Commentary / Philly Soccer Page Info

A top 10 (or so) from 10,000 posts and counting

Several weeks ago, this publication posted its 10,000th article.

It was a milestone by any measure, particularly given the site’s humble beginnings and still volunteer-only staff. One commenter suggested Philly Soccer Page post a “Best of” list to commemorate the the event, showcasing some of the best or most important writing over the site’s decade-long existence.

We’ve decided to do just that.

Section I: The voices of the people

When Philadelphia sports fans raise their voice, the professional sports teams they love often listen. This has never been more true than it is in Chester.

Assessing Nick Sakiewicz and what comes next

Oct. 2, 2015: The blowback from the team’s move to sign goalkeeper Rais M’Bohli was real, on a team with two very good net-minders already, and culminated in a public protest by the Sons of Ben in which they built a coffin for the CEO of the team with the words “Serial Franchise Killer” on the lid. Even by Philadelphia fan standards, it was a profound moment.

Both parties have a claim to being responsible for the existence of the franchise, but in the moment it was the fan group that made sure the organization knew only one of them was responsible for mediocrity and thereby replaceable. Given Sakiewicz’s minor stake in the team, the other owners clearly got the fan’s message: protests began in May, and the CEO was gone in October.

An open letter to Jay Sugarman

May 2, 2017: Former PSP chief editor Dan Walsh made his professional mark as an investigative journalist, never one to shy away from the uncomfortable question. When it came time for the last-place Union to be called to the mat, he took the mantle in stride and wrote this pointed opus. It was a balm to many Union fans who felt the team had not only fallen off a performance cliff, but also that there seemed to be no one taking accountability for said performance.

The most surprising part of the letter was that Sugarman responded within hours of its posting, some of it in general business terms but much of it in personal ones. Fans may not have believed it at the time, but Sugarman’s letter spoke to many of the long-term changes the Union were making that are paying off now (a team competing for Supporter’s Shield with a bevy of talented Moneyball and homegrown players taking down some of the league’s giants).

Readers poll: Should Jim Curtin return as Union manager?

Oct. 31, 2016: At the end of a season in which the Union were in 1st place in midsummer, lost their midfield engine abruptly with the departure of Vincent Nogueira, and crashed to the finish line, persistent questions were being asked about the Union’s gaffer. That he had made it to two cup finals and earned more points in each of his season’s in charge were offset by the fact that he had lost both of those finals and seemed in over his head in a league quickly becoming more professional.

Union fans on this website supported the young coach then, favoring growing pains over another change in local leadership. Though the road has been bumpy since, most feel they’ve been rewarded for that patience with the state of current squad.

The crushing weight of finality

Oct. 21, 2013: What could be better than an eight-hour drive into the beautiful northern mountains of New York, ending up in Montreal for a Union soccer game? Objectively, very few things. And when one adds poutine to the Canadian dream, fewer still.

However, the sour taste in the author’s mouth was one that came from the Union’s season ending in that picturesque place, a season on the brink that fell off into the Montreal night.

This is why we love the game

October 9, 2013: Sometimes the voice of the people is a scream, a catharsis that awakens things inside that can’t be explained. Sometimes the voice is simply primal, guttural, and indescribable.

When Kleberson hit his 94th minute free kick into the upper 90 of Toronto’s pink nets… well, the voice of the people was heard, thundering and echoing through the Chester night sky.

Section II: The irreverent

Soccer is beauty, poetry, misery, and a whole lot of other things in between. Sometimes that’s true in soccer writing too.

Every player in Union history, ranked

Aug. 1, 2017: People remember pain more than pleasure, the bad things that happen to them more than the good by at least a 2 to 1 ratio. Peter Andrews stepped into make sure that fans remembered every inch of that pain, player by painstaking player.

From goalkeepers dragged out of the MLS Pool at the last minute to real live humans the Union drafted, used as the face of the team in the community, and then never gave minutes to on the field, through every nonsensical addition in between, there is no more comprehensive list in the world than this.

(Editor’s note: Peter promises that an updated list is coming… one of these days.)

Fan’s view: The Union bible

April 22, 2015: Long-time Union fans will know about The Cliff of Union Despair, a sad place where the company that accompanies misery is welcome. The inventor of this mythical realm, Kyle Custer, did such an inspiring job creating the Cliff in the comments section one day that he was invited to write a Fan’s View post of his own.

He called it The Union Bible, and it features such memorable passages as this one, from the apocryphal Book of Snakeiwicz: “Behold! Your new God! We shalt call him Rais! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! He has traveled from Algeria, and Poland, and France, and Bulgaria, and Russia, and Norway, and Australia, and Brazil spreading his gospel of Bitch Face to the masses. It is a new day Unionites. Rejoice!”

Section III: The PSP originals

This site wouldn’t exist if not for some truly committed and talented individuals, the originals who laid the foundation of this beautiful casa di calcio.

All of the shots: Are the Union a bad attacking team… or what?

April 16, 2018: Adam Cann is one of the most important writers in Philly Soccer Page history. Few American soccer commentators see the game the way he does, and when he wrote about soccer tactics for this site, he set the bar for discussing how teams played and why.

That the Union came calling for him to join their ranks was no surprise to staff at PSP. That they’ve kept him on for several years, a jack of all trades in Chester, should come as no surprise to anyone else: if a soccer organization can keep a great soccer mind on its staff, they should.

Philadelphia soccer and the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic

March 19, 2020: If Adam Cann’s contribution to American soccer is tactical, then Ed Farnsworth’s contributions are historical. A PSP original, few writers have contributed more to the history of the American game than Ed. When the novel coronavirus took hold of the country in March, it seemed inevitable that Ed would have a perspective that few others did on disease and its impact on the American game.

The virus truly hit the US on the weekend of March 14-15. This piece ran on 19th, right on time.

US Open Cup Final: Philadelphia 1-1 Sporting Kansas City (6-7 penalties)

Sep. 30, 2015: Mike Servedio was among the first regular writers on this site. Pre-pandemic, he was a mainstay in the Subaru Park press box, on The Philly Soccer Show, and post-match with whomever was fortunate enough to join him in the media room.

It goes without saying that this Match Report might have been Servedio’s most difficult to write, a cup final loss on penalties in the cool Chester night. Considering Mike is the former captain of “noted PSP feeder club West Philly FC” means that he’s directly familiar with letdowns during athletic competition (WPFC are known as a team that never met a lead it didn’t want to give away), but that probably still didn’t soften the blow.

Eric Ayuk and the tale of Rainbow FC

July 9, 2015: Eric Ayuk scored one of the more important goals in Union history, his full-length run rewarded by getting on the end of a Vincent Nogueira cross to help the 10-man Union defeat the New York Red Bulls in Red Bull Arena in the U.S. Open Cup.

However, as far as that run might have been, it was nothing compared to the meandering journey Ayuk took to get to Chester, PA in the first place. Dan Walsh uncovers all of the details in this piece that shone a light on the seedy undercarriage of international football transfers.

Section IV: The transfers

More than a few times, a player connected with the Union has either come or gone in a manner than left Union fans agape. This section is as much about the comments as it is the content, as much about the fans as it is the news itself, as each of these moments is as salient and present for many followers as if it happened this morning.

Jamiro Monteiro’s journey from unemployment to MLS star

August 5, 2020: Union lore is filled with the “what might have been” opportunties and stories about the ones who just “got away.” In 2020, the Union made sure the one they had eyes for didn’t get away, bringing Jamiro Monteiro into the team full time.

The story is a lot more complicated than that, and Nick Fishman got waist deep in Monteiro’s journey in a way that no one else had.

Official: Union sign Alejandro Bedoya

Aug. 3, 2016: The most important signing in Union history has to make the list. Bedoya was 29 years old and “in his prime” at the time of this signing and a national team regular, and has simply become the cornerstone around which the Union have constructed their squad since.

That the team paid a seven-figure transfer fee and a seven-figure salary to the then Nantes FC midfielder signaled a statement of intent that surprised even the most optimistic of fans (of which, at this time, there were very few).

Union trade Jack McInerney to Montreal for Andrew Wenger

April 4, 2014: A move so unexpected that it became the first ever PSP post to require a second full page of comments. The reason? The team’s star striker, one who was breaking into the national team and pictured on every piece of Union marketing at the time, was dealt away unceremoniously in a Friday news dump.

No explanation was ever given for Jack Mac’s departure, and though he continues to bounce around the American soccer pyramid, his career was never the same. Wenger’s time in Philadelphia was one spent being “due” for a goal and never finding one, before being shipped away himself. Since then, he did win a U.S. Open Cup over his former Union mates.

Union sign Algerian goalkeeper Rais M’Bohli

July 3, 2014: Though some keen-eyed observers saw the Algerian in the owner’s suite well before this deal was done, M’Bohli signing with the Union was among the most jaw-dropping moves the team has ever made. A squad already flush with two good goalkeeping options added a third, one who had spent his career not being good enough for any of the lower division teams he’d played for (truly, read the section about his club career again).

This wasn’t the last cut that founder Nick Sakiewicz made on the Union, but it was perhaps the deepest. A team with so many needs added a player in the only spot where there was little need at all. That M’Bohli lasted on the team for roughly 3 cups of coffee and was a part of two of the team’s largest in-game collapses simply spoke to the mediocrity of the move and the out of touch nature in which it was made.

Section V: More and more and more again

A litany of selfless contributors have lent their pens or their lense to the PSP catalog. Here are some notable posts by a few others who’ve made their mark over the years.

13 Comments

  1. Awesome recap! Thanks Chris!

  2. Wow. Never saw that Monteiro article before. What a great read!!
    Thanks for summarizing all!

  3. I really miss Ed’s history posts! I have to say that when I found this site in 2009/10…not exactly sure of the date but it was very early in the site’s existence! I mostly just read and learned! I truly hope to see a 20,000 post and 30 and so on! Thanks to all who have ever volunteered to work for PSP! This is one of my favorite places on the internet! All of us as fans of theU should feel pretty lucky to have this place to gather and discuss! Doop on PSP Doop on indeed!

    • Have to ask…is there a way to know how many commenters were there at the start…and how many now? Once again! Thanks everyone!

      • Man, I have no idea. My guess is some people were reading and not commenting, but honestly, we were just testing it out in those early days, so we were probably better off with few readers. 😉

        Our first commenter recorded in our current content management system dates back to Dec. 11, 2009. I think we lost some comments from the first month before that though. (Our first month was spent on a now-defunct CMS.)

        I don’t think we have an external means of reading our comments straight, like we can do as staff. I think you just have to go the early posts, unfortunately, but if someone finds a way, we can certainly post it here.

        This looks like the first post on which we had a substantial amount of comments: https://phillysoccerpage.net/2010/02/19/i-am-not-a-union-supporter-yet. It’s one of Mike Servedio’s, and I remember it now that I see it. And I love it. 🙂

      • Earliest comment on the current system is 12/11/2009. Of the 121,375 comments on PSP – 195 comments from 51 unique users occurred during the first 3 months (12/11/09 – 2/28/10).

      • Thanks for the info! This site has been a weekly go since the beginning for me! Thanks so much for doing what you gentlemen!

  4. Ayyy! You took my suggestion! Cheers!

    • Great read. Like how you organized it. Some of these memories seem light years away, not just Covid-time, but I feel like the organization pulled itself out of a sewer, got a shower and finally got a job. It has been very painful but we’ve lived through it. Here’s the evidence. Accomplishment is…debatable. What we can agree on is it has been well documented.

      • Chris Gibbons says:

        It was a great idea and something we’ve been kicking around for years, just couldn’t get together. The original list was at least twice as long as this, there have been so many interesting posts and exceptional commentary.

  5. Great post, I am loving going bck and seeing all my old commnets.

  6. Ben Franklin says:

    oh well Father Nick didn’t make the cut

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