Let's start with something that is an objective truth:
The Philadelphia Union are a bad soccer team.
Finishing 2015 with 10 wins, 17 losses, and seven draws put the Union in third-to-last place in the entire league. Actually, the Union tied the Colorado Rapids for second-to-last in terms of points, but stood ahead in the standings because they had one more win. On goal differential, the team's -13 is second worst in the league. They had the second fewest goals and the fifth most goals against. At 46.4% they had the least possession of any team. At 75.4% they had the fourth worst passing percentage. They registered the fifth fewest shots per game with 11.2.
You get the point. By almost any measure, the Union rank as one of the worst teams in the league. The team is bad, and they should feel bad.
I bring all of this up to make a simple point: If you're a fan of this team you have plenty to complain about. For 6 seasons you've had to watch your team fail to put a quality product on the field (with the exception of the 2011 playoff team). There are a myriad of reasons why, but whether it was Nick Sackiewicz trying to sign every goalkeeper he could, or Peter Nowak spanking his players too hard, the end result is the same: The team is bad. And as a sports fan living in or around the fine city of Philadelphia you reserve the right to complain to the high heavens about your team sucking. That is a birthright, and I would never try to take that away from you.
That being said, I've gotta be honest with you. At lot of your complaints are kind of silly. So in this series of articles I want to take some time to address a few of the more popular complaints I've been seeing around the Union fanbase of late. More specifically, I want to tell you why you're wrong to be complaining about those things.
The first popular complaint I want to talk about is the idea that the Union's ownership group are not spending enough money on the team.
While not as popular this offseason as it has been in the past, this is probably the most common complaint about the Union. It typically goes something like this: "Philadelphia is one of the biggest sports markets in the country, but this ownership group has patently refused to spend money on a designated player that can come in and make the team better. Jay Sugarman just keeps talking about how he wants to play moneyball, and it all just sounds like an excuse for not having enough cash to run this team properly."
There's plenty of truth to that argument, but it's also not telling the whole truth. The idea that the Union aren't spending enough money on players is a pretty unfair representation of the facts. In 2015 the Union ranked 9th out of 20 teams in terms of base player salary. They're not spending anywhere near as much as L.A. Galaxy or Toronto FC, but it's not like they're not spending any money.
Maybe you want to make the point that, while they are spending more than half of the teams in the league, they're still not spending enough money to compete with the best teams. Fair enough. Let's take a look at some of the most successful teams in the league last year and see where they rank. Let's start with the Portland Timbers, winners of the MLS Cup. Portland ranks 11th in base salary, two spots below the Union, spending around $100 thousand less than the Union did on player salaries in 2015 . What about Columbus, the other team in the MLS Cup Final? They rank 13th, spending almost a million less than the Union did last year. What about the New York Red Bulls, winners of the Supporter's Shield? The Red Bulls rank dead last in player base salary, spending a paltry $3.4 million compared to the Union's $5.2 million. Even Sporting Kansas City, the team that narrowly beat the Union in the U.S. Open Cup, ranks 10th, one spot below the Union in spending.
A higher salary budget does not translate to success in MLS. The Union's problem is not that they refuse to spend enough money to compete. The Union's problem is that they aren't spending the money they have on the right players.
If that wasn't argument enough, this rumor tweeted by Kevin Kinkead that the Union are looking to spend up to 1 million on a DP striker ought to put this talk to rest for good.
That's all for today. Tune in next for part two in this six-part series where I discuss the Union's need for a left back.