Fans' View

Fans’ View: Relevance

Photo: Paul Rudderow

It’s sort of weird being a vintage Philadelphia Union fan right now. The Union’s current run of play is, well… competent. Maybe it’s not Zlatan-spectacular, but it’s effective in a pleasing kind of way. There are actual bursts of good soccer. Not great, but at least worth watching. Progress with a fair dose of credibility.

The kids in the back line? Better than anyone had a right to expect. Borek Dockal? Solid, and that is a high compliment. Haris Medunjanin? As reliable as he is slow. Fafa Picault? Kinetic energy with even greater potential. Ilsinho? The best supersub since Roger Torres. Cory Burke? Start him and he scores. Andre Blake? A living highlight reel.

And Alejandro Bedoya? The most spirited perpetual motion we’ve seen since LeToux. The more you watch him on this team, the more you understand his estimable worth.

That’s 10 pretty fair starting pieces and an electric sub. Find a better piece at right mid and we might just have something here that can survive a playoff knockout and bring home the U.S. Open Cup.

But here is where skepticism puts the brakes on enthusiasm. Right mid is still a mystery whenever Fafa is on the left. And vice versa. The bench? Well, the rest of the Youth Movement is stuck in Bethlehem because the “Misfit Toys” have apparently found their homes.

While the team’s confidence appears to be growing, it’s hard for a discerning fan to match that confidence. Has head coach Jim Curtin somehow figured out how to get the pieces to fit, or have time and familiarity simply bred team cohesion? Can C.J. Sapong reinvent himself on the right? Can Accam ever contribute this year? And what will happen if a key piece is hobbled?

This team has somehow persisted in spite of a late-arriving no. 10, misplaced loyalty to nonproductive players, bad salary moves, a lack of midseason personnel additions, and an ownership that lacks the wherewithal worthy of this major sports market.

Yet, in spite of all the negatives, the Union are relevant and worth watching. And they are overperforming – perhaps the highest praise a long-suffering Philly sports fan can assign.

5 Comments

  1. I share the burnt fingers and self-protective caution. I do not go as far back or as deep into the subsoil of supporting the sport in Philly as do you, but I hear you, Sir Matt, loud and clear.
    .
    I would not keep Ilsinho as a super sub unless the opposition has someone like Alphonso Davies on the left flank. I would start him because of the havoc he can raise combining with Dockal, and sub for him at the 60th minute if necessary.
    .
    In spite of everything else Good Soldier Sapong does so well, he does not beat a defender one v one on the dribble. He simply does not. And the way the Union are playing this year, that capacity seems needed out there.
    .
    I expect to be touching a lot of wood for luck over the next several weeks.

    • I completely disagree. CJ tucks inside and is good in possession which allows Rosenberry to get up the pitch and do what he does best.

  2. when your low bar is set to competent, anything above that is gravy. are they punching above their weight? are they sustainable even through the end of the season?

    i’m enjoying the form but the burns from season’s past serve as a reminder. i’m also not getting emotionally invested in this team. we’ve a new SD and we’ve a coach who took 3 season’s too long to grow. let’s be honest, on any other team that wouldn’t have happened. i’m more excited for the future than the future of anyone below Tanner.

  3. Matt Custer says:

    Just got back from Audi Stadium and watched the dos a cero with son and grandson. Credible road showing against a beatable team. Beginning to believe.

  4. pragmatist says:

    Man, I have completely forgotten about Accam…
    .
    That may be this team’s greatest accomplishment so far this year…making your marquee offseason acquisition disappear while sitting right in front of everyone.

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