There is something awfully special about Nick Sakiewicz, all powerful CEO of the world's most well run and talented soccer club in history. He has built a well oiled machine. Public relations are running smoothly, with any and all issues being dealt with efficiency and with consistency. The coaching staff is fully filled and the Head of Soccer Operations operates with seamless perfection between the Front Office and the coaches. They bring in players, not because they are overpaid, but because they want to work here. The players who leave here praise the Union Front Office for their opportunity to play and to develop. The stadium routinely sells out, and the Front Office delivered on their promises of building a championship caliber squad.
If you haven't realized, none of this has happened. The Philadelphia Union have taken a break from their abysmal start to their season with a 1-0 win over D.C. United, who are currently tied in the race for the Supporter's Shield. The victory over the bitter rivals to the south has glazed over the prior results with homegrown talent Zach Pfeffer scoring the game winner in stoppage time to give the Union their first win in a month. The win was touted as a gritty performance and the Union took advantage of a tired DC side, albeit at the death of the match. The Philadelphia Union took a step in the right direction and nobody can complain about three points.
The problem was with the things that occurred surrounding the match. The Philadelphia Union's largest supporters group, the world famous Sons of Ben, led a protest to declare their dissatisfaction. This is, as far as I know, the first coordinated protest of the Philadelphia Union by the group since the team's founding. Small, unorganized and non-sanctioned protests have occurred, but none directly from the SoB leadership. The Front Office of Philadelphia led by Sakiewicz have taken notice and issued three separate statements. The statements all echo the same point: the Front Office supports Jim Curtin and the coaching staff, and will continue to look to improve the Union and build a championship winning squad. It takes a certain moxie to confront a fan base and issue a statement when things go wrong. I've never discredited his ability to stand in front of a rioting crowd. My issue with this that is the sentiment is, in fact, too little too late.
The statement issued Sunday night before the game was the most concise response to the Sons of Ben protest. Short and to the point. So to the point, in fact, that it was probably better off that they said nothing. The next day, an email was sent out to the Union season ticket holders elaborating the message before. A useless email that alleviated none of the concerns and was nothing that hasn't been said before. Both messages, while harmless in being sent, offer absolutely nothing. Some who are perhaps a bit more sensitive consider it condescending to praise the fans and repeat the same message over an over again when things are not going well. Repeatedly telling the fan base you're working to build a competitive and championship caliber squad while constructing the opposite is no way to build trust.
The worst thing of all is revealed in a series of quotes by Sakiewicz to Kevin Kinkead that ultimately spell out his real personality.
Sakiewicz - "At this moment, it’s most important to support and assist the players, Jim, his staff, and the organization..." 1/2— Kevin Kinkead (@KevinKCBS3) May 19, 2015
"...and not point fingers at me or any one individual that is part of our organization." 2/2— Kevin Kinkead (@KevinKCBS3) May 19, 2015
Sakiewicz calls for the fans to support the team, the staff, and most importantly him. Telling the fans to not point fingers at him. The arrogant and disingenuous nature of Nick Sakiewicz speaks volumes. Not afraid to throw anyone under the bus when he is met with resistance, he would do himself wonders to just keep his mouth shut. A man like Sakiewicz, however, cannot do that. Sakiewicz continues to miss the mark when speaking to the fan base. We are praised like children and then told to continue to support a sinking ship like good little girls and boys. Has Sakiewicz ever wondered that his support and assistance in building a championship franchise is the thing that is the problem?
The one constant over the course of six years has been Sakiewicz. The fool, who thinks he knows how to build a winning soccer team, has routinely belittled his fan base. He has more routines: Misunderstanding the fanbase and also deflecting blame to anyone but himself. The Philadelphia Union fans want a championship. What fanbase in any league doesn't? Who is idiotic enough to suggest that they are just happy that their team is quasi-competitive? Unless you're an Arsenal fan, being fourth is unacceptable (although I will say it would be refreshing to see the Union finish fourth). This is the fundamental misunderstanding from Sakiewicz.
"We Deserve Better" isn't a mantra suggesting the Union fans deserve a championship. It's representing the idea that we deserve competency and to not be treated like children when we express ourselves. The majority of fans don't think a championship is even the next step to success. Building a successful franchise doesn't start with a championship, it should start somewhere between a playoff appearance and not being the laughingstock of the MLS.
Union fans are tired of being condescended to and told steps are being made in the right direction, when all evidence points to the opposite. Union fans are tired of being told to support a failing franchise and that you're trying to build something great. Union fans are tired of being the joke of MLS and preparing for the worst. It is time this franchise and its ownership recognize the real problem here: Assistance is greatly appreciated, it's just that where the assistance is coming from is the problem.