Three thoughts for Thursday

Photo by Earl Gardner

With the Union’s unofficial second and third preseasons out of the way (because with a week off between each of the team’s three matches in cold, colder, and coldest conditions, is there a more apt description?), it’s time to focus on who this team must become: in the front, in the back, and at the helm. Here are three thoughts for Thursday.

1. The offense has to figure things out

In 200 or so minutes of full strength soccer, the Union have lacked chemistry, creativity, and a killer instinct in the final third. In the 70 or so minutes in which the Union were up a man (or two), they’ve looked poised, assertive, and (though rusty) capable of hanging a touchdown on their opponents. The potential is there, now it’s time for the execution. Whether that means Borek Dockal finding his mojo, Fafa Picault opening up the field in ways neither Fabian Herbers nor Ilsinho could, or the overall group beginning to understand one another’s tendencies is irrelevant.

The important thing is the end product be better in every way.

Defensively minded coaches like Jim Curtin will tell you that if the team doesn’t concede a goal, they can’t lose. The inverse of that equation remains true, however: if the team can’t score, they won’t ever win.

2. The defense has to prove that they’re for real

Against New England and Columbus, the pimple-faced pillars of the Philadelphia parapet posed proudly upon their pure performances. Against Colorado, patient parries produced a pronounced perforation of their poised poses.

Alliteration notwithstanding, the Union back four looked like world-beaters for two and a half matches. Then, after the halftime whistle in windy Colorado, the same group of record-setters, the youngest back line in Major League Soccer history, suddenly seemed to be out of position, out of sorts, and out of luck.

San Jose has a rebuilt attack that will challenge the Union in their shape and communication, with more firepower now than just Chris Wondolowski, the second all-time leading scorer in league history. More broadly, every additional game will be another data point of proof toward whether the back four Union fans saw against Columbus is the real one, or just a positive but too-early aberration of year-long growing pains.

3. The Jim Curtin Doomsday Clock has begun to tick

Jim Curtin is on the clock. If not the clock of the eternally patient Union front office, then for Union fans who keep wondering why, when the faces on the team change, the team’s overall problems seem to stay the same. Fans look to the only constant in that weird and varied equation, the head coach.

American sports fans don’t usually have a voice in their favorite team’s management. As vocal as they may be, as much as they may believe the team belongs to them, they are merely one of the income sources for broad and balanced business models (and an unsteady one at that, since season ticket holders turn over at about 50% in any given year).

Interestingly, this doesn’t quite hold true for Union fans, who have created three indelible moments that challenge that narrative.

1. The Sons of Ben cheering the team into existence, forcing the league’s hand into investing in the Philadelphia media market. All of that organization and passion, before there was money, before there was infrastructure, before there was anything.

2. Those same SoBs, unexpected pall bearers of the River End, carrying then-CEO Nick Sakiewicz’s faux coffin into the stadium before a match. The “Serial franchise killer” was gone shortly thereafter.

3. The editor of this site, Dan Walsh, writing an open letter to owner, Jay Sugarman, in it airing some broad fan grievances to the top of the Union totem. He received an almost immediate response.

Winning solves everything, and if the Union get a win on Saturday the clock will move away from true north. But if they don’t win and the clock starts ticking again, you can bet it will be the fans that push the heavy second-hand toward midnight.


  1. I’d like to know if the new Coach brought in for attacking is a sign that curtain can’t handle that part. Much like the bench coaches under Charlie Manuel and the Phils.

    • I really think Curtin is a quality guy, and I’m sure he knows a lot more about football than I ever will, but the Dutch coach Ernie brought in is his replacement mid season of this team doesn’t turn thing around. And I’ll be 100 percent in favor of the move.
      I don’t have a ton of confidence in this front office, but they know they can’t keep taking up pathetic season after pathetic season. A change will have to happen.

      • Dick Shredder may have potential as a manager, but he was managing a semi-pro team in the 3rd division of a country with a 2nd tier league. If he couldn’t find a better job than that in Holland, what makes you think he is any more ready to manage in MLS than Jimbo was when he replaced Hackworth? At least Jimbo played his whole professional career in MLS and then was an assistant here for a few years. You think Schroeder is going to pick up everything you need to know about winning in MLS by being Jimbo’s apprentice for 4 months? Don’t get me wrong, I`m glad they brought in Schroeder, it shows outside-the-box thinking, bringing a new assistant into the fold that might have a new take on the league and has shown potential to be a good manager someday. But to think he will ready for the big job after just a few months as an assistant is simply Thrifty McSugardaddy logic.

  2. Curtain is not going anywhere. He is a FO yes-man who will not criticize or complain or rock the boat.

    • And more importantly he’s easy on Sugarman’s wallet.

    • UnionGoal says:

      He won’t even complain that you mis_spelled his name.
      He shows same emotion win or lose, scored on or when Union score..an Andy Reid trait.
      No one will ever confuse Jim Curtin on sideline with Jurgen Klopp.

  3. I honestly don’t believe the overall formation or plan is Curtins choice in the grand scheme. The changes, lineups, subs, practice etc, are his problems, and they don’t seem to get better.

  4. Chris that really was some nice alliteration in section 2. Your English teachers should be proud.

  5. Again, it boils down to $$. We are missing ownership with the deep pockets to sign difference makers. What is Zlatan making this year? Not much more than Accam? Time to get a true sugardaddy instead of a

  6. The Chopper says:

    Thought 4. Based on the recent volume of comments to posts on phillysoccerpage, full fledged supporter apathy, indifference etc has taken hold. It’s barely April.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


%d bloggers like this: