Commentary / Opinion / Union

We have nobody to blame but ourselves

photo – Ruairi Rossi

Random thoughts from a brutal night of – soccer???

At the end of last night’s match against the hated “The Crown,” the ferocious derision that erupted in Section 101 and throughout the Soob was disturbing in the extreme. And for one 6-year-old boy it was heart wrenching.

My grandson is a third-generation soccer nut. He loves Phang. He attended a Union camp last year. He has at least three Union kits that he wears to matches and a lot of other places. And he was sobbing. Inconsolable.

How could this be? These people were screaming at his team, shouting scary, nasty things about the Boys in Blue.

On the field, some older kids were taking the abuse that their elders so richly deserved.  This wasn’t their fault.  And it was preventable. All of it. And that is what makes this situation so maddening.

Shortly after we revived PSP, our pundits posted a number of articles detailing the extremely daunting challenges the U faced in this year of multiple cup tournaments, national team callups, MLS games during international breaks, Captain America’s advancing age and questionable status, Julian Carranza’s unavoidable departure, Leon Flach’s and Jakob Glesnes’s long roads back from sports hernias and other impediments.

And the Union answered these challenges with – what exactly?

“The Philadelphia Union is an innovative, forward-thinking professional soccer club…”First line of “About Philadelphia Union” in press releases.

Those experienced in the field of emergency preparedness know that you identify any potential threats, inventory your resources, war game your processes and adjust accordingly to be able to deal with worst case scenarios.

The Union’s 2024 season schedule had “EMERGENCY!” and “WORST POSSIBLE CASE!” written all over it. The club needed more reliable, more capable and more mature front line and reserve players that Jim Curtin would trust enough to actually use. So they:

  • Raised Season Ticket Prices
  • Kept Tai Baribo on the bench
  • Brought in a USL keeper to backup Dre
  • Relied on a bunch of albeit gifted adolescents as reserves
  • And Built a Beer Hall

None of that sounds like worst-case scenario planning.  And it all fell apart last night because:

  • We want to love this team
  • We ignored the warning signs
  • It was hot and the water should have been free
  • We picked a bad time to buy tickets, especially those of the season variety

Fool me once, shame on you (2015). Fool me twice, shame on me (2023). Fool me thrice, F—K YOU!

“We have met the enemy and he is us.” Pogo/Walt Kelly, cartoonist, Philadelphian.

Those weren’t boos cascading from the stands last night.  That was a repudiation of The Process, if there even is one at this point.

So far all the “sell the youngsters” transfer money seems to have gone into the “Aaronson Fields” sporting facilities. Late in the offseason, the owner said that the money was available if Ernst and Jim thought they needed it to buy talent to be successful.  Either that was a lie or Ernst and Jim were asleep at the wheel during the offseason, did not plan for the worst case and thought that what did not work in 2023 would work in 2024.

“What a fool believes he sees no wise man has the power to reason away. What seems to be is always better than nothing, and nothing at all keeps sending him … to the ticket office.” (Apologies to Kenny Loggins and the Doobie Brothers).

In the end, we all knew this team needed more but did nothing to improve. Repeated entreaties to modify The Process and allow us the privilege to watch the home team play MLS-acceptable soccer have fallen on defiantly deaf ears.

And we bought tickets anyway.

We had nobody to blame but ourselves – until last night. If things don’t change, expect the loudest outpouring of dissent that Negadelphia has to offer from what used to be diehard fans.


  1. All of us saw the writing on the wall before the season and I am sure the Union did too. They just do not have the funds to compete with the departures, tournaments, season and international duties. There are far too many games and silly tournies that dilute the regular season. I think having CONCACAF, the Open Cup and the playoffs is sufficient.

    I would appreciate insight from Jim, Ersnt and Co. on what their thought process was going into this season knowing as much as us. I am not sure it makes it any better if they admit they didn’t have a plan, the funds or it all fell through but transparency helps.

    Right now, this team and organization needs to know this is unacceptable. Either the SoBs need to bring out the coffin, some else should or I will have to do it myself. I want a owner that cares and wants to win this year. He should be as pissed off as I was after the LAFC final loss and the countless other big game losses in years past.

  2. Andy Muenz says:

    As long as teams like Miami are allowed to bring in multiple players who belong in a top league in the world but figure they can get a big paycheck without having to put in the effort they’d need to put in to succeed in the leagues they belong in, it really doesn’t make sense for a team like the Union to spend the money to play near the top of the league.
    That being said, the Union also can’t expect to hang on to season ticket holders if they keep raising the prices. If they do that come August (beyond the 3% inflation rate), they’ll probably lose me after 15 years and with so few games available on channels I’m willing to pay for, I’ll probably just stick with the Premier League and forget about MLS completely.

  3. Yeah. This is really the thing. You can charge higher prices when a team is delivering on the pitch, but who’s going to drive to Chester pay, what is it now, 40?, for parking on an unimproved lot, spend a fortune to get seats and feed a couple kids only to have to spend an hour just trying to drive out of the lot?

    I’ve been following this team for a long time. I remember well the “before” times when our best shots were going for a run I. The Open Cup.

    I can accept a team having a down year. It happens. But it’s insult upon injury to make the game day experience cost prohibitive and unpleasant.

    • Megan Perry says:

      Yes, that game cost my family a total of $340, and that’s only because the Union were so generous to allow us to bring in our own water. Why would I continue paying that to see a second rate team? Tickets were going for less than 1/3 of face value on SeatGeek. Their parking situation is abysmal.
      Glesnes looked like he was jogging after he got beat on the second goal, and Rick saved him at least three times.
      This team is hard to watch. I won’t pay for tickets next year and if they keep up like this, I won’t even pay to renew MLS Season Pass

  4. paulcontinuum22 says:

    The Union are exactly who we thought they were. The Albania of MLS. Now it’s up to the fans to have amnesia on game nights and not show up in Chester.

  5. A couple things:
    1.) The team has been successful the past 6-7 seasons. None of us thought the bottom would completely fall out this season. The roster when healthy and fully available is still capable of competing for trophies. Season Ticket prices increased last August. It’s June, and the team has been bad this season. The complaints were barely audible last August when the prices went up….
    2.) When fans are saying that the owners need to spend more, what exactly are they referring to? Is it player salaries? Is it transfer fees? Once that is answered, MLS’ roster rules are listed on their website. As is a club roster profile detailing the spend. Tim Jones has written several pieces on these topics. The MLSPA lists the player salaries on their website. The Union are actually spending nearly double the salary cap.
    They “paid Kai Wagner” this offseason. They’re paying their Left Back a million dollars in guaranteed salary. He’s one of if not the best LB in MLS. Is that the best use of the Union’s salary budget though?
    3.) Tanner and the FO were fully prepared and expecting to sell Carranza this past offseason. When that didn’t happen it effected their ability to bring in more players. This wasn’t a “no money to spend” issue either. It was a MLS Roster and Salary Budget room to bring in players issue.
    4.) The success the team has had since Earnie and now Ernst took over was originally built on the ethos of bringing in undervalued players, developing them, and then moving them on. Selling them for increased value, and backfilling them with the next undervalued player or academy gem. The biggest issue is they’ve gotten away from moving players on when they reach peak value, or are slightly past peak value. IMO, Tanner needs to be more ruthless when it comes to moving players on no matter how unpopular those decisions may be with the fans. In hindsight, they should have sold Blake to Europe after MLS Cup 2022, and traded Elliott in league. Instead of selling Freese to a rival, promote him to starter, and then use the funds from those two sales to bring in the next centerback and midfielders.
    Now granted, some of the expected replacement players brought in have not panned out as planned, or are still developing. That makes these decisions much tougher.
    5.) I can’t help but think back to what Earnie Stewart said in a STH town hall about building the roster. He believed that there were certain positions that they could develop players at consistently that could play in MLS at a high level. The positions where that wasn’t the case they would go out and spend on those. IMO the Union have gotten away from this line of thinking. It’s a difficult skill to develop, the skill of knowing when to move on from a player. I feel the razor thin closeness of MLS Cup in 2022 blinded them from this path. Particularly when the style they want to play requires younger players. They don’t need to make wholesale changes every offseason, but they need to have succession planning in mind every window.
    6.) The Union are what their record says they are. With that, it sure feels as if every bounce, every break, and every mistake is going against them in nearly every game. Last night during the second half and the second leg of the CCC series with Pachuca are the only times this season where I felt that the Union didn’t have a chance.
    7.) I’ve been a STH every season. Like many here I’ve been through highs and lows. This stretch of games, in particular the 1W in 10 Home Games, has not been fun. Personally, I don’t feel like this team is as bad as their record is, nor is it anywhere close to as bad as the team was from 2012-2015. I definitely feel that this season may get rougher before it starts to get better. They’ll be better next season because of the trials and tribulations of this season. They’ll be written off, and an underdog. There’ll be some necessary changes to the roster and they’ll be much better than any of us think they’ll be.

    • Thanks for your insight. This was excellent. I was not considering how much of this year’s plan went awry after the did not sell Carranza in the offseason.

    • Andy Muenz says:

      Last August was the first chance to raise prices after the magical 2022 season so it’s understandable. Plus they were still near the top of the east after a strong CCL run to the semis. This year, not so much (including both a disappointing end to the 2023 regular season where they could have finished higher without so many draws at the end along with the freefall since mid-April this season).

    • All3Points says:

      EXCELLENT insight.

    • I appreciate your point of view and yes, I do believe that there record is not indicative of the team. However, having said that, it is a pretty simple to see what has been going on and how it catches up to you. The league 10 years ago is not the league today. Staying complacent and being cheap and not forward-thinking leaves us where we are. Basically, we have an owner that says that he has turned down nothing that he was approached with (CEO speak for don’t ask for something that you know I won’t do, especially if you value your job). Many CEOs lead the charge just like investing in the fields and a Dutch team. Where is that drive in buying players? So, let’s cut the silliness about the ownership. They want to milk this cow and are not interested in forward planning other than the kids.

      We all know in life that stagnation means that you will become obsolete. Our backline (including Blake) is indicative of that. In the games Blake has played, he has missed some chances that a younger Blake would get. It’s natural. Not a slam on Blake. Glesnes and Elliott try hard but are slow and not strong enough to hold off other 9s. Fact. Jim has done little to beef up the backline other than taking a shot at Damian who turned out to be better than advertised. Damian has his faults too with wanting to attack more than playing his position. Truth is we are very thin in the back because we have not brought in other players or given the youngsters a chance in the back.

      To your point, Union claim to fame was finding nuggets that we could grow. Unfortunately, with the global scouting these days, that is practically impossible. Cavan is a good example. So, how do you change your tactics?

      If this team only wants to produce players to sell,then why should anyone go to games and pay good money? The team is better than the record shows, HOWEVER, the reality of age and other teams investing when we don’t will catch up. It happened to occur earlier than management hoped. I go back to the same thing though. They knew this would happen at some point. What was the strategy to address this aging of the team? 18 year olds? Okay, then play them! Why was Tai on the bench for over a year when it was apparent to me and others that Carranza and Uhre had no chemistry? It’s time to rethink the overall organizational strategy not as a reaction to this year, but because it will get worse not better. We season ticket holders deserve that!

  6. Sugarman needs to spend money on the first team now. Not next year. They need a Barnetta or Doakal type signing now. They need to spend 2 million. If he does not sell the team.

  7. I was reading the fool me thrice and I have too look at that crazy soccer complex in Chester and wonder why? I have had at least 2 season tickets for 15 years and love the boys in blue, but team management has become rude and that dam handicap parking disaster. Jay walk with me from the dangerous handicap parking into the stadium. But yeah we have a worthless beer garden in a slum area. No more money Union

  8. Excellent analysis. Could not have said it better.

  9. Money is pouring into MLS and the league keeps changing. The Southampton FC strategy of developing talent and selling it to stay afloat stopped working for Southampton FC in the premier league a decade ago and appears to no longer be a viable strategy to excel in MLS.
    It was sad that our brightest future talent had to be subjected to boos and “sell the team”, but the Union need to adapt or lose – like our founding forefathers did when they coined the phrase, “Join or Die.”
    Likewise, that also seems to be the case now for the diamond midfield that everyone seems to have figured how to beat.
    With Carranza gone, the U need to play a formation best suited to Gazdag, Sullivan, McGlynn and Wagner’s talents, in that priority order. Also one that doesn’t hang our backs out to dry.
    Figure it out Ernst.

  10. This was the first union game I’ve ever been to (seeing as a live out of country). Overall for my first time it was an amazing experience and I loved it. But the horrible things they were yelling at the players couldn’t not have helped. Screaming at Olney telling he doesn’t know what to do, or shouting at Sullivan to pull his shorts down and “actually start f-ing playing” can’t have helped the team morale. I understand the frustration as I was feeling it myself but taking it out verbally on the players won’t magically make them play better. Overall the experience of my first game at the soob was great but that was just a few thoughts I had driving out of Chester at 10 pm

    • Andy Muenz says:

      It is a great stadium.
      Personally, the two times I cheered were when Rick was announced as a starter and when Olney came in as a sub as I was happy for both to make their debuts. When Olney was warming up at halftime, I commented to my wife that he will one day be a star (having seen how well he’s played for Union 2 despite still having a year of high school left).

  11. I pull this over because I think it fits better here….

    Lordy. You’re a young player —whose fault this isn’t— and you have to hear boos and “sell the team” chants rain down on you.
    I’m all for the IRE… and it is well deserved- but it’s not these kids fault.
    Earmuffs for children who read here and for posters who are sensitive—- It’s all a goddamn fat fucking mess.
    This team came within a Gareth Bale header of having some slack.
    Now the slack is the rope with which it is hanging itself.
    I am annoyed and apathetic with the direction…a dangerous blending.
    Besides the continued bereavement my main mantra of JUST PLAY WELL… is falling further from the norm.

  12. I was not able to make it to the game. Last minute flight delay for some friends in from out of town put us not arriving till the half. So we bagged the game. Have to really feel for the young players having to be abused by the fans! But that’s the reality of sports. As fans we are frustrated by the downfall of the team. I have a hard time believing the players are not playing well on purpose. I want to think the mistakes are more due to the shuffling of personnel and lack of playing together. These are fixable issues. But not immediately. Bringing in a new player will also not be an immediate solution. 15 seasons in the stands and this low hurts more because of the past success! I bought in… and can only blame myself. On the next!

  13. You know what’s worse than not winning?

    Playing awful, uninspiring, boring, head-scratching, lazy soccer regardless of what the result ends up being, and that’s what this team has felt like since Leagues’ Cup last year.

    Since Leagues’ Cup 2023, the Union are
    10W, 16D, 11L

    …and they’ve looked utterly uninspiring in those 37 matches.

  14. Yeah, but sooner or later the Union will build that supermarket that they promised to Chester! Glad to hear about the beer hall, though, as I am sure all of their fans really need a drink. Time to support Austria in the Euros!

  15. paulcontinuum22 says:

    #GeorgiaISEurope. They’re the Iceland of Euro 2024.

    I seriously doubt Montreal will be anything but another trench in the mudflats. And when the next home game happens, time for the SOB to bring that coffin to the stadium.

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