As rough as the ending was, 2016 was one of the best years in the Philadelphia Union’s short history. A solid SuperDraft and some smart off-season signings propelled the club to the top of the Eastern Conference, where it would stay for the first half of the season. And yes, there were some bad signings and the poor run of form to end the year is something to be worried about, but there’ll be an article for the Worst of 2016 along in a bit. I’m a glass-half-full kind of guy when it comes to the Union however, and I asked the staff here at Brotherly Game to give me their best moments of 2016. Here’s what they had to say:
Doug Gobrecht: Call me a hypocrite, but clinching the playoffs in 2016 was the single best moment. It came during the worst moment of 2016, but there is no debate that moment was the measurable progress the team has made under Earnie Stewart.
Matt Ralph: Tranquillo Barnetta's goal to beat Orlando City and the ensuing hissy fit Orlando fans threw for weeks, all ignoring the individual effort and brilliance of Barnetta's goal.
Evan Villella: Derrick Jones playing against Crystal Palace. Him playing was a huge win for the organization as a whole. A player from the Academy that played for Bethlehem Steel and was signed by the Homegrown Player mechanism. He showed what he's capable of by looking at times like the best player on the field against an EPL side.
Alex Klein: Every move that Earnie Stewart made - from drafting Keegan Rosenberry to trading for Chris Pontius and finally bringing in Alejandro Bedoya over the summer, he's shown a great knack for making the right move.
Jared Young: The Union breaking the million dollar signing barrier for the first time in team history. Alejandro Bedoya didn't have the impact the team needed but he will have a bigger role next season and management showed they are willing to spend to get their player.
John Adair: Drafting Keegan. While it's safe to say that nobody was saying so when Earnie used the No. 3 pick on him, he turned into the most reliable player on the roster as a rookie. More importantly, it looks like they found their right back for the next decade.
Nick Youngstein: Chris Pontius' brace that eliminated Red Bull from the US Open Cup. The goals were just 5 minutes apart, and it's always nice beating Red Bull.
Jason Kates: Have to agree with drafting Keegan Rosenberry. Andre Blake is proving to be a worthy top pick, but all good teams start with an anchor in the back, and Rosenberry seems to be the one. He's gonna be a top defender in this league eventually, and that pick will go down as one of the best in club history.
Matt Albaugh: Making the playoffs. Despite not getting past the first round, it's an important first step for the team under the new Earnie Stewart-led regime. Making the playoffs should be an expectation moving forward and not wishful thinking.
As for me, the best moment of 2016 was the Union’s 3-0 win against D.C. United at RFK. Even though the Union had fallen out of first place, they went down to Washington DC and put a beating on a divisional rival at a critical juncture in their season. While they later faltered down the stretch, this to me was a sign that the Union have a team capable of putting up a fight.
What about your favorite moment of 2016? Let us know in the comments section below!