Over the months, the Philadelphia Union have been a frustrating team to follow from a fan perspective.
You have probably been wondering what I have been up to. With two months since my last piece about the Philadelphia Union, it has been quite some time since a piece has been posted on my end. Surely, at this point, you are also questioning the use of first person in this piece as well, and how that is vastly unprofessional. But perhaps, I am not inspired to write about a team that for the most part remains uninspired to play.
But surely you insist that I should have been more professional and taken the lumps and continued to support my town and my team. Honestly though, this team is a continual farce, and this is seen week in and week out, as they fail to win on the road, only to suddenly appear to be good every game they are home. The fact is this team on every end is just not fun to watch, or write about, or sometimes, it seems, play on.
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The fact is when your coach after two years of the same formation makes a switch to include a true defensive midfielder in the lineup, instead of a playmaking number 10, and then absolutely refuses to recognize the fact that he did so that gives you a hilariously bad taste in your mouth. No, a three-man midfield, and a four-man midfield are not the same Jim Curtin. And yes, while you were “mathematically able to make playoffs” until this weekend, you have not been since the beginning of the season when you lost four of the first six games, and failed to win until the ninth game of the season.
You may further think that with two games to go, and now no chance of playoffs that it might be exciting to see the youth play in the last two games. Not likely though with Bethlehem Steel in a playoff push, and many of them likely to see time there in games that might help them move forward. The main team will likely be doing the proverbially “playing for their jobs” with Chris Pontius, Charlie Davies, every No. 10, and much of the defense being forced to stand up or get out.
But the fact is two games is unnecessary when you have had a whole season of watching Ilsinho, and Roland Alberg not do the things they need to do to win the Union games. While Ilsinho seemed to possibly play himself into a new contract in the mid-to-late season and Alberg continues to score with little playing time the fact is the team will likely let both go as they do not fit.
Speaking of things that do not fit, Chris Pontius was a revelation his first season in Philadelphia, but in his second it took him over three quarters of a season to score a goal. Sure, the switching of wings meant he was more on the assist side of things than the scoring side, but he still only managed six assists. While he was Comeback Player of the Year last year he might be the Regressing to the Mean Player of the Year this year.
The truth is there is not much to see in the last few games of the season. With Curtin ritualistically against changing formation, and having an old school “earn it in practice” mentality, it seems unlikely that we see a lot of difference until next year. Do not get me wrong I will watch the game against Chicago Fire, and then be at Talen Energy Stadium for the season finale against Orlando City, but I do not expect the atmosphere or the lineup to be any different than it has all season.
It is exciting to see who the Union will bring in this offseason, but at the same time after two years of bringing in random players who you have never heard of from Europe, and only really Haris Medunjanin panning out, Earnie Stewart has lots of work cut out for him this offseason. While originally Earnie had plans for five years before the team was competitive, the fact is they were in their first year, and while ahead of schedule you would hope the team could build on that. But here we are, at the end of year two and we have already seen regression and it is going to take a lot for this team to be competitive next year. That might be asking too much.