Featured / Union

The waiting is the hardest part

Photo: Paul Rudderow

It feels later than it is.

Part of that is the weird scheduling that 2020 has inflicted on 2021. At this time last season the Union were supposed to be a third of the way through their MLS campaign. Obviously a few things happened to complicate that plan, but we’re still feeling those effects today. Most significantly, while the Union should have been playing game nine a year ago yesterday (hosting NYC FC), they’ve only got three games under their belt so far this season.

Except they don’t even have that.

As dramatic and important as the two games against Deportivo Saprissa were, they don’t count. Literally, since they were CONCACAF Champions League games and not MLS league games, but figuratively as well. We knew going in that Saprissa, despite their history and reputation, are not good this year. In fact they’re quite bad. Winless in eleven games. Spectacularly bad. The same L. D. Alajuelense that Atlanta beat in their first round of CCL play just beat Saprissa 5-0 in Costa Rican league play. Costa Rican fans were telling us before the game that the Union should easily win, but whether it’s humility or Negadelphia, we didn’t believe them. But by the end of play on Wednesday night it was clear that the Union were the better team by any metric that matters.

Which puts that game in a similar context as when big European clubs tour the States for pre-season warmups/money grabs. Sure, the CCL games actually mattered, but the result was as much of a foregone conclusion as there can be in sports. So we didn’t learn much about the Union by watching their first round of CCL play.

That leaves us with just one Union game. And against the reigning MLS Cup champs, as worthy an opponent as can be found. So surely we must have learned much from Sunday’s game, right?

Not really. One game is just that, one game. It’s what makes single-elimination tournaments so dramatic, but you can’t plot a trend when you only have a single data point. And that’s all we have. One ninety minute meeting between two (probably?) good teams very early in the season.

So with no trend to chart, don’t try and force one. Should we be paying attention to Leon Flach? Absolutely. Should we give up on a player for not being fully integrated with his teammates three weeks after joining the team? Absolutely not. Should we be concerned that the Union’s fourth-best forward is not only a midfielder but also starting? Absolutely. Should we expect that is where Fontana will be playing the rest of the season? Absolutely not.

But mostly what we should be doing is waiting for more information about who this 2021 Philadelphia Union is.


  1. OneManWolfpack says:

    I agree. Seems like it’s going to be Memorial Day before we really know what we have.

  2. Chris Gibbons says:

    The Seattle Sounders seem to be the best team in the league every year, but only after losing basically every match for the first 2-3 months. Peak at the right time, I’ll be happy.

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