Opinion / Union

A long season is looming for the Union

Photo: 215pix

All Philadelphia Union supporters should prepare for another long season.

After last weekend’s loss in Dallas, it occurred to me that we’ve picked up right where we left off in 2017. Nothing has changed.

Everyone was pleased with the re-signing of Andre Blake. He’s not good enough to make up for the inexperience and minimal chemistry on the backline. No goalkeeper is.

Everyone was pumped about the signing of David Accam, but he hasn’t been good enough. He’s been nearly invisible, not anything close to what he was last season with Chicago.

The Union finally have a No. 1o! Nope, because Borek Dockal has been terrible. We can talk about his European background and why he’s struggling, but maybe we should talk about how this is nothing new.

If you want to discuss it from an on-the-pitch perspective, fine. The reality is what happened on the pitch against Dallas didn’t match the 2-0 scoreline. Sure, C.J. Sapong should have scored, but Blake made eight saves and was the only reason it wasn’t four or five from the hosts. Why didn’t Auston Trusty at least go to ground on the second goal? What’s going on with the back line? Only one full-strength goal in six matches and it’s from Alejandro Bedoya?

As someone that covers the club, these questions are already exhausting. From talking to many local, passionate soccer fans, it seems clear they’re exhausted too. The conversation isn’t about analyzing the team’s woes or providing tactical explanations for the lack of scoring. Instead, the conversation is “We suck,” “We’re a USL team,” and “This is embarrassing.” Frankly, it is. If I paid good money for tickets and continued to support the club, I’d be totally fed up.

A 1-2-3 record should mean nothing more than a bad start, right? Maybe for Toronto FC. Everyone that has followed the Union over the years knows it’s more than that — it’s a trend.

At this point, it’s tough to even be interested in the tactical questions. Should Dockal be benched? Yes. Should Jim Curtin switch up the back line a bit? Sure. These questions may include different names, but they’ve grown old.

I don’t want to ask “Should the Union fire Curtin?” Let’s ask a different question: “What happens if they do fire him?” I like Curtin. I like the way he carries himself, and I do not doubt that he knows his stuff. But he’s lost more matches than he’s won at the helm. Since 2014, the Union have won 31 percent of its matches in MLS. That’s not good. Everyone knows it’s not good.

Year in and year out, we give Curtin the benefit of the doubt. We say he needs better players and ownership isn’t giving him a proper chance. Well, now he has the players. They’re aren’t the best in the league, but they never will be. He’s had the time and yet here we are at the beginning of a new season having the same exact conversation we’ve been having for years.

Objectively, I know firing Curtin won’t fix anything immediately — it may not fix anything at all. It just feels like there’s nothing left to do. How would the players respond? Would a new coach bring in new ideas? Would it give at least a glimmer of hope to the supporters? These are far more intriguing questions than almost anything we can ask right now.

Something needs to change. Not a formation switch or a benching, something big.

That being said, I don’t expect it. I would be surprised if Curtin was fired right now, because “We’re only six matches in” is too easy of a rebuttal. “He needs time to implement new players into the system.”

Yeah, whatever.

Union fans have heard it all before. They know their soccer and they aren’t dumb. Can you imagine if Curtin were managing in Europe? He would have been sacked long ago.

Ultimately, even if Curtin is fired, the season is still setting up to be painfully long. One of the worst parts of the opening stretch is that it may have been the easiest of the entire campaign. It gets much tougher. After a seemingly winnable match at home against D.C. United this weekend, the Union are faced with this:

May 4 at Toronto
May 9 at Columbus
May 12 at Montreal
May 19 vs. Real Salt Lake
May 26 at New York Red Bulls
May 30 vs. Chicago
June 2 at Atlanta

Ouch. That’s a brutal stretch for anyone in MLS, let alone the problem-ridden Union. On paper, it held a good FC Dallas club scoreless on the road for 64 minutes, but what if Blake wasn’t there? Did it ever feel like a point was coming back to Philly? Or did it feel like a collapse was inevitable? There was only one way that much was going to end.

I get the feeling there will be many fixtures like this in the next month and throughout the season. Prepare yourself, Union fans, it’s going to be a long one.


  1. Watch us go something like 4-1-2 during that stretch and cement Curtin as manager for life.

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      Or forget what I said below and you are exactly right James. In Union-land… literally ANYTHING is a possibility!! HA!

  2. OneManWolfpack says:

    We are completely irrelevant by Memorial Day… yet again. Maybe, just maybe Curtin will be fired by World Cup break and the new manager implements some formation changes or a possibly a trade or signing comes in. We’ll win a bunch of games… settle back in… and miss the playoffs by 3-5 points. Then put all our hope in next season because we “played well with the new guy” and the cycle will repeat itself. Book it.

  3. not everyone was pumped about the Accam thing.

  4. Very sad. My whole life I dreamed of having a team here in Philly to support. I got onboard with full season tickets the 1st five years. Last season was the first season that I didn’t attend a single game. You don’t feel proud to wear your Union gear. I purchased an Ibra shirt after his 1st game in MLS the other day. Now he is exciting to watch….always. I want to want to purchase Union gear. Team just is not exciting and hasn’t been for years. I want to believe we can make a run, that we have a chance. We have some very talented players, but it’s just not working out…..Like always. Don’t want to be some sort of Euro snob, but come on, There is no comparison I hate to say.
    I am waiting….waiting….waiting.

    BTW….Anyone here the new Doop song by Tiesto, I like it loud. If your into EDM, you’ll love it.

  5. In your litany of this season’s Union player woes, you left out one which is, to me, most glaring: Haris Medunjanin’s precipitous decline. He’s simply been a zero thus far this season. At least as big a disappointment as Dockal and Accam, if not moreso.

    If the Union fail to make major changes, they should expect to see paid attendance numbers of 12,000, and stands that are half empty, or worse… by June. And they will have deserved every single bit of it.

    Not only am I not going to see a match barring said major changes — at this point I am scarcely inclined to even watch them on TV. And the Union were the major reason I even have a cable package altogether.

    • Medunjanin is killing us this year. His D was always bad but you could live with it when his passing was so good. Now his passing is mediocre and he’s just a liability out there.
      Also, most Union games are on PHL17 this year which you can get on an antenna if you want to drop that cable…

      • I dropped cable and watched the last PHL17 game from their app. It wasn’t great, but neither was the game.

      • Never tried the app, but an hd antennae in the philly are will get it nice and clear for like $30, and that’s only needed if you have an older tv without the antennae built in.

    • I’m not sure paid attendance can actually drop that low. Anybody have any idea how many season tickets (full plus partial) exist on a per game basis? My guess would be that the number for that is somewhere between 12,000 and 14,000. And if so, that would mean paid attendance couldn’t ever dip below that number.
      That said, you’re absolutely right about the “butts in seats” part. It’s already pathetic, and it’s going to get worse. The “UNION” text in the seats across from the bench will likely be quite readable on TV – if it isn’t already, that is.

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