Opinion / Season Reviews / Union

PSP roundtable: The state of the Union

Photo: 215pix

You got questions. We got answers.

We posed the big questions on Philadelphia Union to PSP’s writers, and here’s what they had to say.

What is the state of the Union right now? 

Adam Cann: Unknown. Is C.J. Sapong a double-digit goalscorer now, or was this year an aberration? Do you add a holding player, an attacking player, or another box-to-box player to a Medunjanin/Bedoya midfield? Is the defense one or four players away from solidity? Will any of the 2016 draft class play a prominent role at the club going forward? Are the coaches safe? One trumps all others: Fans want to see significant investment in the first team now, and the club’s leadership remains coy about if and when that will happen. This tension can only remain so long, and  the club’s perceived ambition will be, quite fairly, inferred from its work this offseason.

Mike Servedio: In six years of writing about the Union, this season is the low point for me. Two years into Earnie Stewart’s tenure, the team has regressed to perhaps being worse than before he arrived. There will be a lot of new faces in Philadelphia next season and it has to be a group that will bring some stability, a clear style, and can build toward the future.

Peter Andrews: The state of the Union isn’t strong. While there’s a clear plan coming from the sporting director, there are real questions about how the team is executing that plan and how the team is set up to perform on the field. The organization’s often-silent, otherwise combatative public presence hasn’t helped matters, leading to two of the most pointless months in team history down the stretch in 2017. Change is coming, one way or another.

Nick Fishman: Purgatory. Being mediocre is the least interesting thing a team can be. The Union are in desperate need of exciting new talent.

Tim Jones: The Union are about where you would expect them to be in a five-year reboot/rebuild.

Jim O’Leary: The team has run out of last chances at this point. We’re looking at nearly a decade of them failing to meet even modest expectations. Next season can’t be a rebuild; it can’t be a transition year. Money won’t be an excuse with the salaries that are coming off the books, so anything less than a compelling and, above all, competitive product on the field should signal the end of the Sugarman era.

Christian Sandler: The first words that come to mind are “disappointing” and “frustrating.” Under current management and with this current roster, it almost feels like last year’s first-round playoff exit is a best-case scenario. Something needs to change, and it’s probably something significant.

Dan Walsh: Not good. Their core group of players has major question marks. Fans have lost confidence in the coach and owner. Attendance is down to the lowest level in franchise history. This is the most important off-season in Union history.

Steve Whisler: Meh.

Did the Union underachieve, overachieve, or play to their talent level this year? 

Adam Cann: Underachieved. If Rosenberry progresses, Wijnaldum shows any consistency, and Alberg improves into a more complete No. 10, this team could have throw punches in the postseason. Instead, Sapong took a step forward and found himself all alone. Once again there were two rookies that looked promising throughout the year, but 2016 showed that one season of data is not enough to judge young players in MLS.

Mike Servedio: Underachieved. All around. Too many of the players that suited up every week. The ones that failed to play significant parts. The front office and the coach. Outside of a few bright spots, an underwhelming year for a team that specializes in them.

Peter Andrews: Underachieved. The Union’s youth regressed, the coach didn’t put players in a position to succeed, and the front office didn’t make midseason signings to beef up obvious problem areas.

Dan Walsh: Underachieved. That goes not only for the team on the field, but for the front office. Earnie Stewart’s failure to acquire a No. 10 defined the Union’s season.

Nick Fishman: Underachieved. The Union aren’t the most talented side in MLS, but the rigid adherence to the 4-2-3-1 formation and familiar faces never gave what talent they do have the chance to flourish. 

Jim O’Leary: They underachieved. This team has players. Maybe not enough players, and certainly no stars (other than Blake potentially), but enough guys that this team should have at least been competitive this season.

Tim Jones: They played well below their talent level on the road, and slightly above it at home.

Steve Whisler: Honestly, it felt like the Union actually overachieved given the mishmash roster assembled this year and the lack of players who fit the system.

Christian Sandler: The ideal answer would be the Union played to their talent level this year. Then it would simply mean the players aren’t good enough — they need to bring in more talent. But after an absolute drubbing of Orlando in the season finale, you have to wonder if the current roster could have done more. It makes you think another playoff appearance, if nothing else, was on the table.

What/who were the bright spots for the Union this year? 

Adam Cann: Andre Blake was very good and seems to be improving all the time. Haris Medunjanin was as-advertised with the ball and as expected without (though he was asked to do so much that part of this was just slowing down as the season progressed). And, of course, Sapong.

Peter Andrews: Obviously, Jack Elliott is the player who comes to mind. Unearthing a legitimate MLS starter in the fourth round of the SuperDraft is tremendous value and a real scouting success. It’s also a good sign that Earnie Stewart hit on most of his offseason signings — Medunjanin, Oguchi Onyewu, and Fafa Picault were important parts of the Union this year, Giliano Wijnaldum fairly earned his salary, and the rookie acquisitions exceeded expectations.

Steve Whisler: C.J. Sapong and Haris Medunjanin really broke their backs for the team this season. Jack Elliott’s ascent to backline stalwart was a wonderful surprise. Oh, and Andre Blake being Andre Blake.

Mike Servedio: Elliott, Blake, Medunjanin, and Sapong had seasons they could be proud of.

Nick Fishman: Of course there are Sapong and Elliott and Blake and Picault, but Alejandro Bedoya was the brightest spot on the team. He was never going to knock home a bunch of goals and assists, but their is no question who the best player on this team is.

Christian Sandler: C.J. Sapong. He’s the type of striker you can build a team around and he’s never been better. He was never the cause of concern this season.

Tim Jones: Sapong and Blake are the bright spots.

Dan Walsh: Sapong, Blake, Elliott. Bedoya was often fantastic at the No. 8.

Jim O’Leary: No blowouts. The embarrassing results were all wins that got turned into draws. But at no point this season did we experience anything as bad as what the Union did to Orlando for example. That’s what passes for a bright spot right now.

Who were the disappointments?

Peter Andrews: Jay Simpson is in a class by himself, but I think expectations were low there to begin with. The biggest disappointment came from the Union’s class of 2016 — Keegan Rosenberry, Josh Yaro, and Fabian Herbers. Rosenberry lost his form, his favor with the manager, and a lot of his public goodwill, Yaro returned from injury to make a number of catastrophic errors and earn a banishment to the Phantom Zone for the last two months, and Herbers ended up having his whole season washed out due to injury. This season’s youth regression is deeply, deeply worrisome.

Steve Whisler: Keegan Rosenberry’s fall from grace was the most obvious disappointment of the season. Chris Pontius also really fell on his face. As a fan of Curtin the human, I was also severely disappointed that he was unable to even dare to try something new as the team stumbled out of the gate and continued to get whooped on the road. And it’s even more disappointing that this sort of complacency will likely not be addressed in the offseason.

Adam Cann: Pontius’s goalscoring, Alberg’s ability to grab the 10, Rosenberry, Yaro. But the biggest disappointment was probably the confirmation that Ale Bedoya, consistent as he is and complete as he is, is likely to remain an extraordinary support player rather than a game-changer. This should, as much as anything, motivate the search for another Designated Player.

Dan Walsh: I’ll echo the others and add Jim Curtin’s benching of Richie Marquez. True, Oguchi Onyewu played well for a stretch upon replacing him, but his lack of mobility limited his adjacent fullback. Marquez should be the once and future starter, and the fact that this still seems in question is problematic.

Christian Sandler: Alejandro Bedoya comes to mind. Granted, a lot of time was wasted out of position this season, and that wasn’t his fault. Still, as a national team player and a bigger name than most, it’s fairly easy to argue that he underachieved. There’s also Chris Pontius, who simply didn’t score many goals. Maybe 2016 got everyone’s hopes a bit too high.

Tim Jones: Derrick Jones was asked to be a difference-maker prematurely.

Jim O’Leary:  Jim Curtin. There’s just no excuse for refusing to adapt, for refusing to make adjustments when it was clear something wasn’t working.

What are the team needs for 2018? 

Peter Andrews: A new manager and a stud midfielder.

Mike Servedio: Clearly a playmaking midfielder. The formation they insist on requires one and they failed to suit up a capable one for all of 2017. A second option at striker should also be in the plans.

Nick Fishman: Flexibility. Maybe the Union bring in the perfect No. 10 to spark an offensive revolution in Chester. What happens if that player pulls a hammy in July? Will Curtin again jerry rig his players into unnatural positions just to play his preferred formation?

Adam Cann: Improvements anywhere along the back line (including working to keep Jack Elliott from dropping so early and deep). A true, at least TAM-level holding or attacking midfielder, because both Medunjanin and Bedoya would be helped by having a stabilizing influence covering for their aggressiveness (Bedoya) and lack of lateral speed (Medunjanin).

Steve Whisler: I’m sure I’m joining the choir on this, but a CAM who can dictate the game is absolutely necessary. The Union have always been a reactive team, rarely able to impose their will on an opponent. If Haris leaves this winter, the Union must shore up the midfield with a 10 and a wrecking ball No. 6 who can win the ball and find quick outlets to take pressure off the young defense.

Tim Jones: Attacking center mid, teaching Josh Yaro to anticipate better, shifting Jack Elliott to defensive center midfield to cover his speed deficit.

Dan Walsh: This, and a Philly version of Arthur Blank.

Jim O’Leary: … And as is traditional, a left back.

Which players should the Union let go this off-season? 

Adam Cann: Depends on what the strategy becomes for next season. Right now it’s an unknown.

Tim Jones: ALBERG! Tribbett, Pontius, Creavalle, Gaddis? Davies, Simpson, if possible.

Dan Walsh: Alberg, Davies, Edu, Simpson (if possible), and Josh Yaro, who should be dealt while he still has trade value. Others (Ilsinho, Pontius) depend on what it costs to keep them. Pontius is a good pro worth retaining, but I expect him to leave after being displaced on the left by Fafa Picault.

Steve Whisler: I don’t see Roland Alberg, Chris Pontius, Ilsinho, or Oguchi Onyewu returning. If Haris Medunjanin, per rumor, is on his way to Germany, I would not be heartbroken. As much as I love watching Haris play, his style is not the right fit for the Union’s system.

Mike Servedio: It will be good to get Maurice Edu off the books. A clean break for the organization and Mo is going to be a good thing for both I think. If Mo wants to make a comeback, I wish him the best of luck. There’s not a place elsewhere for me to write this so I’ll say it here, but I’d absolutely keep Alberg around if he’s okay coming off the bench when the team needs a goal. The guy can score.

Peter Andrews: Edu, Davies, and Alberg are givens. Simpson, if you can get his money back. Pontius is on the downside of his career. I’d keep Onyewu and Ilsinho if you can get them at a relative discount. A trade somewhere along the backline seems inevitable, as the Union have too many young center backs.

Jim O’Leary: Less obvious answers would be Richie Marquez, who presumably has some trade value in a position where the Union should have depth, and if there are not already negotiations in progress for a Chris Pontius move to LAFC, I don’t know what anyone’s thinking.

Nick Fishman: Sell Blake. It will break my heart, but the profit is needed to improve the team— unless the club lets Ilsinho, Alberg, Pontius, and Edu walk.

How do you evaluate Earnie Stewart’s signings this year? 

Dan Walsh: A mixed bag. Stewart failed on the biggest needs entering the season (No. 10, striker) and did all right on the rest, though Medunjanin did not fit, as good as he often was. Adam Najem’s lack of MLS playing time disappointed. The most important signing was the one Stewart didn’t make.

Adam Cann: Poor, but on strategy. Stewart spread out the risk, hoping at least one signing would step into the spotlight. Medunjanin’s leadership and passing range were wonderful, but without any other big threats around him teams that keyed on the Bosnian were often successful. Wijnaldum? Simpson? Onyewu? All have the potential to become shrewd deals, but none worked out that way in 2017.

Nick Fishman:  I’ll probably be in the minority, but…Stewart had a pretty good offseason. He brought in six new players and only Jay Simpson is a bust. Every club has a bad signing every year. Simpson shouldn’t overshadow the solid additions of Onyewu, Medunjanin, Picault, and Najem.

Mike Servedio: Below expectations. Not replacing Barnetta was a huge mistake, and the Union paid for it all season. The second tier striking pair of Jay Simpson and Charlie Davies combined for one goal and cost the Union $500k and a first round draft pick.

Steve Whisler: After returning to the playoffs in 2016, signs pointed to the Union finally taking the next step as a bonafide contender for at least a home game in the playoffs. Instead, Earnie Stewart took a giant step backwards. Moneyball is supposed to be about mitigating risk, but Stewart’s moves were nearly all long shot gambles that had little upside even if they should succeed.

Tim Jones: Excellent re: draft picks. Mixed, re: free agents.

Jim O’Leary: He brought in utility with guys like Picault, Medunjanin, and Onyewu. But he also brought in Jay Simpson who just has no place on a team like the Union, and the standout draftee was a fourth round pick no one, including Stewart, could have expected such success from. So if his best moves were adequate but not exceptional, and his worst moves were complete missteps, I’d say his signings didn’t go very well.

Grade Stewart’s performance for the Union (A-F) and explain your grade. 

Dan Walsh: D. The player he needed most — a No. 10 — was the one he failed to get, and that overshadows all else. His next biggest signing, Simpson, was a bust. Medunjanin was good but presented problems to team structure. The other signings were decent, but none were major impact players.

Peter Andrews: C+. Hitting on three of your five foreign signings isn’t a bad ratio, and Stewart’s draft picks contributed as well. (Last year’s signing of Ilsinho, while often frustrating, produced some magical moments this season.) Perhaps his shrewdest move was not signing a garbage CAM over the summer just to sign someone. If nothing else, Stewart’s Union still has a lot of flexibility. And if Nick Sakiewicz got six seasons as the man in charge, it seems unbelievably harsh to say that a man with an actual resume of success is in put up or shut up territory after year two.

Steve Whisler: D. Medunjanin is an immense talent and a fantastic player, but not the right fit. Fafa Picault was a solid pickup, but is not consistently a game-changer. Besides that, none of Stewart’s signings had much impact.

Nick Fishman: I’d rather hold off another year, but I’ll go with a B-. Good draft picks and decent signings with the budget in mind. His real goal, though, is developing the academy.

Jim O’Leary: D. If his role is to make the first team successful, he hasn’t done that. If his role is to build youth talent he hasn’t produced anything we can point to as a success. And if neither of those things are his role what is he even doing here?

Tim Jones: You don’t grade the paper until it’s completed. Incomplete.

How do you feel the Bethlehem Steel project is progressing? 

Tim Jones: Very good progress from year one to year two, especially regarding how to use the three roster sources involved. Same level of game-day roster discontinuity this season as last, but much more muted impact thereof.

Steve Whisler: I think you have to look at Bethlehem as just about the only thing the Union really have going for them right now. There are a lot of really promising players who, whether they end up in a Union shirt or not, certainly have professional careers ahead of them. Even if they are just sold elsewhere – whether it be to other MLS teams or some Scandinavian club – Bethlehem can actually become a viable resource for the Union.

Nick Fishman: It was much better for the organization having talented young players pushing for a playoff spot than playing meaningless games with the Union.

Dan Walsh: I’m a big fan of the project, but the club needs to be more than just a Union reserve team if it’s to resonate more as a fan draw in the Lehigh Valley. Brendan Burke is the right man for the job, but he needs more tools at his disposal.

Peter Andrews: It’s good that Brendan Burke is in the Union organization, the iconic Steel name is playing soccer again, and that the Union’s depth has a place to get game time. Until that translates into production on the first team, though, it means nothing.

Christian Sandler: Overall, well. A playoff appearance, albeit a short one, in just the second year of existence is impressive and matters. With a major overhaul in youth development looming all over the country, you wonder about location and if Bethlehem is the very best place for the club. The idea of moving the Steel down to Philly and filling it with first-team backups and academy players is an intriguing one.

Jim O’Leary: As a conduit for talent, I think it’s as good as can be hoped until the academy starts producing a higher volume of players and the first team starts to practice what it’s preaching on youth development. But as a business venture, there’s a lot still to do, not least of which is finding a venue that suits the team’s needs better.

Can the Union win an MLS Cup under their current business model? 

Adam Cann: How do we answer this? What is the business model? Stewart has never said the club won’t spend, just that they will spend at the right time on the right players. That’s not a “no,” so it could be that the business model is to only spend once the rest of the pieces are in place. Is there a timeline? No, the process-that-is-not-the-process rejects hard timelines, at least publicly.

Steve Whisler: No. The vision is just too diluted and the execution much too sloppy.

Nick Fishman: Sure, all it takes is one season where a everything goes right. A ton of similar teams have come close. Don’t confuse this answer for saying the Union could ever be a consistently good side year in and year out under the current structure.

Dan Walsh: No. If Stewart says that Jay Sugarman has never turned down a request for funding for a player, it’s time to test that and ask for more. The status quo is not good enough.

Jim O’Leary: Can they? Yes. Parity is still king in MLS and even the worst teams are only ever a hair away from success. But winning that way relies on luck, and there’s too many other teams making their own luck to reasonably expect that the Union will win with their current business model.

Peter Andrews: Yes, with caveats. See my column from yesterday.

Mike Servedio: I’ll ask Adam’s question again, what is the model exactly? Moneyball with a twist of misspent DP money? No, you can’t win MLS Cup with that.

What must the Union do in order to become a top club in MLS? 

Adam Cann: Pick a tactical system (not a shape) and stick with it. Use the system to guide scouting, academy play, and finding players that are limited overall but excel in the right system. If you want to connect with the city, create a system and play it so well, in such coordination, that it becomes known as the Philly system.

Steve Whisler: Can I say grow a pair? The complacency and timidity this organization displays is galling. The club needs to make some bold moves on and off the field. We know they’re trying to secure a long-term future, but now is the time to be fearless, or there will be no future.

Dan Walsh: Spend more on players, and spend more wisely. There’s that old saying, “You get what you pay for.” For example, the Union overpaid for a fourth division English striker, and they got … a fourth division English striker.

Mike Servedio: I’ll echo Dan and Adam here. Spend money in smarter ways. DP money is for attacking players. You can spend good money (TAM, DP or whatever) on 6s, 8s, and defenders after you’ve spent on attackers. And put together a better system. A 4-2-3-1 where the players look like they are stuck on foosball sticks is not a system.

Jim O’Leary: Stop wasting money. A lot of people talk about the team needing to spend more, but the Union aren’t exactly cheap. It’s just that they spend money on things like Raïs M’Bolhi, Jay Simpson, or Maurice Edu. Not that Mo deserves to be grouped like that, but there’s no disputing the fact that the Union have made several very expensive mistakes.

Tim Jones: Give Earnie a raise to keep him from going to U.S. Soccer, and then an extension after his contract is up.

Peter Andrews: If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: Fire Fabinho into the sun.

Nick Fishman: Move to Austin?

24 Comments

  1. Lots of good answers, PSP crew.

    What really makes this season especially disappointing is the fact that most of us really felt that Stewart was going to bring some European-bred, football smarts to an organization that desperately needed it. Stewart at the helm was going to be our secret sauce — a Sporting Director as our main DP. Aside from the brief high of a great start last season, we’ve seen no progress whatsoever. The team has flat-lined. That has been nearly unbearable for fans. This team has underachieved and so has Stewart.

    What does the club have to do to be a top club? I said it here last week: Spend $5 million* on midfield and centerback talent. The alternative is piecing together another substandard team of 3rd and 2nd division castaways that will be lucky to earn enough points to get eliminated in a first-round MLS playoffs play-in match.

    *A better manager would need about $2 million minimum.

    • el Pachyderm says:

      I told a friend the other day… the very second, the Sporting Director I/We lobbied for so passionately said, Jim Curtin was going to remain as coach, thereby, not bringing his own guy or cleaning house…
      .
      ….I went outside, took a broom pole, cut out a big flapping red felt triangle, stapled it to the broom pole- then drove the broom pole into the earth in my front yard…
      .
      …..RED FLAG #1.
      .
      and strangely here we are nearly two full years later discussing whether or not the manager has the chops. LOVE IT.

  2. Just to be contrarian – if Earnie had found a real CAM, would Simpson have been a bust? Everyone who followed his previous clubs said he scores and shoots and will take on defenders, but needs service. We never provided him service.
    .
    Even CJ doesn’t get “service”, just gets his toe on a low cross (or more likely mishit shot) and pokes it home. Where Earnie “busted” (tough to lay it on Simpson when he doesn’t see the field), is Simpson was a second striker and saying you’re looking for 4-2-3-1 attackers and then signing a guy whose success came not as a lone guy is puzzling.

    • How about – If Curtin had actually played Simpson, would he have been a bust?

      The entire Simpson debate is centered on the wrong aspect. To me, it’s much more of a Curtin issue. We thought Simpson was good enough to start off as our #1, but all it took was a minor injury and a good couple of games for Sapong and Simpson never saw the field again!

      At that point, who WOULD would good only coming on as a 85th minute sub every 3rd game?

      • Because I’m bored, here are the player ratings from those early games Simpons started:

        http://www.phillysoccerpage.net/2017/03/07/player-ratings-whitecaps-0-0-union/
        “Jay Simpson — 4
        Simpson was generally a non-factor, isolated from the midfield. He passed cleanly but had to come awfully deep to find the ball and never threatened in dangerous positions. A better pass from him to Herbers on a second half break would have created a stronger threat on goal.”

        First game: Basically had no support, so basically par for the course from us no matter the striker

        http://www.phillysoccerpage.net/2017/03/13/player-ratings-union-2-2-toronto/
        “Jay Simpson — 6
        If we felt like abusing statistics, we could say he was on pace to score 3.2 goals this match before he got injured. It wasn’t a particularly pretty goal, but it’s enough to open his account and showed his intent to score any goal possible for this team. We’ll see if his leaving the field was more about taking precautions in the frigid temperatures than an actual problem.”

        AMAZINGLY, he was injured in the second game. I didn’t even realize that. So he basically had 1 bad game and .5 good games as our #1.

        Considering CJ went many, many games in a row being a non factor/getting no shots/being invisible, once Curtin made him #1, it’s total bullshit Simpson never got a real shot to become the #1 again.

      • Chris Gibbons says:

        +1

      • Sapong clearly outplayed him. Simpson never showed enough to earn more minutes in games. And with a coach who steadfastly believes playing time is earned on the training field each week, he must not have shown much there either.

    • I have to agree with you. No way you can close the book on Simpson given how little of a chance he’s had. I’m sure Stewart knew the scouting on Simpson, which was repeated by nearly every Leyton fan — give him service and he’ll score. He never got playing time or the service to thrive.

    • Good points. I think most of us come down on the point about signing a second striker for a team that doesn’t play one. At least, that’s the case for me.

  3. really appreciate the summaries and views this week. catharsis meets hard look in the mirror.

    i feel it’s pretty obvious what needs to be done. but i thought that last off season too. if this organization can’t get it done, then #savethecrew and ship us off to Austin instead. burn it down, start over.

  4. Someone mentioned turning Elliott into a CDM to cover his speed, but he proved really solid as a starting defender and has excellent height, so I am not sure why we would move him.
    If we are talking about moving players around for development, why not try training Yaro as CDM? He lacks the height to be an elite defender, but (excluding a small handful of bad mistakes) has good defensive instincts. He has the quickness of Creavalle, but is an excellent passer and is calm in possession.
    Maybe he is not the starter if they bring in a stud who can contol the game from CDM, but it seems like he could be very good there with some development. Otherwise you have a #2 overall draft pick riding the pine behind Elliot and Marquez.
    …or they could go to 3 backs – yeah right!

  5. The fans have wanted a genuine scorer for years [me too]. But what arrives is a central defender, a No. 6, an 8. I say, “Well, who am I to disagree with the pros? I guess they know what they’re doing.”
    This season convinced me that the fans ought to have been listened to. The Union played seventeen away games. Tack that schedule on the wall, throw three darts at it, and add an away goal to each score. See if your darts get them above the line.

  6. el Pachyderm says:

    the look on dudes face in the black Flyers shirt above, in that caption, there… I know that look.
    .
    I AM that look as it pertains to this franchise. WHAT.THE.FUCK.
    .

  7. OneManWolfpack says:

    Does Tim Jones work for the Union? My man is on message like a Republican on Fox News.
    .
    Purgatory was mentioned. Even when the Sixers were shit (I mean they aren’t great yet) and actively tanking, they were interesting. Obviously good teams, are interesting and entertaining. The Union are just nothing. They MUST make the correct signings and spend money this off-season. The talk about future is over. There will be no fans left to witness your future if you keep finishing 3rd or 4th from last in MLS, every damn year.
    .
    Let the money do the talking this year. Money will show actual commitment. Other than that it’s all bullshit.

    • Nick Fishman says:

      When I mentioned purgatory, I did so with the pre-Hinkie Sixers in mind. Say what you want about “the process,” but at least it was interesting.

    • If we are not going to be good, I think we should just go all out on trying to score as many goals as possible. Leave the D out to dry and try to win game like 6-5. That would be exciting even if we weren’t great. I don’t even care about formation, just attack like crazy.

  8. “Earnie Stewart’s failure to acquire a No. 10 defined the Union’s season.“
    .
    This says it all to me.
    .
    We had a huge gaping hole. Nothing was done to fix it. We died.

  9. Why still hating on Fabinho, Peter? Check his stats – top 10 MLS defender in nearly every rating scale that’s available out there. More quality on the ball than 90% of Union players ever.

    • Fabinho mostly played great this season.

      • The Chopper says:

        Fabhino will always be a whipping boy for some. He does make some maddening errors at time and there are usually more than a few crosses to nowhere, but overall he has held his spot down well enough the last two seasons. The Union have far bigger lineup issues than replacing Fab.

    • My philosophy: always keep using old jokes even after they cease to be funny (or accurate)!
      .
      Fabi is a lovely guy and a frustrating player to root for. Can you believe he’s the team’s second-longest tenured player now?

  10. Ernie gets a D-.

    Ernie failed to get a quality CAM. He had several months to acquire one. Like I said before they new Barnettta was not returning to the team as early as June of 2016.

    There is no excuse for Ernie not making it priority #1 to get a sure thing. Instead they experimented with Bedoya Ilshinio and Alberg and we all know how that worked.

    For that alone he should be fired.

    To take the next step forward and be competitive and fun to watch they need a cant miss CAM , and an effective complimentary forward to Sapong . Secondary to that improvement at LB and a CB.

    Philly fans deserve better.

    • The only reason to fire ES is if they told him to win now. Has he been ordered to do that? I get the sense the answer to that is no. They are saying keep us “competitive” until the kids arrive.
      I think that in their mind this entire roster is just a caretaker roster until the academy kids are good enough to fill the spots.
      Likewise Sugarman is biding his time while the rising tide in mls raises the price of all franchises to the point where he is ready to cash out. If the U lose $3mil/year but the franchise price appreciates $10mil/yr, he is way ahead.
      BTW – I am not saying a agree with these policies. They frustrate the sh%t out of me.

  11. Not enough improvement Every Year.

    If your not going 2 steps forward each year in the MLS your probably going backwards in the standings.
    Philly is a prime example of this.

    Philly is way behind the curve on overall player talent compared to the current playoff teams. With Philly it is always 1 step forward and 1 step back. Sometimes it is 1 step forward and 2 steps back.

    NY, NYC, LA and even Toronto in the last 3 years have made there # 1 priority putting together a winning team as their #1 priority through wise DP acquisitions and the academy players development as a long term secondary source of player talent.

    I was very excited about the Union when they joined the MLS and was hopeful for the future.

    Now based on what your analysis is and I think you are correct, the most hopeful thing I have to look forward to is a new owner buying the franchise in 3 or 4 years and then keeping the team in Philly. Philly will be very luck to see 1 player from the academy system become a top MLS player in the next 5 years. The MLS teams that have stayed on top have done so through building there team with designated players.

    I don’t know if I can stomach another year of mediocrity.

    The league should have more stringent financial qualifications in granting a franchise. Surgarman was barely a qualified buyer. He did not have the partners he could lean on to make improvements in the team. Now, the fans suffer while he builds his investment and team struggles every year.

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