Commentary / The Overlap / Union

The Overlap: Three wishes

Photo: Marjorie Elzey

My oldest child is seven years old. He has suffered through the pandemic and its attendant deprivations as well as anyone his age could, I expect. We’ve had our struggles, just like any family, but we’re getting by.

Even before the pandemic, my son was very focused on the future. That is, he always likes to have a goal, or something coming up to be excited about. Last year, his thoughts of the future centered around my wife and I getting vaccinated, and the opening up of our life that would allow. Then, it became summer vacation, and freedom from Zoom school, trips to see family or be in the woods. Then, it was the return to school, in-person full-time.

We’re in the third week of school now, and the other day, my son asked me, “What do I have to look forward to?” We settled on Christmas vacation, where we will probably visit our extended family and see his cousins, which he loves to do. I think Christmas is a little far off to be fixated on it, but I’m not seven.

I hope you’ll excuse this digression into my family life, because I can’t help but feel that Union fandom is in a similar place to my son.

We spent the offseason thinking about signings and anticipating the season’s beginning. Then, we had the excitement of Concacaf Champions League play and early league play. Finally, while form scuffled in the league, we had the CCL semifinal to focus our attention. And now that’s all over.

What do we have to look forward to?

I don’t have an answer to that, sadly. This season has felt strange from the get-go, never quite catching fire. The CCL run is something to be very proud of, but the frustrations and disappointments with the performances in the league have made it harder to feel that special something, knowing that your team is putting it all together.

There’s still time. The team looked like it might be turning a corner in defeating Orlando. Perhaps the Union will defeat a hot Atlanta team on Saturday and make a real run into the playoffs. That would certainly liven things up.

Whether or not that happens, though, I thought this a good opportunity to take a step back and think longer-term. Thinking less about what this team is now, and what it might do in 2021, what would I like for it in the future? Below, I’ve listed three wishes I have for the Union. I’m interested in what yours would be.

Wish number 1: a homegrown striker

The Union’s academy is probably the best thing about it. It’s a pipeline that ensures the Union can punch above its financial weight by producing players that produce at a high level without requiring a transfer fee. Furthermore, they can generate revenue in sales when they move on.

So far, the Union have had some real homegrown successes, but a striker is notably not one of them. And considering how difficult it seems to be to find affordable options up front that can produce consistently, my dream would be to grow one from seed.

Everyone can see the phenomenon that is Ricardo Pepi in Dallas. (Sidebar: If an Italian team buys Pepi and there isn’t a headline somewhere that reads “Calcio e Pepi,” it is a downright travesty.) Who wouldn’t want a piece of that?

Wish number two: MLS Cup?

Obviously, I want the Union to win MLS Cup. However, more than that, I want them to be a team that fights for it consistently. I look at the Sounders as the model. They are always in the conversation. Even in a down year, they find a way to make a run and force other contenders to go through them to win it all.

Whether or not the Union win the whole thing, which they absolutely can, I want them to be MLS mainstays, a team that is always there, fighting at the top. This might be the most fanciful of my wishes, considering the parity inherent to MLS, and the Union’s model of develop-and-sell. We’ve seen how the season-to-season change in the playing staff makes it very difficult to maintain momentum from one season to the next, especially without higher investment (one reason the Sounders are able to keep producing is that they pay a lot of money for really good players to play there).

But hey, I’m wishing!

Wish number three: a united team and fanbase

Did I say wish number two was my most fanciful? Scratch that, this is definitely the most fanciful.

For one thing, Union fandom is diverse, with all sorts of people who like their footy played all sorts of ways, and they have all sorts of opinions. It’s silly to think they will all want the same thing all of the time.

Furthermore, the fans are a necessary check on the front office, because the desires of a soccer business are not the same as the desires of a soccer fan. It’s important that the fans voice their concerns when it’s warranted. And sometimes, it’s important that the team do what it must to be successful financially, even if it isn’t what the fans want.

But one of my favorite things about last season’s run to the Supporters’ Shield is the unity I felt with other fans. Maybe we had quibbles about this or that, but for the most part we had a team we all believed in and were excited to support. I know some people get something from the argument and complaint of Negadelphia thinking, but I don’t. I want my sporting passions to be a source of joy, and the Union in 2020 were a joy for me in an otherwise dark year, in part because I was a member of a happy, unified fan community.

Winning will do that.

Maybe it’s that simple. I want a team that wins. Do that, and the rest will fall into place.

Those are my wishes. What are yours?

9 Comments

  1. #1 and #2; same as you.
    #3: better beer on the beer deck so that the place become vibrant again like last couple of years.

    • Every survey I get abut how I enjoyed my “Experience” at the game, I make it a point to say how horrible the Heineken deck is… and please, please, please… some local beers…

  2. Calcio e Pepi!!!!!!!! que bella!!! I’m more confident than ever about a deep playoff run. yes I know we are barely grabbing the last spot right now, but if we make the playoffs it will be underdog status and with momentum. we had bizarre circumstances going into the playoffs the last couple years (playing NYCFC twice in a row, playing revs what three times in a row?) and this year it will be with momentum and more experience than ever in scrappy road games. I think the main problem with this season is that it was supposed to be a rebuilding year. We started off hot and then the clubs focus shifted from developing the kids to acquiring new players to try to win CCL and the league, which didn’t work out. Now we have internationals who havent yet panned out, and kids who shouldve had more playing time

  3. #1 — Hulkie TIFO. Sun Rocket TIFO. Porfiro Hair TIFO. Ideally as permanent installations too.
    .
    #2 — New ownership. Let Sugarman cash out a big pile of chips, and get us someone who will invest in the product.
    .
    #3 — Three DPs, including a spend on a high-end striker. And, yes, this is related to #2. Entirely.

  4. With 1…It all starts with new ownership. A city the size of Philadelphia deserves better. An owner who has the cash reserves. and is willing to spend the money to acquire a seasoned pro dp or 2 when his academy players are not. quite ready to start. We took a couple of steps backwards this year. wish 2…. Move the stadium Atendance is down.Additional sponsorship is needed. Chester is an armpit. Donate or Sell the stadium to Weidner or the State of PA and take the tax write off for 10 years.. The biggest mistake the Union ever made was building in Chester.They should have made a long term revenue sharing deal with the state of NJ and built just 5 minutes away on the other side of the river. If they had the Union would have had had much better attendance. They would be generating much more money from vendors before and after the game. They probably would have had adjacent condos shopping and restaurants and made the whole stadium game day. Process a much more pleasant family experience. .Instead the Game Experience is going to see a soccer game. In the ghetto. Get in get out Hope your car is still there when the game is over and you don’t break down on the way our. Ed Rendel screwed you on that decision. I. Also blame the state of NJ for missing a huge opportunity and not making the Union a much better offer..Love the Union hate the Beruit I mean Chester experience. Wish 3… World Peace!

    • You had problems when you have been to the games? Since the founding, I’ve never encountered a problem or concern.

    • I’ve never had any issues in Chester. I wish the promised development had happened, but there’s nothing wrong with Chester except poverty. Not sure if that’s what you’re talking about, though. I’m not a fan of all the innuendo in your post.

      I would have loved a downtown Philly stadium, but I would be a hard no on having it in NJ, personally.

      • No innuendo. Chester is an unsafe area.The safety of the stadium area is propped up by the police an hour before and after the game. As I said to bring more families into the stands and to expand the surrounding area of the stadium they should have selected a safer area. It. Should have been done. The Union franchise would have grown and caught on. There would be restaurants condos and and shopping adjacent to the stadium.The union would be benefiting from people coming to the game earlier and staying in the area later. The people of Chester would benefit much more if an Amazon center were built where the stadium is that could employ 10,000 workers. I am being completely straightforward. I lived the whole AC development and the theory of how building casinos would revatze AC . It did very little to raise the people of Atlantic cities economic woes. I grew up in Camden NJ.At. one time there were 3 major employers of unskilled labor including Campbell Soup which employed 10000 city residents. The federal and state government need to create true economic zones in the city and give residents priority for those jobs. That’s one way we could reduce the poverty in Chester.

  5. Wish 1
    …It all starts with new ownership. A city the size of Philadelphia deserves better. An owner who has the cash reserves. and is willing to spend the money to acquire a seasoned pro dp or 2 when his academy players are not. quite ready to start. We took a couple of steps backwards this year. wish 2…. Move the stadium Atendance is down.Additional sponsorship is needed. Chester is an armpit. Donate or Sell the stadium to Weidner or the State of PA and take the tax write off for 10 years.. The biggest mistake the Union ever made was building in Chester.They should have made a long term revenue sharing deal with the state of NJ and built just 5 minutes away on the other side of the river. If they had the Union would have had had much better attendance. They would be generating much more money from vendors before and after the game. They probably would have had adjacent condos shopping and restaurants and made the whole stadium game day. Process a much more pleasant family experience. .Instead the Game Experience is going to see a soccer game. In the ghetto. Get in get out Hope your car is still there when the game is over and you don’t break down on the way our. Ed Rendel screwed you on that decision. I. Also blame the state of NJ for missing a huge opportunity and not making the Union a much better offer..Love the Union hate the Beruit I mean Chester experience. Wish 3… World Peace!

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