Daily news roundups

Carroll back for 2016, international spots, striker depth, Marfan signs with Sounders, more news

Photo: Paul Rudderow

Philadelphia Union

The Union’s 2016 roster continues to come into sharper relief after the announcement on Wednesday that Brian Carroll has re-signed with the club.

Speaking to the Inquirer’s Marc Narducci, Carroll said, “In general I wanted to try to play another year and see how it goes, and I am happy with the situation.” Asked if he would move into coaching, Carroll said, “I am not sure,” he said. “I think that is a logical transition, and if that is what I do after playing I will be excited about it. But right now I am happy to be a pro soccer player.”

As well as providing depth, Carroll’s role as a mentor was underscored in comments from Earnie Stewart in the the signing announcement. Union head coach Jim Curtin told CSN Philly’s Ryan Bright in December that Carroll will contribute with both the senior team and new USL side Bethlehem Steel. “Brian will be back with the team. He contributed a lot to the team in terms of minutes, so I see him as a guy who can contribute. He’ll also have a little bit of a role helping Bethlehem Steel, being a leader and mentor for some of the players on that team. He’ll be helping those guys and helping me a great deal.”

More on Carroll re-signing at PSP, Philadelphia UnionPhiladelphia InquirerCSN Philly, Philly Soccer NewsBrotherly Game, and MLSsoccer.com.

With Carroll’s signing the Union roster now looks like this, with 19 of 28 spots filled:

GK (2): Andre Blake (GA), John McCarthy
DEF (6): Anderson Conceicao (INT’L), Maurice Edu (DP), Raymon Gaddis, Richie Marquez, Keegan Rosenberry, Joshua Yaro (GA/INT’L)
MID (8): Eric Ayuk (INT’L), Tranquillo Barnetta (INT’L), Brian Carroll, Leo Fernandes, Sebastien Le Toux, Vincent Nogueira (INT’L), Chris Pontius, Walter Restrepo
FWD (2): Fabian Herbers (GA/INT’L), C.J. Sapong

DESIGNATED PLAYERS (DP): 1
HOMEGROWN PLAYERS (HG): 0
INT’L ROSTER SPOTS FILLED (INT’L): 6
GENERATION ADIDAS PLAYERS (GA): 3
UNSIGNED DRAFT PICKS (3): Taylor Washington (No. 23), Mitchell Lurie (No. 44), Cole Missimo (No. 64) 

If you include Fabinho, who Jim Curtin and Earnie Stewart confirmed at the draft in Baltimore last week is returning, and Warren Creavalle, who the Inquirer’s Marc Narducci says is “expected” to return, 7 roster spots remain to be filled. If each of the currently unsigned draft picks earns a spot, 4 roster spots remain open.

In related roster news, a Union spokesperson confirmed to PSP on Wednesday that Joshua Yaro (Ghana) and Fabian Herbers (Germany) will both occupy international spots. (Some wondered, because they are Generation adidas players, if Yaro and Herbers received some kind of exemption.) This means six international spots are filled: Yaro and Herbers, as well as Anderson Conceicao, Eric Ayuk, Tranquillo Barnetta, and Vincent Nogueira. (Fellow GA member Andre Blake has a green card, as do Sebastien Le Toux and Fabinho.)

With the international spot that was traded to Houston last season along with Sheanon Williams, that means there is currently one open international spot on the Union roster. (Note: The updated roster information at the league website does not at present list/count Yaro and Herbers as internationals.) Will it be used on James McFadden with a domestic MLS striker providing further depth? Will the team pass on McFadden and use the international spot on someone else? Are there US players playing abroad that Stewart can bring in? Is Nogueira — or Yaro and Herbers — in line to get a green card and so open an international spot?

Speaking on the latest KYW Philly Soccer Show podcast (which you can listen to here, and read highlights from the pod here — lots of topics are discussed), Jim Curtin said of the search for a striker, international or domestic, “We won’t close any doors. The reality of pulling off a trade sometimes in-league is a little more complicated. The window’s open right now so we are actively looking, of course, but there are things in-league that are a possibility, as well. Sorry not to give you too many specifics on that one but that is a position right now that we’ve identified as bringing in someone to compete with Sapong and Herbers.”

From Curtin’s comments on Fernando Aristeguieta, it seems unlikely the Venezuelan will be back with the team in 2016: “I would just say some situations are easier to deal with, and some places are easier to deal with, than others. I can kind of leave it at that and you can kind of infer from other players maybe at certain clubs that are having difficult times.”

Fox Soccer has a team-by-team list of roster needs following the conclusion of this year’s draft. Here’s the Union verdict: “Union sporting director Earnie Stewart continues to take stock of a team in flux. Joshua Yaro’s arrival reduced the pressing need for a center back (though Philly still needs more options there to free Maurice Edu to play in midfield). Center forward remains a priority after Fernando Aristeguieta returned to Nantes.”

Mitchell Lurie tells the Daily Targum of being selected by the Union in the draft, “I’m feeling great. I’m blessed to have the opportunity Philadelphia has given me. The experiences so far with the Combine, and now waiting to see your name appear on a team is just pretty crazy, and now that it’s happened, it’s a lot of weight off the shoulders and it’s just such a great feeling.”

The InquirerSons of Penn, and Philly Sports Nation on Tuesday’s conclusion of the draft. ReadUSSoccer on where the Union stand after the draft.

Brotherly Game’s “silly offseason complaints” series continues.

Also at Brotherly Game, more on the call-up we linked on Monday of four Union Academy players — Matthew Real, Mark McKenzie, Anthony Fontana and Justin McMaster — to the first US U-18 MNT camp of the year.

Lastly, there’s a video interview with Zach Pfeffer on the Colorado Rapids website. I can bring myself to watch it.

Bethlehem Steel

The conference alignment for the 2016 USL season was announced on Wednesday and Bethlehem Steel is part of the 14-team Eastern Conference, along with Pennsylvania rivals Harrisburg City Islanders and Pittsburgh Riverhounds, as well as regional rivals New York Red Bulls II and Richmond Kickers. The Western Conference features 15 teams.

The announcement notes, “The 30-game regular season will be conducted over 27 weeks, which will kick off on March 25 and conclude on September 25…The team with the best record across both conferences will earn the 2016 USL Regular Season Title. The top eight teams in each conference will then advance to the 2016 USL Playoffs, which will see a single-elimination bracket crown two conference champions. The two conference champions will advance to the 2016 USL Championship.”

Local

At the Ocean City Nor’easters website, a look at the four alums selected in the 2016 SuperDraft.

Also at the OC site, how a tweet from former Nor’easters player Nate Bourdeau became the genesis of a LeBron James commercial for Kia.

Philly’s American Outlaws chapter calls the Field House at the Convention Center home for televised USNT games. Two viewing parties are coming up: The USMNT against Iceland on Jan. 31, then against Canada on Feb. 5. There’ll be drink and food specials for each game, click here for details.

Longtime Catasauqua Area High School head coach Trajano Bastidas has been inducted into the Lehigh Valley Soccer Hall of Fame.

MLS

Player moves:

The Sounders will have a livestream of “a “significant club announcement” at 2 pm ET today, presumably to announce the signing of Jordan Morris to the largest Homegrown contract in league history.

Jurgen Klinsmann says of Morris’ decision to sign with Seattle rather than Werder Bremen, “I’m thrilled that Jordan decided to go pro. This is the really important decision. And I’m thrilled with the Sounders, that he goes into an environment that he knows, that he feels comfortable with, and that he feels now that, ‘At this specific point in time, this is the best move for me.’…”

Maybe no Nemanja Vidic to MLS after all? The Sun reports Aston Villa are interested in the Serbian defender.

NYCFC head coach Patrick Vieira acknowledges he “may not have the best knowledge of the league” but this is something he can overcome. And, while he had offers to coach in the Premier League, the Championship, and Ligue 1, he is excited to be in MLS. “To manage a first team, to manage a team with big potential, to build a successful football club, this is what I wanted to do.” More from Vieira at Wall Street Journal, Soccer AmericaSI, and Reuters.

Orlando Sentinel reports, “Orlando City Soccer Club has agreed to pay the city about $18 million for the land on which the team’s $155 million stadium will be built, enough to match or surpass what taxpayers have spent to ready the site.”

RSL owner Dell Loy Hansen is considering building “a ‘world-class’ soccer academy and training facility” in the Salt Lake Valley, a venture that would put plans to build a 6,000 seat stadium for USL side Real Monarchs on hold, at least temporarily.

NASL commissioner Bill Peterson tells Empire of Soccer, “The best thing for us is for MLS to be successful.” He is not so understanding of the USL’s second division aspirations:

To me, there are championship leagues, reserve leagues, and amateur leagues. You are one of the three. You are either playing for trophies, playing to develop players, or playing for the love of the game. We are a championship league. We play for trophies. [USL] have developed a league where they are, in my opinion, a reserve league, and that is where they are having success — and rightfully so. I think it is great for the game, great for MLS, great for the players to get a chance to be in a development system, but it is completely a different model from what we do.”

At some point, the Federation needs to realize what they have assembled is a reserve league. The majority of the teams are reserve teams for MLS. I think it is a wonderful model for MLS, but let’s stop kidding ourselves about what it is. It’s a reserve league.

US

On Wednesday, we linked to some choice words from Benny Feilhaber regarding Jurgen Klinsmann’s selection policies. Klinsmann responded to Feilhaber’s remarks in an interview at Goal.com:

His perspective gives him his opinion. He doesn’t have a coach’s perspective. He doesn’t know how we put the pieces together. He doesn’t know how we evaluate every position, how we evaluate the pieces that need to connect…We had Benny several times with us and he never had an impact in the moments he had the opportunity with the national team under my guidance. I cannot speak for (former coach Bob Bradley). Bob had his own experiences with him. Whenever he came in with us he never made an impression that made us say, “This is international level.” It’s as simple as that.

Speaking to ESPN, Klinsmann said,

We had [Feilhaber] several times with us, and he was not able to make a mark. Benny unfortunately was never able to step up to an international level with me. Whatever was before was before.

We gave him the opportunity a couple of times in our environment and he was never able to put a stamp on the game. That’s why he’s not invited here, because he’s not on my level, not consistent enough.

At the US Soccer website, Jozy Altidore, now in his tenth year as a player on the senior USMNT (!), talks about how he wants to be a leader on the team.

At ASN, Brandon Vincent talks about being called into the USMNT January camp.

Bedoya!

New financial information posted on the US Soccer website shows Jurgen Klinsmann earned $3.2 million coaching the USMNT in the 2014 fiscal year, a pay rise of 28 percent compared to the $2.5 million he received in 2013. More at the Washington Post and SI.

Looks like Morgan Brian has replaced Alex Morgan at No. 5 on the USWNT goalkeeping depth chart. Or something.

Elsewhere

The annual Football Money League report issued by accounting firm Deloitte says Real Madrid is soccer’s biggest moneymaker for the 11th straight year with revenue of $628 million in 2014-15.

The AP reports, “Lionel Messi’s tax fraud trial has been set for May 31-June 3, conflicting with the start of the centennial Copa America in the United States.”

Speaking of Messi, it would be nice if his people can find this kid, who appears to have fashioned a Messi jersey out of a plastic shopping bag.

115 Comments

  1. So first impressions. As of right now are we a playoff team? (The lowest of bars)
    My answer: Ehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

    • It’s a very incomplete roster. If we add 2 more DP’s (not saying we will, just indulging), it will changed the entire outlook.

    • Currently….no way. We’ve been so bad for a while now that I’m willing to give this some time though.

    • My first response is no. With the team still having as many slots open as they do, with only one international slot, it seems unlikely they will make the playoffs. Right now this team needs more goal scorers.

    • Not even close to a playoff team.
      .
      Very reminiscent of a discussion on the boards at the same time last year.

    • We’re worse than we were last year. We finished 19th in the standings. The question isn’t “are we a playoff team”, it’s “can we stay ahead of the Fire and Rapids and not be the worst team in the MLS”.
      .
      Of course, things can change, but right now, I see absolutely no reason for optimism.

      • Alright. I’ll go ahead and play devil’s advocate on this claim.
        .
        Last year, we came into the season with He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named powder keg goalie situation. It seemed that everybody except Nick knew Voldemort couldn’t cut it, but we had to trot him out there anyway. Now, Andre Blake has a chance to grow. He showed us last year what he can do (once he got healthy), and he should only get better.
        .
        Verdict: we’re in a better situation in goal.
        .
        Last year on defense, we had (as I recall) Steven Vitoria and Ethan White as our starting CB pair. This year, it looks like we have Anderson and Marquez. We found out last year that Richie Marquez can flat out ball. We don’t know a damn thing about Anderson – but that said, I’m willing to wager he’s better than Ethan White.
        .
        Verdict: Let’s call it a push for now.
        .
        At fullback, we started last year with some combination of Williams, Gaddis, and Fabinho. Now we have Gaddis, Fabinho, and Rosenberry, with Anderson providing a bit of coverage on the left.
        .
        Verdict: Right now, I’d rather have last year’s group – but that gets the caveat that I’m firmly in the camp that trading Williams was a mistake. That said, if Rosenberry develops quickly, my opinion here can change.
        .
        Last year we started Maidana, Nogs, and Edu in the midfield. Maidana is likely the most creative player to wear a Union jersey. Nogs is likely the best player to wear a Union jersey. Edu is… Edu. He has a penchant for wandering too far away from his position, which forces Nogs to have to cover for him rather than doing what he does best.
        .
        This year, we get Tranquillo in the attacking spot to join the duo of Edu and Nogs. Curtain’s interview on the podcast makes it sound like he’s attempting to rein in Edu’s wandering tendencies. If so, coupled with the idea of splitting the CBs wide and working the ball around through Edu sounds interesting. It’s a new tactic, and we’ll see what fruit it bears. Barnetta is a better defender than Maidana; can the Union afford to trade creativity for defense? We’ll see. I would’ve preferred keeping Madiana, to be honest – though I do recognize the value of the trade.
        .
        Verdict: I want this year to be better, but I’ll say last year’s was better on paper. I may, of course, be singing a different tune by mid-year.
        .
        Forward: Last year, we all assumed Fernando was the guy, and Sapong was a fill in who would play some wide minutes and give The Beard a rest in center-forward. Instead, Sapong turned into the team’s top goal scorer. Out on the wing, we had Andrew “dribble out of bounds” Wenger and Le Toux. Going into the year, we didn’t know the black hole Wenger would become. Many of us were high on him based on 2014, and he did nothing during pre-season to change that assessment. Le Toux is Le Toux – he’s going to work his ass off (sometimes, too much). He’s going to score goals, but he’ll do so in streaks.
        .
        This year, we seem (at least as of now) to have Pontius, Sapong, and Le Toux in these positions. (I’m not convinced we’re playing a 4-3-3, but it works for comparison.) I think everybody recognizes the talent Pontius has. The question there is whether or not he can stay healthy. Sapong did a fantastic job last year even though he was limited by injury (broken face!) and stupidity (DUI suspension). Le Toux is still Le Toux. I firmly believe that if they switch to a 2-forward set, Le Toux can thrive playing off Sapong. If they keep him in the same sort of wide role, we’ll get what we got last year – effort, some defensive lapses caused by too much effort, and a handful of goals and assists.
        .
        Verdict: Push, but only comparing on what we knew / thought we knew at the start of the year – especially in regards to Wenger and Nando/Sapong.
        .
        .
        Overall, the defense looks better to me. First and foremost, we have more stability in goal. That right there puts us ahead of where we started last year. Not starting Ethan White is a plus in my book. Marquez is better than Vitoria, so for our CBs to be better than last year, all we need is for Anderson to be an improvement on White. That seems a safe bet to me.
        .
        I think a lot of us (certainly me) probably over-valued what we had going into last season – even with the obvious goalie powder keg on the roster. That said, I really think what we’re looking at this year looks better to me – and that’s not even factoring in Earnie in place of Nick, or BSFC in place of Harrisburg.
        .
        The floor is yours. 🙂

      • Thanks John well argued and fair, Adam S’ position is staunch and unwavering and I’m fatigued by it.
        .
        My comment after Jim Curtin’s Podcast is all I can say anymore regarding this discussion.
        .

      • I wish I could waver. I did this last year too, and people hated it then too, but I don’t sugarcoat shit just to make it taste a little better.

      • My friend- your POV is well taken and obviously your worldview is a fool me once shame on you fool me twice shame on me…
        .
        this is fine…my problem is you have NOTHING to offer that is constructive during a time when so many obvious things have occurred throughout the club that you cannot even recognize it or even accept other POV.. and people with the worldview you display on this page are unwavering, staunch and cannot be reasoned with to offer a counter-point that says… you know maybe things are on the mend and some of these folks are making valid points….

      • Honestly there is no way we are not better than last year. How much better is the question. I think that Barnetta is a much better player than Maidana and will give the team a ton more balance. Our depth on the wings is so much better this year as we had Le Toux, Ayuk, and a terrible Wenger – now we have Le Toux, a year old Ayuk, Pontious, Restrepo, and Herbers. It also sounds like we are going to be bringing in a good forward, but that’s wait and see, although Fernando didn’t really do anything last year.

      • Goalie: Other than Blake’s inability to stay healthy, there’s really no reason to believe we won’t be better overall. I’ll actually agree with this, because Blake only played 6 games last year anyway, so even if he plays 10, it’s an upgrade.
        .
        Centerback: Besides the fact that we don’t know who will be starting? Edu to just about anybody will be a downgrade, right? Even if we get 10 more games out of Marquez, we’re losing 20 games out of Edu playing in the back. Calling this a downgrade, hoping that Anderson or Yaro is at least decent.
        .
        Fullback: Sheanon to Gaddis was a massive downgrade and that trade remains terrible. We still don’t really have depth. Downgrade.
        .
        Midfield: We just got rid of a guy who has been near the top of the league table in assists and has often been our only offensive spark. I know that a lot of people didn’t like him, but the team was almost always noticeably better with Maidana on the field. The Edu-Nog pairing has been awkward in the past and I see no reason for that to change. I think the only other real change is that we punted away Lahoud and Carroll got another year older, hurting our DM depth. I’m going to call this a downgrade until I see that the Nog-Edu pairing actually works.
        .
        Forward: I think Pontius is pretty worthless – he hasn’t been good since 2012 and he can’t stay on the field anyway. That being said, the bar to being better at forward is “being better than Andrew Wenger”. Doesn’t really matter who plays at LW, whether it’s Pontius or Restrepo or Herbers or some player we haven’t gotten yet – they’ll be better than Wenger. Upgrade.
        .
        Overall: As of right now, we’ve replaced Wenger with Pontius (upgrade by default) and Maidana with Anderson (massive downgrade most likely). There’s been some reshuffling of depth, but we generally look shallower as of right now (with Aristeguieta and Lahoud gone, that’s two important backups we really don’t have replacements for). Aside from that, our coaching is still bad. So we’re better at goalie but worse in front of the goalie, our midfield is worse, and our striking should be a little better but has lost its primary midfield provider.
        .
        Last year before the season, I was probably the biggest doomsayer, pointing out that the Union were not a playoff team because they hadn’t improved from the previous season. Well, I’m going to say the same thing I said last year: the Union still haven’t improved, and they’re still not a playoff team. In fact, they’ve actually seemingly taken a step back at this point, not forward.

      • Stop using the playoffs as your metric for success then….

      • The playoffs is a very low bar for success in the MLS.
        .
        I see no reason to not use it as a metric of bare minimum progress.

      • So basically Adam you are looking for Doug Henning to lead this team. Am I getting that right? You want someone to come into the Union, snap his fingers, say “alla kazam” and bam the Union are a playoff team. Sweet. Got it. No growth period. No time to change the system or integrate new players. Just instant playoff team. OK.

      • I want somebody to come in with a realistic and articulated plan for taking this team somewhere. That certainly hasn’t been Earnie. I want somebody who is going to come in, clean out the crap, and institute a clear strategy towards making us better. Right now, all we have is a guy who says absolutely nothing and whose moves reflect no clear plan. Most of what people have attributed to Earnie (such as the improving youth system) was going on before he got here and there’s no clear indication what he’s actually changed. I want change, I’m tired of being told “we’ll try to compete” without any action towards making that happen. I want action, dammit.

      • But there has been action. They have cleared out dead wood. Vittoria not signed. White let go. Pfeffer traded. So again you refuse to see change. Got it. They drafted almost a whole new back line to improve the defense. Nope, not good enough for you. They also signed a foreign player to bolster said back line in hopes of changing the system to play out from the back. Nope, still not change to you. They are going to sign another forward (Curtain’s words in case you were curious where this mystery idea comes from). So here’s an idea Adam, when the Union actually does something that meets your standards, you just let us know. Then we will be informed. And thus can go about our day feeling happy. Thank you for your service.

      • All4U, I guess I need to be more clear. When I say change, I mean a lot more than shuffling around backup pieces. I’m not talking about change on an “I change my underwear” level, I’m talking change on a “I changed my lifestyle and got my shit together” level. The Union changed their underwear this offseason. They’re still the same old Union.
        .
        When it’s clear that the Union are serious about competing rather than just putting up a facade of “look, new faces! different and exciting!”, I’ll be the loudest person here talking about it, I promise.

      • So you use the word competing…as I remember last year, I believe the Union competed in every game they played. Yup, I checked, they played every game and competed against other teams in MLS. So maybe you didn’t mean compete. Something else perhaps? Did you mean you expect them to have a team that competes for the playoffs or a team that competes to be the top of the league, or even a team that competes for MLS champions? If it’s the playoff’s it’s probably going to be the year after next. If your aim was top of the league it’s going to be 3-5 years. And an MLS champion? Maybe in the next 5-10 years. But somehow I don’t think any of this is good enough for you. So since it’s going to be awhile for you to get what you want, which is apparently an all-star team, I’m going to stick with my original premise and just wait for you to say something positive. No worries, I’m not holding my breath.

      • Okay, I’m not going to argue semantics. What I will say is that the rest of that post is equally ridiculous. The Timbers won the MLS cup last year. They didn’t qualify for the playoffs the year before. The Timbers played the Crew, who missed the playoffs two years prior. I don’t know where you’re getting your timeframes from, but I’m basing mine on what other MLS teams are actually doing.

      • I like a good debate Adam. Thanks for the reply.
        .
        If we’re comparing opening roster of 2015 to a projected version of 2016, Edu is a mid not a CB. So Anderson doesn’t need to be better at CB than Mo. He needs to be better than either Ethan White or Steven Vitoria.
        .
        You also said we replaced Maidana with Anderson, and that’s not really the case either. Based on the start-of-year roster for 2014, we replaced the combination of Wenger+Maidana with (likely) Pontius+Barnetta. I love me some Chaco, and I would’ve preferred to try and build around him offensively. That said, he had his faults – he was a defensive liability, and his tendency to drift left holes in the middle on both sides of the field.
        .
        Barnetta is tougher (at the risk of citing “Philly tough” which I don’t want to), he defends harder, and he includes himself in the buildup better. Can he unlock the final pass? Well, I doubt he’ll be able to do it as magically as Maidana, frankly. In 11 games (9 starts, 765 minutes) he had a goal and 3 assists. That’s a goal/90 rate of .12, which is better than Maidana (.04). If I’m doing the math right, Barnetta had .35 assists per 90 minutes, where Maidana had a rate of .63.
        .
        I like Barnetta, but I’d still prefer Maidana – at least, as long as it’s possible to build for his strengths while hiding his weaknesses.
        .
        Comparing start-of-year Wenger to Pontius, I’d call it a downgrade. But, of course, we all know that Wenger couldn’t get out of his own head – hitting both posts on the same shot can’t help a guy’s confidence. Even if Pontius is a wreck and only plays 1/4 of the year, we also have Ayuk, a year older as you said, and a few other possibilities. To me, the left wing / left forward has to be an improvement – only because it was a black hole last year.
        .
        The rubric, I think, is something you mentioned: the Edu – Nog combo in the center. It’s never been particularly effective in the past, which doesn’t bode well for going forward. But that said, I also don’t recall the Union specifically saying the plan is to spread the CBs wide and have Edu drop between them to build play. Nor do I ever recall the Union saying Edu has to avoid roaming. I have no doubt Edu can perform the former task; his success (or failure) this year will depend on the latter, though. We’ll see.
        .
        Playoffs? No, I don’t think so. I don’t need the playoffs this year, though, to call the season a success. Your mileage may vary and all that. Last year, they had a goal differential of -13. I want to see that number approaching zero this year. (DC United looks to be the only team with a negative value (-2) to make the playoffs last year; San Jose appears to be the only team with a positive value (+2) to miss the playoffs last year.) So, goal #1 for me this year is to improve the goal differential by 10 or more – that is, no worse than -3. That would be good progress for Year One of the Stewart regime.
        .
        The Union were actually .500 at home last year – 7-7-3. Not bad for a shitty team. (And not counting USOC.) Goal #2 this year is to be above .500 at home – more wins than loses.
        .
        Finally, for me, they were atrocious on the road last year: 3-10-4. Only Chicago (0-12-5) appears to be worse in the east. (Oddly, if I’m doing math right, the Galaxy were actually worse – 2-9-6, for 12 points. But they also went 12-2-3 at home.) So goal #3, for me, is to turn some of those road loses into draws. They had 13 points on the road. That needs to move up, but only a bit. 15-16 is a good building block.
        .
        Of course, additional roster moves can make all of this moot. But I think there’s a really good devil’s advocate argument here in my rambling to say they’re better. Again, none of that above really factors in getting rid of Nick or starting up BSFC – both of which, I think, will be huge pluses going forward.

      • It’s all well reasoned John… but none of it matters… no points will be conceded in your argument…

      • I think right now that we’re going to be improved in back 4 and midfield trio. Not by much, but better. Yeah, Chaco could pass and create, but I’m optimistic that we’ll get more production from Barnetta. We also have Fernandes as backup which is better than Pfeffer.
        .
        Front three is a work in progress. Right now? It’s not worse than last year. We have Pontius and Restrepo as wing options to bolster the squad we had last year — Wenger, LeToux and Ayuk. Sapong this year is the best forward we had last year. A big signing at forward can make a huge impact on the prospects of this club right now. And everything I hear from Curtin and Stewart gives me more reason to be optimistic. I sense a club with a plan.

      • Agreed. There has to be another big piece or two coming to bolster the attack. Midfield of Barnetta, Edu, Nogs should be stronger than Maidana, Carroll/Lahoud, Nogs last year if those three co-exist with any chemistry at all. The talent is upgraded. Goalie is much better, though a veteran backup would give me more comfort there. Backline has to be better, and seems to have more flexibility and cover than before. Pontius has to be an upgrade over Wenger, right? Team seems like it could have slightly higher quality depth than last year, though that jury is still out with many spots to be filled still. More attacking options at striker or on the wing is what will or will not push this team into playoff contention.

    • Obviously there are so many roster holes to fill that in a month we’ll have a more complete picture. But there are so many question marks on this team. You’ll need a lot of things to go right.

  2. Is anyone else a little surprised that they were willing to use an international spot on Herbers? Is this kid likely to start or make the 18 regularly? I’m asking this for anyone who knows how effective this kid will be as a forward.

    • Curtin seemed to indicate in the interview yesterday he was legitimately going to be next in line after Sapong

      • Herbers from my POV is not a CF the way I believe they intend to use Sapong… Herbers skill set from what I’ve read and seen seems to be as a wider attacking type ‘Neymar’ player.
        .
        They need a solution and I suspect one will follow shortly.

    • i might be an optimist, but his highlights looked pretty excellent. i know they are from college rather than professional play, but i think he can contribute. he looks like he tries things

      • Djenan Catic had one of the best college highlight reels I’ve seen in a long time too…

      • Point taken but Catic was in the NAIA with Davenport then one season in the USL in comparison to Herbers, who was with an NCAA D I soccer program that has made the championship tournament in 23 of the last 24 seasons and has had at least one player taken in every MLS Draft since 1996.

      • As far as I have seen and heard a lot of coaches were pretty high on Herbers as the best attacking player. Since most teams needed defense first they hoped he would drop. If you ask me he’s got the size and ability to be a real commodity on this team. Granted I’d prefer to see someone more tested signed and Herbers put in BSFC for a year.

      • He was the best attacking player on a draft that didn’t have many strong attacking players.

  3. Man idk, I was erring on the patient side mostly, but hearing the comments and seeing the roster structure does not make this coming year very promising. I love the fact that I think a plan is in place, but I was kinda looking forward to maybe winning some games this year. Let’s just hope we can make a couple more impactful signings and things change before the season starts. As it stands now our roster is pretty similar to last year, if not more thin.
    .
    I know it’s almost impossible to say without the full roster, but I’m actually more interested in hearing Jim talk about the style and plan we will be implementing. Last year just did not work at all, and I don’t think it was just personnel. The formation and goals led to mostly aimless punting or possession that didn’t lead to much.

    • Look I just need to say this again…if by the end of the season the team misses the playoffs but you see a discernible style of play and philosophy and attitude emerging — the season is a win and a success. I want a UNION way of play… I want a system and tactical wherewithal and nuance and style and aesthetic…
      .
      We need to…please stop holding out hopes that this is a playoff team… so just move on from it and align expectations to a different value set.
      .
      This is ALL about a style and philosophy of play and movement towards that end that is repeatable game after game after game season after season… this is not about playoffs this year.
      .
      If it happens…magic.
      .
      Please let’s not short sell the importance of first PLAY WELL… then WIN.

      • I think my POV is in agreement with yours. I am generally very happy that we (seem to) have an actual plan in place now. I am most concerned about style of play. The problem is that none of that has really been outlined at this point, so all we have to go on is our previous knowledge of the coach and the roster. The roster is still forming clearly, it’s the coach that is more worrisome in regards to style of play.
        .
        I do have more hope than during most of the other pre-seasons

      • +1
        .
        The climb might be arduous at times, but the climb IS the fun part to watch.
        .
        Too much video game mentality here.

  4. Lucky Striker says:

    At a minimum, the way Curtin spoke about it, they need a LCB to pair with Yaro, a D-Mid who can really play the position-whether he starts or not-and another striker.

    Playoff bar will depend on how it all comes together…..or not……….

  5. Stephen O'Malley says:

    I’m hearing from people I know at CBS is saying that the striker is domestic and there is a DP d-mid from Europe. Trust the process

    • You down with TTP…

    • What’s the process? We keep being told there is one, but what is it? This isn’t the Sixers, where a new GM came in and immediately made his plan clear. We got a new GM who, along with the coach, has spouted a whole lotta general nonsense platitudes. What is the plan?

      • Stephen O'Malley says:

        The process of signing players it will happen and I hope these players will pan out

      • Well it seems to me the plan is to build as much as possible from within. Whether it’s through the draft, BFSC, or the academy. They will supplement this through foreign and domestic signings. They will not be going out and getting a Giovinco or an aging striker like Drogba. They will look to buy low and sell high. They hope to make the defense more stable while having a more active defense as a team. Basically make the spine of the team strong through drafting and current players, whilst supplementing the wings and forwards with help from outside the organization.

      • That’s not a plan All4U… it hasn’t been written down or handed to us via a conference call… there’s no plan… everything that has happened in the last 3 months is just a bunch on nonsense and platitudes.
        .
        I’m being a bit sardonic… sorry Adam.

      • No need to apologize. It would be a bit boring if we all agreed, no? No problem with a little jab here and there 🙂
        .
        I mean, unless I’m wrong (and I could be), things like building through the draft, BSFC, and the academy have been in place for awhile. It simply hasn’t produced results. I haven’t seen anything change with Earnie here.

      • Difficult to build through BSFC when it didn’t exist last year.

      • Absolutely… I appreciate your sense of humor– and your points which ultimately are well founded on a tumultuous past.

      • All4U is a paid troll

      • .
        Least he’s getting paid sir…you do it for free.

      • Point to el P.

      • Point, game, match I’d say…

      • Please tell me where I can pick up this supposed paycheck…

      • the process is to get good players who play well together. since we are not finished getting players yet, and no games are being played at present, it is pretty difficult to assess anything. given the nature of blog comments, I recognize that this POV may not matter to many. Perhaps going to a sixers blog or having a cold beer and watching a sixers game would be a better use of one’s time, sort of a bridge to the beginning of the season when actual performances will be available for review. Anything is possible at this point. To deny that, or claim to know the outcome before it even starts is a level of prescience not many possess. Myabe this blog’s readers are blessed with such a person …

      • Old Soccer Coach says:

        Thank you for saying it.
        .
        Right now the only people who know anything at all are Curt and Earnie.
        .
        The morning of January 27th Weds. Will be the first time any of us have even a chance to see anything for ourselves.
        .
        The single most important comment made on PSP today was the one line question about live streaming of preseason games.
        .
        The rest of it is us sharing our fears, personal philosophies, and analytical techniques with each other so that we get to know each other better.
        .
        Curt and Earnie are not going to tell us what the plan is, or what the process is,until they are finished carrying it to conclusion.
        .
        The only confrontational negotiation of which I can think in which the parties each revealed their final “without this none” negotiating position in the beginning was called Mutual Assured Destruction which the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists represented on its cover for decades by having the hands of the clock at one second before midnight.
        .
        I am as itchy to know stuff as anyone else reading PSP, but really. The eggs in the omelet set when they set, you cannot fold it till they do. End of story.

      • Why would he tell you and everyone else his plan then he might not be able to carry it out. If his plan is to sign unknown cheap players with potential why tell everyone about them. If his plan is to give the union a new formation why tell all the coaches of other teams the style of play and formation so they can plan. The more he doesn’t tell us and the media the better his chances are of pulling off what he wants to do.

    • Darren Mattocks for striker?

  6. For the Houston Trade, was it potentially an Intl spot just for the 2nd half of last season? Has it been confirmed that it is for this season as well?

  7. I am hopeful the Union can get to the playoffs… But ultimately..better product on field is what I expect to see… Anything less than improvement in this area I will see as failure. The team will get a pass for a bit just on the amount of player turnover. So I am patient and putting trust in ES!

    • My “goals” for the year, as I just posted elsewhere:
      .
      #1: Improve last year’s -13 goal differential by at least 10.
      .
      #2: Last year at PPL, they were .500 – 7-7-3. They need to have a winning record this year, even if that means just turning one loss into a draw.
      .
      #3: Last year on the road, they were god-awful. (Though interestingly, LAG were actually worse than the Union on the road.) Last year, they had 13 points on the road. That number needs to improve, too, even if only a little. Somewhere around 16 is good enough for me this year.
      .
      Hopefully, accomplishing those 3 goals also brings us more entertainment this year, and makes 2017 the year we really move forward and never look back.

      • Read your post …both here and above… All good points John. Fits nicely into the improvement in style and overall quality brings the results theme.

  8. If you bring yourself to listen to the Pfeffer interview, he mentions that he and MacMath are looking for apartments together.
    .
    :/

  9. Just Rob f/k/a Rob127 says:

    Ed, I’m assuming you meant you “can’t” bring yourself to watch the Pfeffer video…me either.

  10. I love to criticize Klinsmann whenever I can (which is often), but his response to Feilhaber was spot on. The message that I took away from it was JK saying “look, your performance and impact on the pitch isn’t so high that it will make me put up with the off-field nonsense.”

    • …or your ugly a$$ mullet….

    • I took it as a little knock against MLS again. “He might do well in MLS, but he can’t cut it at MY level.”

      • Maybe JK just didn’t want to see more of his whining face when every little thing doesn’t go Benny’s way. I know I’m sick of it and I only have to see him a few times a year..

      • JK: “Stop whining!”
        .
        BF: “Make me!”
        .
        JK: “Bye Felicia!”
        .
        .
        .
        Sounds plausible.

      • Funny how you could replace the initials “BF” with “LD” in the above exchange …

    • Let’s be honest. Feilhaber was clearly one of the players anonymously quoted in that infamous Sporting News article a few years ago, before the Costa Rica snow game. Klinsmann hasn’t forgotten it.

      • Feilhaber is a headcase. That’s why he isn’t getting caps. He’s been called into camps and can’t crack the line-up. end of story.

  11. Seven month season is just not enough…..

    • It really isn’t. We need to switch to a Fall/Spring schedule. This offseason is interminable right now.

      • many many many minutes of wasted dead space which tragically is the way of US Soccer… many many minutes of wasted or latent energy and valuable resources.
        .
        such a shame – – it hurts me on a causal and subatomic level.

      • I would hate to watch a game this weekend and I’m sure the play would be crap too. I’m generally fine with the schedule as is. It could be pushed a bit longer in both directions though, I’ll agree on that.

      • BTW – We would still be on winter break either way.

      • Fair enough. I guess it’s all the same to me. Really just semantics of when one season ends and another starts once you start incorporating relatively large breaks anyway.

  12. Some tough love…please forgive me…
    .
    FIRST PLAY WELL.
    .
    THEN WIN.
    .
    .
    This is the way all over the world. Play the game well as the prime mover…. once this becomes more second nature…winning becomes a DIRECT extension.
    .
    Play well….WIN.
    .
    – not the other way around…at no point in time under any circumstance has this team EVER played well with any consistency yet we just want them to build a winning team….
    .
    … stop with the playoff talk friends.

    • +1,000

    • At this point, with the team as it currently stands, I’m not sure where the “playing well” or the “winning” comes from. I think that I, like most people here, are pretty much putting all of their faith in ES, and believing that eventually good things will come.
      .
      I find myself trying to put a timeframe together in my mind so that I am not so frustrated in the short term. For me, it starts with the beginning of the season and how Curtin has us playing. I don’t mean necessarily positions but the thought process and style. I think that sets the tone for the mindset of the club overall.

  13. el P – why in the world would you think winning and playing well are different things? They are the same. If you play well you win. Most fans (including Philly fans) use winning as a proxy for playing well.

    Adam S – I agree wholeheartedly with you! You were correct last year – the Union sucked. I fear they will suck again this year. Time is running out to improve the roster and the team won’t have a chance to train or play together in preseason. And Curtin couldn’t coach a defensive park-the-bus team, so what makes anyone think he can possibly coach a “pass-out-of-the-back” high pressure team???

    • el Pachyderm says:

      Playing well and winning are most assuredly not the same thing… if you think otherwise~ okay.

      • A great example of this is that Colorado team that won MLS Cup in 2010. Didn’t play particularly well, but won MLS Cup in a year when they finished tied for the SEVENTH highest point total in MLS that year.

        If making the playoffs is the bar, would Union fans be happy with a season like what DC had? Awful and ugly style, yet made the playoffs and got to the Eastern Conf semis.

        I wouldn’t be happy if the Union made the playoffs and played that type of style. Sure, sometimes you need to ugly things up and get a result, but on the whole, I would not want that style of play over an extended period of time.

      • I would be quite happy if we made the playoffs playing ugly soccer? Ya know why?
        .
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b5-iJUuPWis

      • Ha, that’s great.

        BTW – Herm Edwards’s clock management made Andy Reid’s look fantastic.

      • .
        I love it… yes I agree you play the game to win… that is the ultimate goal of any game…
        .
        The aesthetic matters too though, at least for me… if you like booting the ball up the field or ransacking fast paced blistering head cut off play in the name of winning then fine (which this team has done and is clear to me at least that they have desire to do anymore)… but not me… it’s gotta look good, it’s gotta be showing an emerging US sophistication– otherwise why even bother cause the winning is totally hollow.
        .
        Real Madrid can win a game by 3 gols and get booed off the field if it doesn’t appease in style… that’s my worldview.
        .
        I like your stuff Adam S — man we are diametrically opposed though… I respect you and recognize your frustrations with this club…we just don’t agree about much.

      • (to not do anymore)
        ‘scuse.

    • this may be too nuanced but teams that play well in a coherent manner do not always win – sometimes a different, negative yet coherent manner defeats it. agree that winning is the goal, that being sustained winning, year after year.

      also, don’t worry about who the coach is – Earnie’s history indicates he does not worry about that so much:

      AZ Alkmaar FC Manager history
      Manager – From/To
      John van den Brom – 29-Sep-2014/
      Dennis Haar – 19-Sep-2014/29-Sep-2014
      Marco van Basten – 01-Jul-2014/15-Sep-2014
      Dick Advocaat – 15-Oct-2013/01-Jul-2014
      Martin Haar – 30-Sep-2013/15-Oct-2013
      Gertjan Verbeek – 01-Jul-2010/29-Sep-2013
      Dick Advocaat – 06-Dec-2009/01-Jun-2010
      Ronald Koeman – 18-May-2009/05-Dec-2009

      • Ah, the advantage of employing a Sporting Director pick the players instead of having the Manager do it.

    • That last point has been killing me. Curtin was so completely overmatched as a coach. Wouldn’t any path to “playing well” or “instituting a new system” or “winning” involve bringing in an actual head coach who knows how to institute the system and not just a glorified assistant who has already proven he doesn’t have the chops?

      • It remains a mystery to me, too, why Earnie Stewart didn’t want to start fresh with a new coaching staff here in Philadelphia.
        .
        That being said, I’m guessing that JC will be sent packing sooner rather than later if ES doesn’t like what he’s seeing this season.

      • I disagree he was over matched. We generally started games really well and had a plan in place. I agree his adjustments were not great so he has to work on that for sure. My hope is he gets better with experience and with a better roster.

      • Old Soccer Coach says:

        In independent schools there were two general categories of newly imported bosses, those who instituted changes in personnel and policy immediately because they thought they already knew what needed to be done, and those who spent the first year or so, listening carefully to improve their understanding of what it was they were tasked with leading.
        .
        Ernie Stewart is in a new league, in a country where his sport is NOT the king of the mountain, with a team that has just undergone a decapitation. He was not hired after an intensive eighteen month head hunt, but quite rapidly after he and Jay Sugarman each realized that the other was serious.
        .
        Ernie Stpewart is still listening carefully, figuring out how the organization actually works, making decisions and laying down guiding principles as needed.
        .
        If he had brought in new people, those new people would have had precisely the same learning process ahead of them that he is undergoing: country, league, franchise, team. He has no idea who the domestic coaching alternatives are, probably even now.
        .
        He has been learning whether he wants to keep Jim Curtin and Chris Albright. Jay Sugarman’s comments last summer seemed to suggest that he Sugarman did not want complete immediate franchise chaos.

      • Spot on, OSC. The approach that Stewart is taking is very logical and measured.

      • Interesting perspective. I hope you’re right.

      • … and he will eventually let Curtin go.

      • .
        the manager absolutely knows he is auditioning-

      • Most astute comment in this thread, and really the foundation of understanding all the(as of now) player and personnel moves or non-moves.

      • Most astute comment in this thread, and really the foundation of understanding all the(as of now) player and personnel moves or non-moves.

      • OSC,
        Excellent description…thank you for sharing your insight and I look forward to your posts.
        As a fellow student of history, you probably remember examples of similar transitions, like Nimitz after Pearl Harbor and his treatment of the codebreakers. Your above description of the learning process clearly could be applied to how Nimitz acted.
        Thank you.

        UnionGoal

      • Saying Curtin was “completely overmatched” is just SO easy and thoughtless; a complete and simple cop out. What did he have to work with last year? Practically nothing! And you KNOW he wasn’t calling all the shots on player moves, Sak had him hamstrung from the moment he took over.
        .
        The goalie situation was crazy, and the ONE solution that made sense was hurt TWICE. The only thing I’ll fault him with there was playing McCarthy over Sylvestre (on a couple of occasions when Sylvestre wasn’t hurt).
        .
        Chaco was NOT a terrific team player and didn’t have very good work ethic. His brilliance when the matchups were easy for him did NOT make up for his “disappearing act” in the same number of games when things were tougher.
        .
        He made the call to move Edu to the back line AND IT WORKED. When Marquez got his shot and showed what he could do, he got to keep the job when a lot of other guys would have shoved the vets back in when healthy.
        .
        What did he have for a bench? Fred? CASEY??? And some seriously undersized kids who were too slow to make up for their lack of muscle.
        .
        Nogs? HURT. Sapong? HURT (and a regrettable DUI). Nando? HURT. LeToux? Firing BLANKS most of the season.
        .
        He had N-O-T-H-I-N-G. NO ONE was going to come in here and get those pieces to play any better. You didn’t “miss out” on any “miracle workers” who were gonna make that pig fly.
        .
        Oh and exactly WHO would that tactical genius have been? Who else was available that could have GUARANTEED a better result? I don’t remember many names being tossed out here by the all knowing “opinionistas”, and the few I saw didn’t inspire anyone to break out the torches and storm the castle to demand that hire. (As I recall, they didn’t even inspire anyone to wipe the Cheeto dust off their fingers and take to the keyboards either.)
        .
        It was practically a miracle that the ONLY childishly bad behaviour on a team that bad was from M’Bholi. I think THAT says a Hell of a lot about Curtin’s leadership abilities. As for the tactical side, it’s LAUGHABLE to blame the last two years on the coach’s lack of tactical competance.

      • The US Open Cup Final says Hi.

      • Explain how he was out-managed in the open cup? The only thing he should have done was tell them to foul more since the refs were afraid to make a call.

      • Saving the third sub for a goalie switch when a half dozen guys on the field were too gassed to move. I like Curtin, but that was a bonehead move.

      • Lets see. Putting Ayuk in the line up when he had no intention to play him. Putting Aristugeta in the line up would have been a better choice. Putting in Casey was only good for 15 minutes after that he is more or less a Pylon for extra time.
        .
        His over reliance on an obviously hobbled Maurice Edu in the final. (Same as he relied on an obviously hobbled Carlos Valdes over Okugo the year before.)
        .
        Oh yea a baffling goalie switch too.

      • I completely agree with you about the Open Cup and the goalie situation. I won’t get started on McCarthy (get him out of MLS PLEASE), but Curtin definitely rolled the dice for no good reason there.
        .
        Still, that doesn’t justify saying he was completely outmatched the rest of his time with this team. He was also at the helm taking a BAD tema to the Cup final TWICE. He had very few tactical options when he had any at all.

      • Someone else gets my paycheck this week…

  14. my concern is that, although they’ve made numerous changes, the
    end result is a roster with a glut of defenders, both back line and midfield. i don’t see the change to an attacking philosophy
    emerging from this group.

    al c

    • I think they have just signed Restrepo and Pontius who are technical players over Andrew Wenger and hopefully Letoux not in the midfield. I think they intend on putting Barnetta into the hole to feed the channels instead of the wide and withdrawn Maidana looking for anything or hitting someone on the break.
      .
      If they intend on building play through the back CB pairing with Edu deep and Nougueira filtering play to wider and higher OB or inside tucking midfielders they will most certainly be playing with a different attacking philosophy… one that clearly is based on movement and not so much on booting the ball over the midfield or haphazard offense as we have seen. The Union played with zero creativity or offensive tactics aside from the lucky likemindedness or individual play or the lucky cross or the corner or the set play… very very few goals from the run of play last year or any year for that matter.
      .
      I think if we piece together various clues throughout a few interviews and Q&A they have in one way or another tipped their hand on what the attacking philosophy is going to look like and it is obvious to the supporter ES isn’t going to stand for the shiite we’ve had to swallow.
      .
      I think they have clearly changed the mindset with how they intend to play… will it look that way immediately – maybe not… but in my bones I have very very little doubt a new day is dawning, a new way will emerge and things are going to begin resembling the game votebol.

    • I respectfully disagree. The defenders drafted and brought in are believed to be the kind who can play with the ball at their feet and distribute. The Union also get Edu into the CDM spot which was primarily held by Carroll and Lahoud last year…also an upgrade in passing and distribution out of the back. The back line may take some time to come together, but the intent is there for the back five players to distribute better and help set up possession now.

      Add a couple of new wingers who presumably can help in possession and take defenders on one-on-one, and there does seem to be intent to change and attack more cohesively.

      Forward depth is clearly an issue though. More help is needed there, but I have a hard time believing this team won’t be more aggressive in attack.

      • The one thing I am missing here in the midfield is why oh why are we saying Edu is the one dropping and distributing out of the back. You can’t tell me he knew how to distribute the ball when he was at CB and had all that time on the ball. No this to me is entirely the wrong strategy in the middle of the park cause Nogs should be pulling the strings. All I want Edu to do since their keeping him is learn how to be a destroyer such as Tchani, Beckerman, Jones. I don’t want him roaming around the field I want him punishing people through interceptions and strength on the ball. And no I don’t want to see him starting the attack cause then he is just gonna make an ill advised run 50 to 60 yards up field lose the ball and never make it back to cover cause he doesn’t hussle back.

  15. The comments and debates on this article have been great to read. It looks like the PSP Reader Essay Contest. I can’t imagine what y’all are going to come up with when we’re all snowed in this weekend.

  16. Debate debate debate. A ton of change this season, but still no reason this team shouldn’t set a playoff run as the metric for a successful season. This isn’t a roster of college kids and homegrowns who haven’t played a minute in MLS. Plenty of guys who’ve spent years playing at a professional level. Playoffs at a minimum.

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