A View from Afar / Union

The COVID Game was an avoidable debacle

Photo: Marjorie Elzey

Call it The COVID Game, because that’s what it was.

Philadelphia Union were forced Sunday to play a conference championship game without eleven players due to MLS COVID-19 protocols, including their star goalkeeper and the four players who played the most minutes this year for the team.

Predictably, they lost. Unpredictably, it was agonizingly close. 

But forget the result.

This game should never have been played. 

Rules are rules, but this is a fiasco. It’s one thing to be missing a handful of players for a regular season game, but the Union were basically missing half their team. Among them: 

  • Star player and goalkeeper Andre Blake;
  • Captain Alejandro Bedoya;
  • Three of four starting defenders;
  • Players who scored 23 of the Union’s 48 regular season goals;
  • Players who played 17,312 regular season minutes, more than half the team’s total.

How did MLS not postpone this game? What was the decision-making process?

The Union had to sign three — three! — players on an emergency basis just to fill out a lineup. Aurelien Collin had played one competitive minute in two years before starting this match.

Further, the question amazingly remains as to whether the Union players were even sick.

“You have 11 players that I feel awful for that had to sit at home completely healthy and watch this game,” Union head coach Jim Curtin said after the game, adding that most “had some version of the sniffles.”

Now, we know passions run high after the game, so let’s accept that colloquialisms happen.

But were the players sick or not?

Did they test positive for COVID?

If so, MLS and/or the Union should say how many, because then we could accept the decision based on the need to contain a pandemic. Individual players are entitled to medical privacy, but it’s easy to reveal broad details without violating that.

Or did the players violate league health and safety protocols on high-risk behavior? Were they punished for attending Andre Blake’s birthday party?

Whatever the reason for the required absences, it should be made public. Maybe the Union can only blame themselves. Or maybe the league needs to reexamine its protocols, particularly if the players were all vaccinated and none tested positive for COVID. But at least fans can evaluate it.

We all have to make allowances for life in a pandemic. We have to accept certain things.

But so does MLS. If you want to maintain the integrity of your game — and therefore, your fans — without giving fuel to COVID skeptics, then the league and the Union should open up and share details of what happened, including why the game was not postponed.

Imagine if this occurred in England, Argentina, Egypt, France, Serbia, or some other soccer-mad country. There would be outrage, hooligan violence, protests, maybe riots. Imagine if more Fox News junkies were soccer fans, or if this happened in American football. It would be a national crisis.

We live in difficult times. We all understand this.

But let us have this one thing. Give us our sports. A playing field where rules are clear and fair and the best team wins. One slice of life from the before times. Joy or misery, at least this should still make sense.

This isn’t someone writing from a COVID-denying perspective. I watched Sunday’s match as my wife isolated with COVID, nearly a year to the day after a family member died from the virus. Trust me, we’re aware the pandemic is serious.

But it still requires the basics of smart, evenhanded, and fair management. Be open and transparent in your decisions. Explain them. Ensure the integrity of the game.

Credit to New York City FC. They were the better team on the day.

Then again, they only had to play half an opponent. And somehow, the Union almost won.


  1. Well put, Dan.

    Reading Curtin’s comments from last night, he was clearly not happy with the situation and seemed most peeved at the league, even going so far as to say his players were healthy and forced to stay home because of “a case of the sniffles.”

    The most important part here, I think, is IDed in your piece: total lack of transparency. I think it’s possible to be a lot more transparent than the league was and still respect the privacy of the players. It looks right now like the Union was jobbed by the league. It doesn’t sit well.

    • Totally agree with this. While it is possible, it would be unlikely that many players would all test positive at the same time. This means it might have been due to close contacts and/or irresponsible activity. The Fans – the club’s consumers – have a right to know in general terms what happened.
      Unfortunately, and I may have been the first to flag this on Twitter, that group of players and that Nov. 21 party immediately jumped out at me….
      For that reason, and the potential damage to the group’s image, I’m guessing we are not going to get an answer from the Club. Can you imagine the club throwing its league best GK or highly regarded players under the bus.

      • Notice how very quiet everyone is being on social media.

      • msg24365, see the link the “C” posted below. It’s to an article that Kevin Kinkaid wrote suggesting that based on his reasearch the most likely cause was Mbaizo’s time in South Africa with the Cameroon national team.
        Petunia, I’m being quiet on Facebook today since I’ve been banned from posting for 24 hours based on comments I made concerning Don Garber.

  2. Despite the loss and the chance to play in MLS cup, this Union game will ultimately be the stuff of Philadelphia sports legend. This game will help solidify the Union as part of a 5 for 5 sports town.

    • John P. O'Donnell says:

      For two minutes it was scene out of Tin Cup when he sinks the shot. Today it’s when he realizes he could have won. Tomorrow is exactly this… The game when they played and almost won with half the team out.

      • Lefthalfback says:

        It was wild for those two minutes. Just unbelievable. I thought:

        “…This must be what it’s like in England…”

        Alas. Not to be.

  3. Anyone remember how the Flyers did last Tuesday night in their game against the Islanders? You know, the regular season game that was postponed because 8 players on the Islanders were in protocol.
    MLS is an absolute joke and I am sick of it. They obviously don’t care about their paying fans, given that ticket and parking prices were 40% higher than for a normal game. While that makes sense under normal circumstances, it also brings a greater responsibility to provide value for the money.
    I have been a loyal Union fan since I put down my ticket deposit on February 28, 2008 about 5 minutes after the team was formally announced. Saturday I informed my ticket rep that I am having serious doubts about whether I want to continue with my ticket renewal for next season. While I still love the Union, I cannot in good conscience continue to support the league and the team is part of that league.
    Right now I am about 95% against attending any future matches. I’ll give it a few days before making any final decision.

    • You’re going to stop attending matches over THIS?! The club/players did what they could and they *almost won*. This is the kind of shit that, as sad as it is, makes me even more of a fan. Couldn’t be more proud of the work and effort they put in.

      • Larry Guengerich says:


      • Spot on!

      • While I would love to continue to support the team, I can’t see a way to do it without supporting the league which I REALLY do not want to do. Maybe it’s a cutting off the nose to spite the face situation, but not doing anything tacitly accepts the league’s decision to play the game yesterday.

    • Andy, I’m betting a lot of $$ that you’ll come to see that this is an ass-backwards way of handling the frustration.

      • John P. O'Donnell says:

        Self punishment never really works… Does it?

      • In Tanner We Trust says:

        Good points from several of you, but especially John’s about self-punishment. As a Saints fan, I really wanted to boycott the NFL after the No Call that ruined our season. But what would I actually accomplish? After a few months of offseason consideration, I abandoned the idea. I’m sure Andy will gain perspective in the coming days. We’re all emotional and frustrated right now, as fans we were certainly cheated. Regardless of who should be blamed, we as fans did not deserve this.

  4. Larry Guengerich says:

    THIS THIS THIS All Day! Well worded

  5. I totally pi… off. Yesterday the backs just kicked the ball forward without being able to constructively build up the play. Then NYC only had 2 good chances and scored on both due to mental mistakes. It was such a Union way to finish the playoffs and this season. Almost feel like calling my Union rep to tell him that I have had enough with this mickey mouse league: the game should never have been played. The League just wanted to get NYC into the playoffs. Totally disgusting.

    • Agree on the backs. That’s why I think too much praise was heaped on them. NYC had more than two chances. I remember at least one where a wide open player kicked the ball right a Freese where he had the entire net to shoot at.

  6. People keep saying the game should’ve been postponed… but under what rules? Is there a threshold for the number of players out before a postponement? The Union had a full squad. I mean I was as crushed by this as any Union fan. But MLS can’t just make up rules as it goes along.

    One can argue that maybe the COVID rules should be changed at this point. But… they weren’t.

    • According to my ticket rep, the league rules say the team has to play if they have 15 healthy players (don’t know if that includes the emergency signings or not…if not, they were one player away based on the number on the bench).
      That being said, for a game where tickets were 40% higher than for a regular game (and I don’t know whether that was the Union’s call or the league’s to raise prices throughout as the playoffs went deeper), as a consumer, I expect that the product they are delivering to be at least of the same quality as it was at the regular price. That was not the case yesterday. Much as I would have looked forward to seeing Nathan Harriel more, I would rather have seen Kai Wagner yesterday. Much as Stuart Findlay and Aurelian Colin did their best, I paid to see Jack Elliott and Jacob Glesnes. While Matt Freese may develop into a great keeper, I paid to see Andre Blake. Jack McGlynn has a great future but yesterday should have been Ale Bedoya’s moment to shine. And for all of the criticism I read about Jim Curtin (completely unjustified in my opinion) things I paid to see Sergio Santos and Corey Burke play.
      Someone, be it the team or the league pulled a bait and switch on me yesterday. I don’t want to give them the chance to do it again.

      • And, again I say: on what grounds? Based upon what rule? How many players have to be down before you postpone? Does it include guys who’ve been out all season?

        We accuse MLS of making shit up as they go along. Yet that’s what you’re asking them to have done here. I hate this as much as you do, but I don’t see a credible rationale.

      • Andy, I’m not sure how that line of argument is different from a player missing a game with an injury. If Andre Blake rolled his ankle on Saturday, fans aren’t entitled to their money back, and the Union aren’t entitled to a postponement. City fans aren’t entitled to see Castellanos play if he gets a red card. It’s terrible luck that these guys weren’t available, and it absolutely sucks, but I can’t agree with the argument that this was a bait and switch.

      • One or two players happens in sports. Over a third of the roster for one of the three most important games in the league all season when most will likely be available in 24-48 hours so you can showcase your best product rather than the shit show we saw yesterday? Postpone the game or else offer us a refund.
        You’re entitled to your opinion, but mine is that unless I receive more assurance than “that’s the way it is”, I’m taking the attitude of “fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me” and not bothering to continue to support the team/league as I have for the past 12 seasons.

      • I think this argument highlights the edge of the sports as “product” analogy which, at its worst, ends up sounding really dehumanizing to the players (not that I think that is Andy’s intent, to be clear). Sports are a human performance with human limitations and human unpredictability. That really sucks sometimes (see, this week). But is really cool other times (see, last week).

      • Tyler, ultimately sports is entertainment and that’s what we pay for when we buy tickets. How would any of us feel if we bought tickets months in advance to a Tony award winning Broadway show and found out at the last minute that half the regular cast wasn’t going to be there but we get to see a bunch of freshmen college students and an aging actor who hasn’t performed onstage in two years fill in?

      • Andy, I’d be disappointed, to be sure, though I think your analogy is a bit unfair. And cast lists for a given show do change unexpectedly sometimes, and audiences don’t always know before they buy their tickets that, for example, they aren’t going to get to see Daveed Diggs. Just like if you buy tickets way ahead of time for when the Lakers come to town, it’s no guarantee that Lebron won’t be taking a rest day that game. That’s a limitation of human performances in most areas. At the same time, it’s only because of the unpredictability of sports that sometimes you get to watch something totally historic and unexpected. I don’t think it’s tenable to do an after-the-fact analysis of whether a ticket was really worth what we paid for it because the humans on the “stage” did or did not live up to expectations.

      • Tyler, it’s not an after the fact analysis. I first contacted my ticket rep about the situation Saturday afternoon and let him know of my displeasure.
        scottso, I thought about it some more and at the very minimum, for a playoff game to be played, a team should be able to field 18 players without having to call up players that have never played in MLS (or an equivalent league – with the exception of an emergency keeper).

      • Andy that would be a decent rule. But it WASN’T IN PLACE AT THE TIME. Now, should they put it in place? Yeah, probably. And probably change the COVID rules while they’re at it. And it’s terrible that we had to be the demonstration case, so to speak. But do you want MLS to make up rules as they go along or not?

        You might want to consider that Peter disagrees with you, since Peter is a lawyer.

      • OK. Fine, I’m wrong. I still feel like I spent $160 on tickets and parking for something that would normally cost $110 and did not get that extra value I would expect for the extra cost. Others may be fine with that. I’m not.
        I’m also not very happy with the response from the team which was essentially “none of us are happy with the way the team was eliminated but the prices were set several months ago when you bought the tickets.” In the past I’ve always felt like a valued customer. Now, not so much and it’s not a good feeling. Time will tell if I show up next March or not. (Yes, I know opening day is in February, but I’ve already paid for a cruise that was originally going to take place in December 2020 so opening day was a no go as soon as the date was announced.)


    Portland vs Philly… a ratings bust. So the Yankees win again. BUT THE PIGEONS, STILL NOTHING BUT FLYING RATS.



    • If that’s the case, especially the Mbaizo part, then the league has even less cover for not postponing the game, given the precedent other leagues have set, especially given that the Union had no choice to release Mbaizo for the international games.
      We’ve all been asked to have patience throughout COVID. MLS did not have that patience.

    • This helps me bear all this a bit… but still would like an official statement from the club and not have to rely on “investigative reporting” to know what happened.

    • Our Kevin Kinkead doing the Lords work. Thanks for the reporting

    • I agree with Andy. This points to a league office that was not functioning. It did not adjust its “protocols” as the situation changed, and was unwilling to evaluate its policies when confronted with a joke situation – a semi-final with one team not being able to play half of its starters.

      Further evidence is as I have stated previously – using total points to award home field in the final when the league’s own scheduling effectively made the conferences separate leagues.

      This all falls on Garber, but I don’t think anyone will be held accountable.

      I think we’ll get more truth from Kevin Kinkead than we will from either MLS or the U.

  8. These are grown men who made decisions, which like ALL decisions, come with consequences. Sometimes good sometimes not. Don’t blame the league, why did no other team have issues? Because other teams made different choices. Just don’t understand how as a Professional going into the biggest game of your career you would make questionable decisions.

    • Other teams didn’t have issues because none of the others who made it this far had players who played in Africa during the international break. Seattle did lose a teammate of Mbaizo for their playoff game and for all we know would have had a similar issue if they had advanced.
      So is your solution to not have anyone good enough to play for their national team so they don’t pick up COVID during international breaks?

    • Hanging out in a locker room with fully vaccinated team mates is a questionable decision? Getting called up to play for your national team a questionable decision? Going to see a soccer game with 19,000 (of which you know nothing about their Covid status) of your closest friends a questionable decision? As E.P. has written in a couple of places already. The MLS Covid protocols do not reflect the reality that Covid is endemic. It is our world now. It is not going away. And everyone is going to be exposed at some point, no matter what choices you make. What will MLS do if this coming weekend half of NYCFC players get placed in MLS jail due to Covid exposure.

  9. I feel like there is something rotten in Denmark. I’m glad people are not just letting it go.

  10. There is a part of me that wants to say “Don’t let this fester; what happened has already occurred, and you can’t change it by focusing on it.”
    There is a part of me that wants the entirety of TES to chant “Garber Sucks” or “Hey, Garber, Suck on my ….” during a national broadcast next year.
    I will confer and confirm in the next few days with medical professionals what the appropriate approach “should” have been given the current science and situation. For my own edification.

    • Larry Guengerich says:

      Please share when you learn

    • Rob, I am a physician, and right now, anyone in medicine or public health would say that excluding people who test positive is entirely appropriate. And I’m on the very easy-going end of COVID attitudes.

      I think it’s time to take another look at this, given the protection against severe disease that the vaccine offers. But no one has even contemplated allowing such people to play at the present time.

  11. The article from Kinkead was very helpful in explaining what happened. But it made me even madder. If there are that many possible exposures to COVID, and that many positive tests, then it’s reasonable to conclude that the ENTIRE TEAM was at high risk of exposure, and letting ANY of them play would risk the safety of the players on both sides, the officials, the ball kids, everyone else in close proximity. It’s like the league completely forgot the REASON they were testing the players in the first place. The fact the game went on all shows that they’re only concerned about checking the boxes, and not about the safety of the players. And certainly not about the integrity of the competition.

    Also, the cynic in me noted that, if Union actually pulled out the win, that it would be a perfect Disney movie plot. And who was broadcasting the game?

  12. Although we might not get it, the situation deserves a full explanation. Curtin seemingly faults the league but said; ‘We had 11 guys that are healthy to play a soccer game that aren’t here because they have a version of the sniffles.” If they had ‘the sniffles’ due to COVID positive status, that’s not match fit, and they shouldn’t play. Who was positive and who was not?
    . . .
    If Africa duty players are a source suspect, then what steps were taken to avoid infecting the team?
    . . .
    The birthday bash brush off is extremely convenient. Thats precisely the kind of thing that’s a super spreader event. The event needs an honest amd full explanation. Why was that allowed during a major playoff run? Exactly what protocols or lack of them were followed at it?
    . . .
    What steps were taken, if any, for requesting a postponement, presuming that the team could show the mass disqualification wasn’t due to negligence in breaking rules that, however unobjectionable, were still in place with notice to everyone?
    . . .
    What steps are the Union taking to adjust the league protocols to make them more realistic for a bug that’s now a normal part of life. For example, it’s also flu season, and there’s no similar protocols for that.

    • I agree with this and thank you for stating well in your last graph a thought I had and couldn’t articulate nearly as well as you did here. It’s beginning to seem, from everything I read, that we’ve crossed the transom from pandemic to endemic with Covid and are going to need to adjust. And we should be able to adjust within reason.

      If the goal is to avoid risk, the athletes are being asked to do a lot, and have done a lot. and they are doing more than anyone else. If the league is going to sanction international duty for players, it should expect Covid as an incoming risk. Vaccinated athletes are not a risk to themselves. They posed no more a threat to other participants than anyone else. As Curtin rightly pointed out, there were nearly 20,000 in the stands in Chester who didn’t need to prove vaccination or test negative. There was almost certainly a percentage of people at that game with Covid.

      The whole thing just feels to have been so unnecessary.

      • Couldn’t correct the typos though on my phone 🙂
        . . .
        Yeah, the rules are outdated, unrealistic, and with pyrrhic objectives. Everyone’s going to be exposed to COVID repeatedly as am endemic bug. If people want to drastically reduce their chances of getting very sick from COVID then get vaxed. Same for the flu and other common circulating contagion.
        . . .
        If a player is actively sick with anything contagious though, then they shouldn’t play. Take your COVID, flu, pneumonia, bronchitis, or rhinovirus home with you until you’re better. Forcing sick people to work unduly risks the actively sick and others, and you’re not getting full productivity from the sick anyway.
        . . .
        Unfortunately, the rules are what they are for the moment, and the team needed to take precautions not to risk player bans. If there was negligence involved in how that many playerd got zapped for a conference final, it needs a remedy not a cover up. Team discipline and quality control checks are important.

    • One question I have about the “birthday bash” is whether it was anyone beyond his teammates and families. Because that wouldn’t actually increase the team exposure profile. If that was the cause of the problems I can certainly see the issue with the League. That’s an example of following the letter of the law, but not the intent. Keeping the same ‘bubble’ of exposure risk, but allowing for the resumption of life within those constraints.

      If they were exposed by teammates returning from international duty who properly were isolated under Covid protocols and we still lost 11 players even within that process being properly implemented, the League needs to reevaluate this – the teams have little incentive to follow protocol if it doesn’t actually protect their players.

      It’s a mess. It would be nice to understand what happened, in anonymous terms. I wonder if it was a locker room spread – where are the affected lockers in comparison to each other?

      • Vince Devine says:

        Why is attending a birthday party any different than going out to eat in a restaurant, or taking the subway, or attending a sporting event?

      • During the playoffs and given the rules (like them or lump them and I’m lumping them), a birthday party with assembled players was a bad idea. One positive person stood to disqualify everyone there.
        . . .
        The rules don’t protect anyone from the eventuality of repeated COVID exposure. Vaxes do that. COVID is a 24/7 presence everywhere, and it will remain so.
        . . .
        The league needs to change the pointless rules.

      • Having everyone test positive would have been fine. Then the league would have had to postpone the game (if fewer than 15 players were available).

  13. Maggie Williams says:

    Why is everyone focus on the birthday party. Why is only some players that attend the party got sick. Bedoya, Jack, Ilsinho, Quinn was not at the party.

    I was at the party, My family all adults, and others. No one one else but the union players came up with covid. Of all the people there only the players came up with it 2 plus weeks after

    • Great info. Thanks for sharing it. People (like me) ask about it because, in the absence of other information, it is one piece of info we have. So it makes sense to ask, though not necessarily to draw conclusions based upon incomplete information.

    • Because Maggie, taking place in activities deemed risky is another thing that can put you into the protocol. For example, that is why James Harden went into the protocol last season for the NBA, attending a party in Vegas. Several EPL players under similar circumstances. An indoor party, with people outside of the players’ bubble, and people in close contact with each other, is a risky activity under the protocol. Also horrendously poor judgment for professional athletes in a playoff run (exacerbated by positing it on social media for the world to see).

  14. There is so much to say, so much to vent about, and so much that can/should be changed, but I don’t think we can really make any real, logical, and helpful conclusions before knowing all the facts.

    A few things that I believe are FACTS and that are also infuriating are the following:
    *There has been ZERO transparency about this whole thing from the Union and MLS. Yes there are privacy laws and HIPAA regulations that prevent disclosing private medical information about anyone. However, we could have been told exactly how and what protocols were being followed. We could have been told how many players tested positive and when. I’ll even go as far as saying that the players themselves have a responsibility to inform us (the fans) who completely support them. Testing positive for COVID is NOT a scarlet letter. It does not make you an outcast. It happens every day. If a player self discloses, then the team and league can give us more details.
    *I don’t know if I buy into the whole conspiracy theory about MLS wanting NYC to get to the final, but it is painfully obvious that MLS and the Union are always concerned first about the almighty dollar. Profits come before fans every time. EVERY SINGLE TIME! I have so many examples of this that it would take hours. However, just at a macro level let’s just look at all these safety protocols in place for the players and yet the Union allow 19,000 people packed into a stadium with no masking mandate, no vaccination mandate, and no social distancing whatsoever. Why? Simple answer is because of revenue. More people in the stands means more money for the team. This is also evidenced by the ticket prices. Oh and $45 for parking? Really?
    So if all of this was done to protect other players (who may all have been vaccinated) then where is that same level of care for the fans? How many fans were in that stadium yesterday that were not vaccinated? How many were there and likely would test positive? I can tell you from walking around that there were very few even wearing masks. Does our health not matter as much as that of the players?

    I commend the players that were on the field yesterday. They played with everything they had and I was proud to be cheering them on. Now if only we could get that same effort from the club itself and MLS in doing the right thing for the fans.

    • PREACH!

    • Being outside in fresh air almost brings the chance of transmissibility to zero. Being in a closed room such as
      in the Suites and the Club is a different issue.
      If you pay $45 for parking then you have a screw lose. There are plenty of $10 parking lots near the stadium.

  15. Great stuff Dan! Thanks for sharing this with us! So glad you can come back here from time to time! This whole thing has really sparked some deep emotions. I agree that the Union and league have been less than forthcoming! This only exasperated a very passionate fan base! It’s a shame that when the Union win the comments section isn’t this full. I hope we do some kind of statement from the league or the U. Its the least they do! But I am quit proud of the guys who were tasked with this game! They nearly pulled it off! As my bride said on the long cold walk from the stadium to our car.” Well at least we know New York can bet a middle school team!” God I love her!

  16. Frank G…100%. Tbh… no one will ever get the answers as pertaining to the TRUTH. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post… My somewhat new next door neighbor has a relative who is within the organization. Ive been a season ticket holder for 6 years and have hosted several outdoor get togethers/ bon fires with the guys on away game nights…hence how we came to talk about the union with the neighbor. I do not care to come on these sites week after week and run my mouth about what I’m unhappy about…although I do enjoy reading others take on how they see it. I’m a true fan through and through…but after this last situation, I was disappointed to say the least. Disappointed about how close we were to securing our spot, only to have it taken away from under us….and not taken away by the league. Taken away by the players lack of discipline. Taken away by a coach who prefers to be “friends” and “liked” by his players instead of enforcing the importance of the position they are in. Hence why we will never get the truth…publicly…because if the fans knew the truth, that would be a whole other issue. Coach is protecting his players… period. Also, how did we all come to find out that every player is vaccinated? Because we believe what the organization is telling us?Its part of protecting the players who choose not to be vaccinated,then participate in behaviors who put the whole team in jeopardy, then blaming it on the league that they didn’t accommodate a game rescheduling because the whole team was positive for covid. Also, you better believe if this was NY who had covid, no one on here would be thinking the right thing to do would be to reschedule. We would all be screaming that it’s their fault and would want the game to go on as scheduled. Like I said before… I’m a big fan, but I’m also a realist with common sense.

    • Last week, the Islanders games against the Rangers and Flyers were postponed due to 8 players having COVID. I’m a Rangers fan and I had no problem with the game being postponed, it was the proper thing to do when that much of the team is unavailable.
      I was even fine with the games where the Union were without 8 players during the international breaks. Those needed to be rescheduled due to CCL and it was the price the team paid. And we knew several months in advance so if we wanted to sell our tickets we could at least try to do that.
      As far as the cause, do you have any proof to your allegations that it was the players lack of discipline and not something that happened as a result of Mbaizo playing for his national team (which to my mind is NOT lack of discipline but a professional opportunity for him). Ms. Williams post above seems to indicate that the event that was rumored to be the cause was likely unrelated. Do you have something that contradicts that or is it just your opinion?

      • Andy…If you defer back to my comment, I know someone with inside knowledge. That is all. Take it for what you want. Season is over and nothing to do about it now. I just don’t like being “dooped” by this organization. Upwards from here.

      • True, I had forgotten about that by the time I get to the end of your comments.
        It does seem to increase the reasons for cancelling my ticket renewal.

  17. There were complaints about ESPN’s broadcast of the game. From the Inquirer:
    “Throughout the game, aired locally on 6ABC, the picture quality of the main camera was shockingly bad for such a high-profile match-up, especially compared to FS1′s broadcast of the Western Conference final between Portland and Real Salt Lake.
    “The poor quality of the broadcast didn’t go unnoticed, considering it was the most important game in the Union’s history.
    “ESPN airing the MLS east final in beautiful 480p,” Defector Media’s Dan McQuade snarked on Twitter.
    “Let me just add to the chorus that this game looks like someone’s Periscope stream,” wrote Arielle Castillo, a content manager for Manchester City F.C.
    “The main feed looks like the players are made of Tetris pieces,” said North Carolina State goalkeeping coach Justin Bryant.
    “So what happened? It remains unclear. An ESPN spokesperson said the company is aware of the problem with the main camera feed during the broadcast, and is looking into what caused it.

    “In recent months, ESPN has received a healthy dose of complaints over the broadcast quality of some games.
    Last month, the network said it would replace outdated equipment that resulted in low-quality broadcasts during some Pac-12 games after Oregonian columnist John Canzano discovered the broadcast of an Oregon-Washington State game was using equipment made 10 to 15 years go that “would have made 1988 proud.”


  18. OneManWolfpack says:

    MLS is, and most likely will always be, a pyramid scam. With that said, it can still be a viable league and produce good football if it can shake the fact that it actively roots for some teams to do well and doesn’t give a shit about others. They have never cared about the Union because Philly is top 5-6 media market nationally, but we are a “small market” club. They didn’t give a rats ass about the Covid stuff and 100% would have adjusted it for a Seattle, LA, LAFC, etc. We got railed by MLS. They had outdated protocols in place and were unprepared for a worst case scenario – which is what happened. They have changed the rules PLENTY of times over the years to suit certain teams needs – how many times was an Allocation Order “adjusted”… or a player allowed to join a certain team under some “interpretation” of a rule that only the league front office seems to understand. The Union don’t push the league around like the Seattle’s, and Portland’s… because they are irrelevant in Garber’s mind. Until they start spending more and drawing better on TV, the MLS won’t ever care.
    Yeah this is a little conspiracy-theory-ish and I try to stay away from that stuff… but this was a screw job through and through.
    With all that crap now out of my system, this team needs a DP striker – BAD. It has to happen. Because once that happens, then the real fun can begin: Revenge Tour 2022. Coming to a city near you. Screw MLS. Go Union.

    • I was thinking about the comments people made about changing the rules and while I grudgingly conceded I was wrong yesterday, after sleeping on it, I think I was right and that MLS should have changed the rules.
      This is not some obscure rule about draft order, this is about a COVID situation where rules have changed frequently and people have had to adapt. The league should have shown the common sense that fans don’t want to see a team missing that many players and that the league shouldn’t want to showcase a second rate game on national television.

  19. Lefthalfback says:

    Such a crybaby thread. Boo-bleeping-whoo. And I was at the game and I am a Philly guy. This reminds me a lot of the Fog Bowl back in the Day.

    And I have some doubts about the Kinkaid “…multiple sources…” article, too. Very convenient cover story there.

    The guy who went to Africa played, right? of course he did. He was beaten on both NYC goals.

    The League has a 15 player rule. The U had 15 guys available. Play the damn game.

    Hey, they played a great game. If you were there, you’ll be bragging about it for years.
    So how did all the rest of the guys catch it from him?

    • It’s people like you that make me wonder if life is worth living.

    • He recovered. He missed couple of games after he returned due to ‘COVID’ protocol; he was most likely positive when not playing.

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      I was there. It incredible to be there. I’ll never forget the almost win. Would have been literally iconic to pull it off. They didn’t. I’m ok with it. I’ve moved on. Doesn’t change the way I feel about how it went down or how MLS does conveniently change rules from time to time. In this case, the Union got screwed. Like I said in my earlier post… go get a DP Striker… go on a revenge tour… win the damn thing next year… and then we can all chant F Don Garber while he hands the Union the trophy 🙂
      And since we may never know. My opinion, based on what people (Curtin, Kinkead, other articles, etc.) have said… is that unless we find out several of the guys were actually Covid positive – the MLS used outdated protocols and treated those vaccinated players as “close contacts” and kept them out. To me, that is fine in 2020. Not with vaccinated players in 2021. If you’re positive, you don’t play. If you’re not… you should. Again – these are my feelings on it.

      • TOTALLY AGREE OneManWolfPack!
        The atmosphere was amazing. When we scored (OK NYC scored for us), it was thrilling and all of a sudden hope was there that we might actually pull this off. It was the most electric crowd in the 6 years that I have been going to every game. Actually I will say that it may have been even louder and active (but for the wrong team) for the Club America semi.
        The rules have been there from Day 1 and all the teams know them. NYC fans would have been equally pissed if MLS changed the rules and allowed our players to get on the field. It’s a no-win situation for MLS. Of course the rules are outdated and this shows everyone that changes need to be made.
        We still don’t have all the facts (or hardly any facts) so I reserve judgement on who’s fault it is (players, Union, MLS, international call-ups, etc).
        The players out there gave it their all and it was a great match to watch in person.
        The truth will come out at some point and then we can see what the fallout is.

        As to players and coaching…
        I told my brother before the lineups were released that Kacper should be benched and Fontana should start in his place. Sure Kacper seems like a nice guy, he tries, but he is not a consistent striker and has been on an incredible dry spell. Fontana would be playing out of position but the kid knows how to finish a play. He has a super quick shot and it’s usually accurate. Get him the ball anywhere near the box and it goes in.
        Jim is probably the nicest and most personable coach one could ever hope for. I also think he has done an admirable job with the talent he has been provided. The players buy in to the system and they like the coach. In turn they never phone it in when they play. Having said that, Curtin does ride the horse too long with players. We saw it with Sapong, and now with Kacper. Sure he had no other strikers on Sunday but I think Fontana would have been a better choice.
        The same goes for substitutions. Even when we have a full healthy bench, it seems to take forever to make adjustments and get fresh legs on the field. This past Sunday was maddening knowing that players were tired and/or ineffective while having youth and speed on the bench in Fontana and Aaronson. Having them come in around the 60th minute (and definitely no later than the first NYC goal) would have totally changed the game. The NYC midfield would have been stretched and the NYC defenders would be kept honest.
        Of course I am not in practice sessions so I defer to Jim knowing the players better than I do.

        Management needs to finally step up and spend some $. We need a true world-class striker. Look at what happened when a sad and pathetic Toronto team signed Giovinco! MLS Cup, Canadian Cup, CCL Final. We have the defensive and midfield pieces to support a quality finisher up front. We could and would be feared if we had a potent scoring threat.

        All in all, well done to the boys in blue on Sunday! They did the best they could under the circumstances.

      • lefthalfback says:


        Are you actually suggestuing that the league manipulated the rules to bench 5 U starters so that NYCFC would win?

        Are you seriously making that suggestion?

      • OneManWolfpack says:

        Replying to lefthalfback – to answer your question – no, I am not. What I am saying is that, it appears that MLS dropped the ball by not updating protocols and then had a debacle on their hands that they most likely didn’t perceive happening. Which to me is the entire fault of the league. They tied their own hands, by not being prepared. This in the end, screwed the Union, and seems like it probably forced players out of the game, who are vaccinated (from what reports have said) and may not have actually been positive. To me that’s BS for any game – but even more BS for an Eastern Conference Final. MLS could have absolutely talked to ABC/ESPN months ago and attempted to put contingency plans in place, but didn’t

  20. I can’t believe there are people blaming the players for this. What the heck are they supposed to do, stay in a lockbox for months at a time even after getting vaccinated?? The Sixers lost a whole bunch of guys to COVID a few weeks ago, but I didn’t see anybody yelling about how inappropriate they are.

    I am also quite skeptical of Juan’s “inside info”. He is implying that Jim blatantly lied to all of us when he said the players were vaccinated. Anybody here believe that Jim Curtin publicly lied to our faces? Because I don’t.

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