Season Previews / Union

Readers poll: Philadelphia Union head into a new season

Editor’s note: This piece is part of our week-long series previewing the 2019 Philadelphia Union season. For the full series, click here.

Major League Soccer’s regular season opens this weekend when Philadelphia Union host Toronto FC.

We want to know what you think of what you’ve seen from the Union since last season ended.

It’s been an interesting off-season for the Union. They traded another hometown favorite and made a huge splash with perhaps their biggest acquisition ever. They appear to be scrapping the tactical system that was incorporated at every level of the club the year after it finally came to fruition and produced some of the most attractive soccer the Union have ever played. It all stems from new sporting director Ernst Tanner, who has wasted little time in putting his stamp on the club in such a way that he is now a more important figure than even the head coach.

A lot of changes are coming. Weigh in and have your voice heard.

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  1. FYI, you can’t choose more than one answer for the Union’s tactical change, or it just didn’t allow me to.

  2. For the 2nd question, I chose “squeak into the playoffs” from the answers provided. I expect them to be somewhere between 4th through 6th, which fell into two categories. I chose “squeak” since it had more in common with my hunch.
    For the Keegan question, my preferred answer wasn’t there: I’m withholding judgement based on what happens this year. I would’ve gone with the “if that’s what it took” answer if the add-on about ownership being cheap wasn’t there – because while I think Sugarman is cheap, I don’t think that was a factor in Keegan being traded. So given that, I went with “good trade” as my answer.
    And lastly, for the final question I liked both “good solution to a bad situation” and “it will be a disaster” as I think both statements are true, as odd as it may be. I went with “disaster” as my answer, but which one to choose in that case was effectively a coin flip for me.

    • Yeah, I also voted for “squeak into the playoffs,” but more specifically, I think they should be a comfortable 5th place, pushing for 4th. And the way this league is, you never know. Look at Toronto’s precipitous fall. As talent laden as Atlanta is, they lost a creative dynamo and have a new coach. On paper, they should still be favorites, but you really never know. Only team I think you can bank on in the east is, as much as I might hate to say it, Red Bull. They’re always there.

  3. seems most of us are on the same page. i cynically answered “Who?” for Fabian. the few people who work with (not for) this organization responded with that to my enthusiasm for the signing. also, has no day 1 recognition nor marketability outside of narrow viewer and ethnic groups.

  4. Bethlehem Steel Belongs in Bethlehem says:

    Just so people understand, if Goodman Stadium had lights (or if the USL gave us another waiver), Steel would still be in Bethlehem. I have found a lot of Union fans (and a certain Union podcast) mistakenly believe the team moved because of attendance or poor results or travel or some combination of those things. I hear a lot Union fans talk about Steel like it was some sort of disaster. That is not the case. It is literally because of lights.

    • We know and agree.

    • Bethlehem in Bethlehem reflects my understanding of the reasons why as well.
      A supporting fact is that after the first year announcement of a one year deal with Lehigh University, there was never any further comment about longevity, in spite of all the positive public comments from both sides of the relationship.

      Hindsight is 20-20, but it sounds like both sides knew they were on borrowed time.

  5. I gave Fabian a No, but I’d rather have said TBD. With his injury problems, we don’t know if he’ll be a step up from Dockal or the next Mo Edu.
    To my mind, the biggest signing is either Seba or Blake. Seba because he put the franchise on the map and his leaving the first time corresponded with the initial decline in attendance which has not yet been reversed. Blake because he has kept the team in so many games for so long. If Fabian is able to make enough of an impact that Talen starts selling out regularly, I’m willing to change my mind.

    • Seba.
      He’s the only one on the wall.
      You don’t answer this question until the career is over.

      • I think the question is more about the ownership than the player. Is it the biggest SIGNING, Not is he the best player. In that light, the only way to answer it is to know how much we paid for Adu, Bedoya, etc. I believe Fabian is probably the most expensive signing, but we don’t really know who is paying how much for what. The biggest signing is the one who makes the ownership group stay up late at night worrying if they’ve gambled and lost in a big way. That shows ambition.

  6. l have Union missing playoffs, but think that comes down to the head coach. If Curtin makes use of all the players on the roster and the new found tactical flexibility the formation allows they could be much better. I’m just skeptical he will.

    The one thing that really bugs me is his “the best players in practice every week will play” stuff. This isn’t the local high school jv, all these players are pros and presumably try hard in practice. The value of a pro head coach, is to analyze the upcoming opponent and find one or two stratagems that will give their team the edge for that particular game. It’s not, for instance, starting Sapong game after game when he goes 10 straight games without putting a single shot on goal because he tries the hardest in practice. Or starting Medunjanin every week even when you need a 6 with real defensive bite or you’ll get over run in midfield. Make the lineup for tactical reasons not ‘try hard’ ones. Keep all the players engaged by resting appropriately and involving as much of the roster as possible when it makes sense.

    In my opinion, Curtin hasn’t done enough of any of that. Maybe getting out from under Stewart will allow him some new coaching freedom. I’m certainly still rooting for him to do it. I just don’t think he will (plus I don’t think they have the fullbacks for this system- haha). So 10th in East for me. The good news is I don’t think Tanner will put up with bad results (and a mere one year extension for Curtin shows he’s not wedded to him), so if they are bad he’ll make the necessary change.

    • Yes, the tactical adjustments can matter.
      The danger is it can look like favoritism asnd that will rip a locker room to shreds.
      If you have a clear principle that is obvious to the locker room, and they are who matter, not us, you maintain a unified team.
      Why else is Wayne Rooney flying coach with D. C. United?

  7. “Ernst Tanner, who has wasted little time in putting his stamp on the club in such a way that he is now a more important figure than even the head coach.”
    Earnie Stewart was always more important that either head coach. Decision-making was generally collective among the technical staff of which ES was the ranking member. But Earnie disposed; everybody else proposed.
    That has never been said to me in so many words, but multiple sources have implied it over and over and over. and when I have implied it, I have not ben politely corrected.

  8. Nick Tiny Sak says:

    Wait, did the team get rid of Rais M’bolhi?

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