It has been really hard to write about this team in recent weeks. Since the US Open Cup Final, the Philadelphia Union have looked ragged and worn thin. It has come back to haunt them in the past two games with two late collapses. We can blame the players, the coach, or even the owners, but who shares the most blame?
The Brotherly Game has been asked that question and they will weigh in below.
Heather Reppert - I'd say it's a combination of John Hackworth, Jim Curtin, and Nick Sakiewicz. Hackworth because he was completely in over his head and got us into the hole that Curtin found us in. Curtin has made questionable decisions in terms of subs from time to time, but he is inexperienced. Sak has the biggest role, however, since he seems to hold the most power in terms of decision making.
John O'Donnell - It's Nick Sak for me. He signed a goaltender at mid-season when we needed a striker. When you have two goalies that are first-round draft picks and another that you can sign as a homegrown, it shows they can't manage the cap effectively. The money would have been better spent on a quality striker.
Frank Cobbina - Sakiewicz, followed closely by Hackworth. Sak's decision to purchase another goalkeeper instead of some depth on the attacking side will be looked at as the biggest reason for the collapse. Simply put, you just can't go toe to toe with the big boys if your only viable striker is 33 year old Conor Casey. If the Union want to take the next step, "General Manager Nick Sakiewicz" must be left behind. He did a good job in acquiring quality starting players like Maurice Edu, Vincent Nogueira, Andrew Wenger, and Cristian Maidana, but the depth on this roster has been either lacking or underutilized all season.
Barry Evans - Nick Sak gets blame for idiotic personnel decisions. There was need to pick up defenders at the draft, he takes a goalkeeper. There was a need to pick up strikers, and he gets rid of one at start of the season, and didn't replace him. Instead, he got another 'keeper. We kept getting told that Hackworth and Nowak were the ones responsible for roster creation, yet there's only one person that's been here since the start, and it's the same mistakes over and over.
Both Curtin and Hackworth get blame because lets face it, they are pretty clueless in terms of in game tactics. Hack has been terrible for a while, and while Curtin got things turned around a bit, he has been found out and is now seen (at least in my eyes) to be just as hardheaded as Hack was. The same players being used out of position every game, no matter what the in-game situation, is both of their biggest cons. Curtin is just Hack Part II - and shouldn't get near the permanent head coach job.
Lastly, the players have to take responsibility and blame too. How many times this year have they given up on plays and a goal resulted from it? How many times have they made absolutely awful clearances straight up the middle of the field that ended up as a goal? How many times have they missed absolute sitters or failed to pick out an easy pass for a simple goal? There isn't a single person on the team that should be comfortable about being here next year. Whether they are not good enough, or too good for a team that has so many problems.
Jared Young - I'll go a step higher and blame the owners for continuing to enable Sakiewicz. It seems the desire to build a winning franchise stops right after the public proclamations of that vision. Nick's blind spots and shortcomings are decades long facts at this point, but the Union are probably doing well enough financially that there is no call for change at the top. The Union will continue to make puzzling personnel moves until Sak is removed from those duties.
As you can see this there was plenty to say about blame. It does absolutely come down to ownership. This is beyond a failure, and the people who put the Union there are at the top. The players have been worn down due to the lack of proper management. But if you want to blame the players, you can only do so for the last 15 minutes of the Columbus game. I think blaming Jim Curtin can only be true for the past month (Hackworth is a bit of a different story, but do we really want to go down that road again?). It goes much further than just bad gameplay or game plans. Philadelphia has been terrible for the majority of this season, and it is safe to say it's because of mismanagement.
How many peculiar decisions have haunted this team this season? Can you even count them on one hand?
Starting even in January, the decision to pass on a need (center back) and draft a second quality-starting goalkeeper is questionable at best. Now to give credit where it's due, this team acquired quality midfielders in Maurice Edu, Cristian Maidana, and Vincent Nogueira. When Hackworth whiffed on his attempt to make a name for himself with a roster finally rid of the stench of "Nowak", Nick Sakiewicz strangely chose Jim Curtin to be his interim manager. Not necessarily a wrong decision, but with another member of the coaching staff who had more coaching experience available, its certainly strange.
Once again Nick Sakiewicz surprised everyone this August by once again by passing a need that haunted the Union (striker) by signing Rais M'Bohli, Algerian number one goalkeeper. I have nothing personal against Rais, but he was an unnecessary acquisition regardless of whether or not he had performed well in "a little tournament" this summer. Ultimately, M'Bohli has not done much here, missing time for African Cup of Nations qualifying, besides handing back 2 of the 3 points the Union were due by passing the ball to Robert Earnshaw and getting deer-in-the-headlights syndrome on the ensuing goal.
This team has no depth and it has really shown in the recent weeks. After laying it all out against the Seattle Sounders in the US Open Cup, the Union have had no more energy to spend. The use of Homegrown Players has been non-existent. I'm not saying it had anything to do with the two of the three HGP's that have been in Harrisburg this season, but the 2014 USL PRO runners up were from our lovely state's capital. Zach Pfeffer hasn't been used despite being a regular (and quite the good regular) on the U-20 US Men's National Team. Meanwhile those three have been rotting on the bench or in Harrisburg, the Union have chosen to play the aging Fred, the relentless Danny Cruz, the misused Pedro Ribeiro, and the useless Antoine Hoppenot. Those may be coaching flaws, but you deal with the hand you're dealt. This bench was never going to get the team to the playoffs when Conor Casey and Sebastien Le Toux stopped scoring.
Institutional failure sums up my opinion of who's to blame. Quite frankly I'm not so sure it'll ever reverse itself with those in charge remaining in charge. Who do you think is to blame? Take the poll and let us know in the comments section below!