Anyone who knows me (and if you don't, stop me when you see me at PPL. I love meeting new people), knows that I'm a die hard Philly sports fan. Always have been and always will be. With that fandom comes a life of momentary periods of joy, but usually disappointment and despair. Philly fans are some of the most passionate fans out there and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. They support their teams with all of their heart and soul but when they are not performing up to their (sometimes unreasonably) high standards, they are sure to let the team, coaching staff, and/or ownership know. Some see this as a negative thing, but I see it as tough love and it is so embedded in the psyche of this City that trying to change it is just not going to happen.
One of the things that I love most about Jim Curtin is that he understands this very well. He gets it because he is also a Philly sports fan. At the Curtin Call that was held not too long ago Coach Curtin made it quite clear that he understands that job security comes with winning. He assured those in attendance to be patient because signings were coming.
And, he delivered.
Go back to last season, what were the obvious flaws with the team?
- Lack of ability to finish.
- Lack of consistency with the back-line.
I will go out on a limb and say that the Union's starting midfield will be one the best in the league next season. Noguera and Maidana are simply superstars when it comes to creating chances and on set pieces. And Maurice Edu will add a real element of toughness that is needed. But one of the main problems the club faced last season was getting the ball in the back of the net. The chances created were wasted. With the acquisitions of CJ Sapong and Designated Player Fernando Aristeguieta, the Union will now finally have a formidable top half of the field. I'm anxious to see the type of chemistry that is created between the forwards and midfield this season.
Then comes the defense. With the addition of Steven Vitoria, the club will now have a consistent center back pairing so that Ray Gaddis and Sheanon Williams can stick to what they do best without fear of being moved around all the time. How many times has the Union lost in the final moments of a game? With a consistent back-line, we should see the number of those surprise losses drop in the upcoming season.
Depth is our weakest area. Last season it was painfully clear that while our starting line up could contend with the Seattle Sounders in the Open Cup game, that they couldn't compete when Seattle's answer to tired players was putting on Obafemi Martins and the Union's was Antoine Hoppenot. While the depth has improved slightly because some of the players that were regular starters will now be relegated to that sub role, the club still very much lacks in this department. However, I am confident that the coaching staff realizes this and will do what they can do make the situation improve.
Two out of three ain't bad. Of course, no one knows how it will all come together and what the performance of the team will be, but when looking at the situation from the standpoint of reason, this team has improved in terms of sheer quality. I am excited for the start of the season and will be putting faith in the coaching staff. It may not work out in the end, but at the end of the day this is my team. I love the Philadelphia Union and they have a fighting chance this year. I hope you are all excited as I am for first kick. I'll see you at PPL on March 7th.