Photo: Daniel Gajdamowicz
Philadelphia Union sent an email to Union fans Monday morning with a message from Union manager John Hackworth. PSP can’t find Hack’s email address, so here’s an open letter in reply.
I got your email! Thanks for writing. I appreciate the candor. It was well-timed, because your team looks pretty mediocre lately.
When you wrote, “The club isn’t going to dance around the results or give you any fluff,” I thought to myself, Good. Fluff is bad.
And when you wrote, “This year has not gone the way we planned it and it needs to be better,” I nodded sagely before wondering what Peter Nowak’s plan actually was back in January.
Then you said, “My staff and I promise you that we will do everything we can to get us back to the level of soccer you expect and deserve.”
Promises are good.
Philadelphia Union reminds me of a car that’s driven off the road into a Berks (or Salem!) County cornfield. You’re stuck in the field. You’ve trampled over loads of good corn, and it’s stuck in the wheels and up under the engine. So you have to clear out all the stalks, get your car out of the field while wrecking some more corn, and then drive home with popcorn shooting out the wheel wells.*
The Union are still getting out of the cornfield.
It could be worse. You could be Toronto FC.
They’ve run their club so badly for so long that what was once the best fan base in MLS turned out maybe 5,000 people to BMO Field for Saturday’s game against your Union. TFC drove off their two best hometown players, Dwayne De Rosario and Julian de Guzman, only to see De Rosario named MVP the next season with D.C. and de Guzman immediately return to a high standard in Dallas at his natural position, defensive midfield. (Toronto tried repeatedly to make him an attacker.) Paul Mariner wanted de Guzman out so badly that Toronto is paying his $1.9 million salary. Newcomer Darren O’Dea called the team “mentally weak” after Saturday’s game, throwing his teammates under the bus for the second time in a week.
Alienating fans and players, playing bad soccer, and giving away talented players for nothing (cough, cough, Danny Mwanga) — The Union stopped doing that in June.
Today, John, your Union are a young team a few key veterans short of real quality.
And you’re reaching out to fans in ways not seen since 2010.
It started with your email Monday morning.
Then, Union players did something in the afternoon I’d never previously seen in major pro sports. They picked up the phone and called fans to thank them for renewing their season tickets.
Jim Leslie tweeted, “I just missed my call from Chase Harrison. What a great idea to reach out to the fans that way!”
Even midfielder Danny Cruz felt bad about it and made his own desperate plea: “If the
@PhilaUnion are calling you right now and you renewed your season tickets..pick up! I don’t want to leave more voicemails!”
The Union’s gesture was so unexpected that some people probably didn’t believe it, as Williams dryly noted on Twitter: “good time 2day at the
@PhilaUnion ticket office calling fans that renewed tickets pretty sure one guy thought I was a bill Collector”.
Would the Union be doing this if not for the legitimate fear of losing season ticket holders after this year’s debacle? Maybe not, the cynic says. And maybe, says the idealist, they would have kept this up all along if not for Nowak’s reign of terror after former team president Tom Veit left.
So John, when you write, “I really like this group of guys in our locker room,” many people probably can’t help but think, Yeah, me too. Because you guys were really likeable on Monday.
More importantly, when you continue with, “and we have a great core of young players that will be the foundation of this team for years to come,” it’s hard to dispute that.
There is a core of good, young players on this team. The foundation is there.
You see, the best propaganda is the truth. People are more likely to believe it.
Now go get a veteran striker and fix your midfield.
* PS: I know you appreciated my cornfield metaphor, John. Come on. Admit it.