunday. They just tried to get moving. (March 8.)

Based on what we’ve seen this year, the team doesn’t have enough talent, isn’t coached by a staff that can maximize what talent they have, and doesn’t have a front office that can properly identify and acquire talent. (May 8.)

Was this match all just bad luck, a few uncharacteristic mistakes poorly timed for maximum damage? Or is there a mentality issue with the Union? (March 13.)

It can’t be said that this group looks well-drilled, well-led, or filled with confidence. (April 25.)

A fourth-round draft pick by way of England and WVU, [Jack] Elliott’s positioning, passing, and poise are already at a veteran level. (July 11.)

That’s not to say that [Alejandro] Bedoya can’t play the position. But it’s clear, even after just three games, that Bedoya doesn’t have the skills to do the things someone like [Christian] Pulisic does. (March 28.)

Like Rome, a pipeline of young talent isn’t built in a day. Union fans, rightfully, aren’t patient about a team that keeps giving them more and more of the same gruel-dyed blue and gold with only the promise of a better future to neutralize the taste. (August 22.)

If the Union are going to develop their young players, that means giving them real playing time. That means more than giving them regular playing time in Bethlehem, or granting them only irregular spot starts with the senior team, or yanking them for one or two poor starts. (June 20.)

Curtin has been the Union’s manager for long enough now to where most fans and media have their opinions about him rather set. Curtin, too, presents an image to the world of someone who knows who he is and is immune to change. (May 23.) Curtin believes in certain players, and he gives those players — typically veterans — nearly infinite chances to play well. (September 19.)

It’s a bit difficult to drum up any enthusiasm for the end of the season. (September 26.)

Boring is the word I keep coming back to when I think about the Union as a team. (August 29.)

It would be one thing if the Union looked like they were growing, week after week, and that they were just missing luck or good fortune. But that’s not the case here. Simply put, this team is stuck, sinking into the swamp inch by inch, every attempt to escape only exacerbating the situation. (April 10.)


  1. This is why Curtin needs to go.

    • He should have been gone last year. Ended last year with an eight game winless streak. Started this year with another eight game winless streak.

      But he’s a nice guy working under a shit owner so he’s here forever. Oh well.

    • PhilInWilmington says:

      This is why no one should buy tickets.

  2. We better hope that Austin gets the Crew. If not, the apathy around this team could lead to relocation much sooner than we would like.
    I know it sounds ridiculous but another 2-3 years of this mediocre and uninspiring crap is going to force this team out of town.
    Maybe Sak can take back the stadium for his new lacrosse team.

    • No it’s not. Philly is a top 5 market. Philly is not the type of city that loses a team, it’s the type of city that gains a team.

      That’s why when the NBA had to act on the Sixers, it was never about relocation. It was about putting pressure on the owner to get rid of Hinkie.

      • Los Angeles loses a football team every 15 years. When the planets align, they lose 2 teams at the same time. Wait a decade or so and it will happen again.
        Market size doesn’t matter if the money dries up.
        Let me frame it this way: Let’s assume the U get their act together. It will likely take 2-3 years to make real strides. In those 3 years:
        – The Eagles are likely to become fixtures in the NFC title game, or at least in the annual conversation.
        – The Sixers will be challenging for the Eastern Conference title (assuming the current trajectory holds – let’s not debate Embiid’s health for now)
        – The Phillies will have splashed half-a-billion dollars (not an exaggeration) on free agents and extensions for young players, and will likely be in the heart of a pennant race simultaneous to the Union season.
        – The Flyers…I’m not an authority on hockey, but I know they are trending up.
        The Union had a window to become truly engrained in the city’s blood. They dropped the ball. If they trot out the same old crap for the next 2-4 years, one of 2 things will happen (or both):
        – new ownership
        – relocation
        The best hope for this franchise is new ownership. But MLS has become a virtual ATM for owners. Franchise values are skyrocketing. Guys like Sugarman can take the Donald Sterling approach where they simply don’t care about on-field results as long as the value continues to climb, and there is no reason to think it won’t.
        I’m not trying to be a big downer right now, but there are systemic issues at work here. If they are not addressed head-on, the future of the club is in danger.

      • LA is historically a horrible NFL city. Philly is historically a fantastic SPORTS city. Not a comparison.

      • I’ve been reserved when it comes to the Garber tin foil hat wearers out there, trying not to buy into the conspiracies, but Precourt may be the last straw. The Don has done many wonderful things for soccer in the US, I won’t begrudge him the positive affects he’s had in the last decade plus.
        BUT, considering he is backing the relocation of the Columbus Crew (and planned it by all accounts by giving Precourt the franchise on the cheap to begin with), I’ve lost faith in his overall intentions. It’s not about soccer any more, it’s all about chasing $$$$. His recent announcement on raising the franchise fee to $200m + a stadium (when it suits his fancy) just doubles down on this.

      • Pragmatist, your view assumes that sports fanship is a) completely flexible within sports; and b) a zero-sum game. Neither of those is true.

        My kids think baseball is horrendously boring. They (and I) have never liked hockey. I have basically given up on the NFL, for multiple reasons. We do like basketball, but that has only marginal overlap with the soccer season. So what’s going on with the other Philly sports teams is irrelevant to whether we pay attention to the Union.

        Furthermore, even if it were, people can become overall more or less interested in sports. So the Eagles’ success, or the Phillies’, does not have to come at the Union’s expense necessarily.

        Finally, you cannot compare LA and Philly as sports towns. I’ve lived in both. LA has zero sense of pride and civic camraderie. It’s the place where everyone wants to live, yet no one is proud of living there. Their terrible sports fanship is part and parcel of that. Not an issue in Philly, which is, arguably, the best sports town in the US.

    • i agree with pragmatist.
      there’s nothing sacred about the union franchise if an original 10 member, 2 trophy winner, and a location long held as a fortress against mexico for the USMNT, can fall so easily to $$$. it’s laughable to think market share means anything. if we get what we’re asking for in new ownership, we might be snatched up easily with a fine print clause to relocate.

    • The NBA, MLS, NFL they all need Philly more than Philly needs them. Look at the draft – that was nuts! 6 million people in the metro area, and despite the beaches it’s not like we’re going there in December or January like LA or San Diego. So we watch sports, and go crazy over them. And Philly can put pressure on teams and fans to put up money for stadiums, Columbus probably can’t justify the use of taxpayer money for a brand new MLS stadium, especially in the state capital.

  3. The team needs a new coach. Epps is not good enough, he’s not the future. If he doesn’t have the intelligence now then he never will. Fabinho is fine at the left back position until someone better comes along but that hasn’t happened. Wijnaldum isn’t even half as good as Fabinho. Get Winjaldum outta here. Curtin should have set forth a 4-3-1-2 with two strikers: Sapong and Alberg with Ilsinho behind them. Saying needs that extra striker. I don’t understand why Curtin doesn’t see this. But, this coach is horrible, subbing players like Jones in at the 80tn or 85th min. This gives absolutely no chance for any player to grow and show what they are made of. This organization ruined Hopponot’s career and with Curtin as coach it will happen again with others.

  4. I’m curious to know from any of the guys here in the know or who actively are at press conferences and such, is there any talk at all about doing anything with Curtin? Obviously the owners aren’t going anywhere and I think it’s clear that Ernie is running the show for now, so he isn’t going anywhere. I really feel like it will be much of the same next year. Who’s contract can be dropped or is expiring? Edu correct? Are we able to get rid of Simpson, Ilsinho and Alberg? Would it be better to get a new coach who might actually try something different? Maybe alberg and Simpson look much better (though not at those salaries) next to Sapong up top.
    The real issue is that even with new players, Curtin is still here putting the guys in the lineup. This means more of Gaddis and Fabinho, more of Pontius regardless of form, more of the same everything. It’s maddening.

    • I haven’t been to any press conferences, but at the town hall in August all indications from Stewart pointed towards Curtin being here for the long haul.

  5. Yeah, I DVR’d the match but only watched about 5 minutes before heading over to MLS LIVE and checking out the 20-min. condensed version.

  6. Oct. 16, 2004………a 17 year old named Lionel Messi came in for Deco, the rest is history. Here we think 24 is “playing the youngins”………not even close, they blood them at 17 with first team football across the pond! A 17 year old playing first team football thinks miles ahead of a four year college baller starting his career at 22 or 23…….I think Jermaine Jones even said it comparing Pulisic and Morris. Hearing Morris’s story from Jones……..Morris sounds soft as hell…..and not very respected by his peers!

    • While I agree, it’s not fair to compare anyone to Messi. That being said, we are getting young guys time on Steel which is great, but that has to be followed up with time on the Union (even is split for a year). Also, this is only the first year that we are actually getting academy players on the first team. These things take time. I would love to see a super young squad next game, although getting playoff experience with Steel is probably better than a pointless MLS game.

      • A, I’ll agree on the kids playing for Steel this weekend far outweighs a meaningless league match. I wasn’t comparing anyone to Messi…..just stating the fact our fanbase seems to think 23 is young in footy terms when it certainly is not! You need to blood them with first team footy as teenagers dude……..if you concentrate on me bringing Messi up, the point is missed…….

  7. Until recently there was a scarf from my SOB/STH days hanging in the kitchen that said ‘Five Years Strong. Faithful to the End’.

    Now just ‘the End’ is showing as it hangs from the trash can.

  8. Jerome soccer man says:


  9. Why are the fans – the group that should be the least knowledgeable about the inner workings of teams – sometimes the only ones who see obvious faults and errors? With this team, and especially with the national team recently, we should not be better informed than a general manager, team president, or even a manager or coach yet on this blog and radio calls and other outlets fans consistently point out major issues with personnel, tactics, and the general running of the teams that apparently those who encounter those issues every day fail to see and fix. With the Union, PLAY THE FREAKIN KIDS. With the national team, development is broken, the upper-class is snobby and has failed to grow the game. We see it, why can’t they? It’s so frustrating.

    • I like how you pointed to the upper class breaking development. I agree, we need to be in da hood more to find the “hungry” kids…….the kids who have had to fight for everything…..the kids with an edge. Not little Johnny from Wayne who’s parents drop him off in their Beamer and has never had to scrap for anything in his life. It’s obvious to see whenever the US plays……..

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