Analysis / Philadelphia Union II

Takeaways from Sven Gartung’s first media conference call

Photo courtesy Philadelphia Union II

First, and most fundamentally, new Philadelphia Union II head coach Sven Gartung speaks English well.

He has been living in California for over a year while his wife pursues a Ph.D. somewhere in the San Francisco area. His English is confident and precise, although occasional syntax makes it clear German is his mother tongue. He will have no trouble with the language, either instructing his players or evaluating them with his colleagues.

He has been learning about youth player development in the United States during the last year. He understands the basics of club academies, U.S. Soccer’s Development Academy, and the professional layers of the American soccer pyramid. He has watched all the levels while on the west coast, citing recent California Development Academy Cup activity by way of example.

Gartung’s teaching approach

His educational philosophy is that if you trust young players with major responsibility, they will rise to the challenge.

When asked for the highlights of his coaching career, both citations were this type of success.  When asked during the 2017 Malaysian Super League mid-season to rescue first-division club PKNS FC from relegation, he succeeded by giving as many as six players from the club’s U21 and U19 teams major roles in the rescue operation. He said he had done something similar earlier in his hometown, but cited much less detail.

A secondary characteristic of coach Gartung’s approach is that he is pragmatic.  When asked for his ideal squad size, he laughed using the phrase “dreams and realities,” but then said his role was to teach however many players were put in front of him. He is confident in his abilities and adaptable when using them.

Another characteristic is that he is passionate about teaching. He is already working to make sure that we outside observers understand what we need to know to describe accurately the Union II’s 2020 endeavors.

He was surprised and pleased when all the questions he received were serious, on point, knowledgeable, and substantive. A direct, concrete inquiry about the status of the Union II’s left back position evoked the surprised counter-query “Why do you ask that?” The questioner’s response indicated it had been a growing concern ever since the November roster announcements. The concern is one Gartung shares.

When asked to compare the Philadelphia Union’s player evaluation system to others he had known, he said he could not provide details yet, having only just started to participate. But already he knew the passion, dedication and hard work of the participants were noteworthy. They had not always been present in some of his prior experiences.

Roster tidbits

When asked what excited him about his specific opportunity in Philadelphia, he described the Academy players as speedy and athletic, and said if he could add some tactics, he thought the first team would receive some future players. He referred to the U17s, the U19s, and the USL players especially, but did also mention the younger boys. He likes how many kids are playing soccer nationwide and sees the United States as full of potential. He has had prior experience with the system Ernst Tanner wants implemented, and said his previous experience was one of the reasons he was here. He already knows the system, he is not learning it.

While discussing how the 2020 roster for the Union II seems to be coalescing, Gartung indicated that they may possibly be looking to add one or two more players. When later returning to team composition, he also expected one or two players who are signed to the first team to come down to the USL side for games.

With Cory Burke away on loan and Tanner on record last year as saying his team had enough players when the roster stood at 26, PSP infers that on any given game day players 19 through 25 are Gartung’s pool. Three fit the Sporting Director’s well-known youth criterion.

  • Cole Turner, almost 19 years old, is the Union’s fourth DM. Transfermarkt — not always accurate — lists him on loan to U2 until 11/31/20.
  • Jack de Vries, almost 18-years old, is likely the Union’s second LCM. So far in preseason, he consistently plays before Warren Creavalle.
  • Goalkeeper Matt Freese is 21 and a half, still young enough to benefit from USL minutes.

The conference call occurred last Thursday. Gartung said he had received his work visa only Monday of that week and had officially assumed the leadership the next day. The work visa process explains the announcement coming almost a month late, mid-February as opposed to mid-January.

He did say he had been studying videotape beforehand, as Tanner himself has mentioned he had done before he was officially in place. Gartung cited the U17s’ two recent tournaments in Brazil.  Understandably, the organization tries to follow the visa rules scrupulously.

Sven Gartung said he loves to travel to experience the world. Teaching soccer allows him to experience much more than tourists do because he lives in place while teaching. Since his wife is pursuing a Ph.D., if all goes well he may be living and teaching in Philly for some time.

One Comment

  1. el Pachyderm says:

    “just need to add some tactics.”
    cue hand to forehead.

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