Preseason / Union

Springtime in January

January sucks.

It’s cold, and it’s miserable. The holiday season has come and gone, and all that’s left is bitter cold and biting winds.

We collectively wait for the weather to break, burying our heads in rock salt and shoveled snow. Crisp Spring mornings and sprouting grass shoots are too far in the future to offer the one thing we need— hope.

Everyone has their own way to check the daily weather forecast. Some wake up and watch the news. Others check in with the ever-so-accurate app on their phone. The most prepared of us follow the European Model, knowing what’s to come earlier than most.

I have my own routine. I grab a cup of coffee and let my dog out, using that first trip outside as my barometer for the day. Last Saturday was no exception. It was cold outside as my dog underwent his own morning ritual— not far from the average temperature of 25 degrees on Jan. 27 in Philadelphia. That was all I needed to know. I threw on some layers, grabbed a ski cap, some gloves, and a nice warm jacket prepping for what was sure to be another miserably cold January day on the Chester waterfront.

I was heading to Philadelphia’s Power Training Complex to watch the open practice and interview a few players afterward. The organization had invited fans to attend as something of a send-off before the Union headed down to Clearwater, FL. for the majority of their preseason.

About a week before, Philadelphia Union and their fans were mired in their own miserable January. After missing the playoffs for the sixth time in eight seasons, the Union were one of only two teams that had not added a new player from outside the organization. The other was the defending MLS champions, Toronto FC. The MLS Superdraft was in Philadelphia, yet the hosting club was without a selection in either of the first two rounds.

And then they stole the show. The Union traded for Ghanaian winger David Accam. It was arguably the biggest addition in club history.

I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of cars as I pulled in to Lot B. After stepping out of my car, I was surprised again, this time by the weather. Off came the ski cap, the gloves, and the nice warm jacket.  The winds were more mild than malicious. A clear blue sky hung over the training grounds, and the temperature was well on its way to an eventual high of 59 degrees.

Some kids chased soccer balls on the sidelines while a golden retriever chased the kids. Other children sat with parents, confused by pinnie-clad players and asked if they should root for, “the green Union or the orange Union.”

For one day, Spring had come early to Chester.

About 100 fans awoke from hibernation to watch the team they love practice.

It was a light-hearted and carefree day, and started with head coach Jim Curtin addressing those that came out. He joked that hopefully the crowd’s presence would curb the intensity of the eight-aside scrimmages. Ilsinho would later produce “oohs and ahhs” from the crowd in said scrimmages, using that familiar fancy footwork to dribble through defenders and produce a quality finish.

As the players warmed up, fans whispered and pointed on the sideline. Some noticed the unfamiliar orange and blonde streaks in Derrick Jones and Eric Ayuk’s hair. Others guessed which player was the new Bethlehem Steel signing, Olivier Mbaizo. All, however, were watching the newest Philadelphia Union star, David Accam.

Discussing Accam’s arrival, one fan I spoke with said, “We needed him.” It’s a simple statement but also a clear truth. This club and fan base needed a player like this both on and off the field.

It’s hard to believe things would have been the same on Saturday without Accam. The crowd would have been half of what it was. Who knows, maybe the heavy rain from Sunday would have arrived a day earlier.

The practice wrapped up with a quality moment, and it came off the field rather than on it. Every player worked their way down the sideline, thanking the supporters with handshakes, autographs, and photos.

Accam’s inclusion doesn’t guarantee any amount of success. There is plenty left to do to secure a return to the playoffs— but it does offer that one thing needed to get through the winter: hope.

Spring is the the season of optimism. On one day in January, the fans were given the promise of a fresh start.

9 Comments

  1. Accam is a great pick up, but like you said the team still does not have a 10. This is the third transfer window they’ve had a chance to add a CAM and still nothing.

    .

    That promised increase in spending from the FO? Still nothing.

    .

    Atlanta, TFC, LAFC, NYCFC, etc all continue to zoom past the Union. I’m looking forward to another slow start and lost season.

    • Nick Fishman says:

      Here’s how I look at the No. 10 saga. Like it or not, the Union cannot afford (in the literal sense) to spend on the wrong player.

      My guess is they’ve identified targets, but those targets may not be available until the Summer window when player movement is easier. They may not want to/be able to pay the premium to acquire someone mid-season.

      • Unless they sign a good no. 10 I am not going back to the stadium.

      • In the last summer transfer window we desperately needed a No. 10, but we did nothing. The explanation was that we did not want to rush and just get “a guy,” and that it would be better to wait until the offseason. Now, we’re saying the summer is a better time. I’m dizzy.

      • Pete Mazzaccaro says:

        +1 to Guido.

      • Entirely plausible scenario. Union don’t have the budget to miss on a player, nor do they have the budget for a scouting department – which is why they should make more inter-league trades like the Accam deal. But all this nonsense begs the question: Are the Union serious about competing?

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        That’s why I’m not hopeful. It’s still the same coach, FO, and for the most part – same team. Year 9 promises more of the same shitty play, coaching, and roster managment of the previous 8.

        .

        I’ll watch Shawshank if I want a story about hope. Don’t listen to the FO’s words. Look at their actions. They consistently show their fanbase who they are.

      • We already did spend it on the wrong player – Alberg.
        .
        They have had a year and a half (including the time they were looking for Roland) to find options for a CAM. They should have a huge list of players to choose from at this point.
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        If they truly don’t have any candidates they are in talks with (which would be pathetic in it’s own right), they absolutely need to grab the low hanging fruit and go get Lee Nguyen. Sure we spent a lot for Accam, but we should have enough TAM/GAM left for Lee.
        .
        I also recall Ernie stating last year that if he had the right guy, Sugarman would pitch in. There really is no excuse.

    • +1 loezzzz 2nd comment

  2. el Pachyderm says:

    In my opinion….January is just fine. Now February? February sucks.

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