How to be happy on Sunday afternoon

Photo by Marjorie Elzy

“Expectation is the root of all heartache” – Shakespeare

Sunday afternoon is Decision Day in Major League Soccer.

Expecting anything important?

Every team in the league will play its final competition of the regular season that day, with the Supporter’s Shield and multiple playoff spots on the line. The reader may be aware that the Boys in Blue are in the pole position for the former, a win at home will take them to a silver-tinged promised land and a loss to some upside-down world, further codifying their narrative amongst many fans that the team are also-rans, or come-up-shorts (that’s not a phrase, but it’s staying in).

All to play for, happy or sad because of the results of one match (and for a primer, check out what will happen no matter what happens). But is that the right way to be looking at it?

In the beginning

In order to determine how to measure happiness today, it’s worthwhile to revisit what those who write for and read the Philly Soccer Page suggested it would take to be happy at the beginning of the season. This kind of speculation is the habit of fans the world over of course, but has a major caveat: when one creates expectations, one ties one’s happiness to an outcome one has little control over.

Anyone reading this actually playing on Sunday, or controlling the outcome of the match? No?… then… uh-oh.

PSP’s own Christian Sandler wrote this on the eve of 2020’s scattered season.

“In a lot of ways it will be difficult to match 2019. It wasn’t just that the Union finally gave the supporters a playoff victory, it was that for weeks and weeks, it reigned the Eastern Conference.”

The higher the bar, the harder it is to clear; a fairly straight-forward take on the year. Readers largely agreed, adding statements such as, “I expect the Union to finish anywhere from 4th to 1st with a modest playoff run.” However, this being Philadelphia and this website being one of higher than average standards for its commenters and its team, there were some less than optimistic notes as well.

“Successful? Survive. That’s it. Same as every year.”

The full list is a gamut if ever there was one, and to be honest it’s this Negadelphian who takes the cake with his or her addition.

“Omg these guys [stink]!!!!! Are you for real union? This is what I spent 2g’s on? My u9 can coach a better game. Blake is awful. Can’t make a big save: Santos and kasper look lost. [Flippin heck]…. this is not a good start!”

Now that’s peak commentary.

Back to the writers, only unrivaled optimist Jim O’Leary had the Union finishing any higher than third in the East at the season’s start, and most of the group thought a successful season looked like a mild improvement over last year’s second-round playoff exit, fourth place in the East being the most common prediction. Jim Curtin is a linear builder, and it seemed that because the Union have grown by single steps per year, another foot to the good would be reasonable.

Editor Abroad Dan Walsh, in his piece-by-piece analysis of the team’s offseason, suggested that “transitions like this [from a 4-2-3-1 to a 4-4-2] aren’t easy, and Tanner is asking an awful lot of this team. Be ready for a rough ride.” This author? “Fourth in the East. There are too many questions right now about where the goals will come from, or more significantly where the assists will come from.”

Bland. Predictable. Milquetoast.

Today, tomorrow, Sunday, and beyond

That was then.

Now? Eight months and the most unpredictable sports year in modern history most of the way done, the Union are in first place in the Eastern Conference and top of the Supporter’s Shield race, in absolute control of their destiny.

A smattering of observers in February and March thought the team could compete for the Conference, but none had them near the Shield in 2020. Certainly no one mentioned a birth in the CONCACAF Champions League, something the team earned yesterday courtesy of some other league results. Therefore, by their own admissions, writers and readers alike should be elated today since the team are substantially outperforming expectations with more than 95% of the season completed. In that same vein, the final results of last or this week’s match should be irrelevant: the team has already exceeded nearly all preseason expectations.


This is Philadelphia, where nothing is given, everything is earned, and though we keep our “Philadelphia Phillies 2011 NL East Division Champs” mug, it’s not nearly as meaningful as the World Series one we have too. Winning matters more. What doesn’t matter? Certainly not that this Union team is the best ever, or that they’ve accomplished everything fans and writers expected this season… and then some!

What matters is that they have ninety minutes to do something even greater than the bar they’ve already raised, something that can firmly, securely, and objectively raise said bar even higher for this season and every one to come. What matters today is that there’s one only thing left to do…

Better let Tom Berenger take over from here.

Want to be happy Sunday? WIN THE GAME, BECOME LEGENDS.


  1. Love it – particularly the end. Well done!!

  2. Should be easy to be happy Sunday. All I have to do is remember that I’m spending an afternoon in 70+ degree weather with my wife at my favorite stadium and will be breaking out the sunglasses for the first time in awhile. What more could I want?

  3. Sitting on the deck,bonfire in the vintage Firehood,catching up on some reading. I was taken back to the start of the season with this post. I too felt the U could finish top 4…maybe 2nd. But this! This is the best news out of 2020! In a year that’s been WAY WAY different, this is truly a big step forward! My heart wants the Shield, the Cup,the other cup! But my head is just happy to have a team that is going in the right direction! Building an identity. Building young players ready to make a name for themselves and the U Academy. Building a fortress in Chester!

    Yes…expectations are high! Now ..there’s just one thing left to do…

  4. A good omen is that we just qualified for the CCL for the first time. A first notable accomplishment goes a long way for getting the right mindset to aim for more…like getting the Shield and top playoff seeding and then aim for the MLS Cup.

    “I love winning man….I love winning it’s like…..better than losing.” Nuke LaLoosh, Bull Durham.

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