Philadelphia Union II

Union II announce Sven Gartung as new head coach

Photo courtesy Philadelphia Union

Keystone Sports announced Sven Gartung as the second head coach in the Philadelphia Union II’s history on Wednesday afternoon.

Gartung, a German who seems to have spent most of his 20 years in coaching working with various youth academies, was tasked in July 2017 to rescue the senior team of Malaysian Super League club PKNS from relegation. He won two of his first three games after taking over with a club that had only won three all season. Apparently he did it by introducing as many as six young players from the U19 and U21 levels of the of the club’s academy, and remained first team head coach until the end of that season. PKNS stayed up.

He had been brought to the Malaysian side as part of its effort to build an academy modeled on that of Ajax Amsterdam, reported Frank Vollmer of later that August. Vollmer described him as 47 years old that summer.

This is the second German coach sporting director Ernst Tanner has introduced into Keystone Sports’ youth development program in 2020, the first being Tobias Nubbemeyer with the Academy U17s before their January trip to Brazil.

Gartung will be assisted by Stephen Hogan, who has been with the Union’s USL project since its inception back in 2016. Academy U19s head coach Kevin Coleman will also continue working with the project in addition to his U19 duties, as he has done for the past two seasons.

New goalkeeper coach Gavin McInerney, brought over from Bob Lilley’s Pittsburgh Riverhounds, replaces Phil Wheddon, who was promoted to the same role with the first team when Oka Nikolov assumed a broader role as one of Jim Curtin’s assistants.

Former Bethlehem Steel FC head coach Brendan Burke has transitioned to Head of Recruitment Operations for both the Union II and the first team, where he will lead the organization’s scouting department. Previously, Burke’s scouting role had been an ancillary part of his duties and one in which he had some noteworthy successes, most particularly Santi Moar (now of Phoenix Rising FC). Burke leaves his role as Union II head coach after four seasons leading what was then called Bethlehem Steel FC.


  1. el Pachyderm says:

    well… the ‘missive’ is clear….
    we are officially a German MLS side.
    Wonder if Mr. Wilson feels comfortable these days.

    • Old Soccer Coach says:

      The new head has two decades of experience doing what Burke was teaching himself how to do.
      Burke has a knack for getting his underdog team to rise up and surprise the favorite now and again. But the story of Gartung rescuing the first division club suggests he has the same magic. And he’s got a lot more experience evaluating youth players.

  2. This might be one of those hearts over-ruling the head, but I’m kinda upset by this. I thought Burke had a bright future and did a great job under really crappy circumstances as U2 have tried to find their footing.

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      I agree he always did a good job and definitely had crappy circumstances for a lot of time. Hopefully this is a welcomed change and he is looking forward to his new role. Burke seems like an excellent guy to keep around in some capacity.

  3. Brendan Burke is now Head of Recruitment Operations for both the Union II and the first team. i.e. scouting…
    Maybe we are turning a bit more “German”…

  4. I wonder what was the overriding rationale for the decision to hire a new coach. Is it simply a situation in which a talented guy became available and Tanner wanted to jump on the opportunity? Or was it that Tanner was not impressed with Burke’s ability to coach division 2 players into first-team potential? Maybe it’s a bit of both. Or maybe something completely different. My guess is it’s scenario 2.

    • …or maybe Head of Recruitment Operations is actually a step up for his career???

      • This is a good question. I feel like it’s not…. Unless his goal is the sporting director track. This is not a step forward if he ever wanted to be a first team coach, right?

      • Old Soccer Coach says:

        I am totally blowing smoke with this thought. Burke may have a family so there may be reasons to stay in the greater Philadelphia region.

  5. Russell Rogers says:

    Hey if being German wins more soccer games, dann gib mir ein Schweinekotelett, etwas Sauerkraut, einen kalten Pilsener und bring mich zum Spiel.

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