After yet another loss, this time to the Portland Timbers at home, Philadelphia Union fans have had a whole week to stew. And rightfully so! This team has been pretty terrible this season. No one in the organization—from the players, to Jim Curtin, to Earnie Stewart—has been spared from criticism recently, and you’ll see that again in the questions down below.
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How long does Curtin last this year?
Jordan: If he finishes the homestand with a win and a tie at worst, he's gonna be ok for a bit. If not, something has to give, whether it is fair or not. To place the blame squarely and completely on Curtin is not really accurate. Curtin will take the lion’s share of the blame from many, but take a look at the signings last offseason. Have any of them worked out as planned?
John: If the winless streak makes it to May, then Curtin almost certainly won’t. Like Jordan said, he probably needs at least four points from the next two games, though I’m sure he’ll still be under a lot of pressure if tonight’s game only ends in a draw.
If they fire Curtin who do they bring in to replace?
Jordan: I have no clue. Mike Sorber would likely become the interim manager until Earnie was able to evaluate the situation.
John: No offense to Mike Sorber, who seems like a good guy, but I will hurl myself off a building if this club promotes an assistant for the third time. This is to say nothing of Sorber’s credentials, though he’s never been in a managerial role, but it just speaks to the haphazardness and aimlessness with which this club has almost always been run. I say almost always because, despite the Union’s current mess of a first team, there’s a promising developmental structure and the guy at the helm isn’t an egomaniacal clown.
Given the team’s terrible run of form stretching back to August, perhaps the thought of a head coaching change has crossed Earnie Stewart’s mind. Again, as Jordan implied earlier, Stewart deserves much of the blame for the club’s place in the standings. But since he’s not going anywhere any time soon, change will come at the head coaching position. If Stewart eventually does hit the eject button on Curtin, he better have a permanent replacement waiting in the wings.
Can this be fixed?
Jordan: Depends on how much time you are willing to give for this to be fixed and what your definition of fixed is. If you're thinking this could be fixed this season and the Union could compete for a playoff spot, I would say maybe at best. This roster needs an overhaul to get rid of big signings that have not panned out. If the organization is insistent on a 4-2-3-1, which they are, players need to be brought in during the transfer window to fix this.
If the decision is made to blow up the roster, there are some valuable, young players currently on the squad, who should become the core of this team: Richie Marquez, Keegan Rosenberry, Fabian Herbers, Derrick Jones, Andre Blake and if he can stay healthy, Joshua Yaro. Build around them with solid veteran players and a DP striker and this squad could compete. Moneyball only really works when your less expensive signings are panning out and so far it hasn't. The Union have had the same problem since, well, ever. They need a bonafide striker, a Designated Player, impact-level player. Without that signing, this team will linger around playoff contention, but may not win anything. The four remaining teams in last year's MLS Cup (Colorado Rapids, Montreal Impact, Toronto FC and Seattle Sounders) all had DP strikers or, in the case of Seattle, had the 2016 MLS Rookie of the Year at striker.
John: Considering that more than half of the teams in the league make the playoffs and we’re only five games into the season, this can certainly be fixed, depending on your definition of fixed. Mathematical elimination from playoff contention is still months away (There’s your tagline for this season). The two bigger questions are whether this team actually will turn it around, and if a fifth- or sixth-place finish is good enough.
Do you feel bad for Haris?
Jordan: Uhhh, no? Should I feel bad for him? If so, Haris I feel bad for you. Realistically, Haris has been a solid player so far, but I think he is definitely capable of more.
John: Not really. I’m assuming he saw the roster before he signed. He knew what he was getting himself into.
Why is Fabinho on an MLS roster?
Jordan: You know how when you exhaust swiping on everyone in the tri-state area on Tinder and end up with zero matches and decide to start over because you are sad, alone, and there's nowhere to go but up? Oh, thats just me? But actually this is similar. Yeah, Fabinho has become 2013 Fabinho the last couple games and there's nowhere to go but up. Hopefully, he can regain form otherwise to help stop the bleeding in the back.
John: I’m just going to pretend that I didn’t read the first part of Jordan’s answer and proceed with my response. Fabinho’s still on an MLS roster because he’s an average player who hasn’t had one ounce of competition during his time with the Union. Right-footed Ray Gaddis, Raymond Lee, and Taylor Washington all proved to be very bad left backs, and Giliano Wijnaldum appears to be well on his way to doing the same. Should Fabinho still be starting for the Union in the Year of Our Lord 2017? No, but don’t blame him. It’s not like he can sign his own replacement.