There’s no denying that it’s increasingly harder and harder to be a Philadelphia Union fan. After a demoralizing loss to Montreal, snatching a draw from the jaws of victory against San Jose, and another demoralizing defeat to Toronto FC last night, I asked some of the staff here to talk about how they feel about being a fan of the team at this point in time.
Nick Youngstein: “This team is inconsistent. They have great matches once in a while, ok matches sometimes, but half the time they play bad matches. When usually they are better at home, they lay a poop emoji on the pitch when the team was honoring a former president of their most passionate supporters.
It seems like there is a bit of frustration all over the team, like CJ arguing the PK taking order, Pontius not having a goal yet, Bedoya's once-per-match Utley-style tackles, back line shuffling, and the signing of Jay Simpson. It shows in the performances. They aren't all of the same mind often enough. And, that will keep them at the level of even wins, draws, and losses.”
Matt Ralph: “Being a fan of the Union is a unique experience because all of us (except for my son, but he still doesn't know any better) have lived through all of the team's history, all of the bumps, bruises and kicks to the teeth that have been all too prevalent over the past eight seasons.
Twice we've come so close to glory only to have it snatched away and while I wouldn't trade the team for another or the amazing people I've met since deciding to go all in, the inconsistency on the field and the repeated failures of the organization, all while seeing newer teams surpass them on the field and in the stands, is extremely frustrating.
I mean, it's not anything compared to the suffering of being a pre-2016 Cubs fan (which I also happen to be), but talking points about the team still being young, that we need to be patient, that we're building from the academy up are really starting to grow thin.”
Jordan Wohl: “At this point, it feels like the more energy you put in to cheer on the team, the more than energy feels wasted in a way. Every single year, even after the team looks good for stretch, we all know what is going to happen. The team will be just decent enough to find themselves in the playoff hunt, but, in reality, don't deserve to be. For a fan base that has seen its team lose its four biggest matches (2014,2015 USOC, 2012 &2017 playoffs), I couldn't blame anyone who jumped ship or doesn't come anymore. I was at the 2014 USOC finals as a fan, that was the most fun I've ever had at a game. Since then, the team has been surpassed by almost every other team in the league in every single category. MLS is evolving into bigger and better things in the upcoming years and it seems that the team is still stuck in 2012. In sum, if I didn't follow them from the beginning, there's no way I would have likely jumped in at this point in time. This may seem like the sentiment of a front runner, but, again in reality, have the Union ever been in front of anything?”
Alex Klein: “I still think being a Union fan is fun and I still love watching the games. I still believe in the players that have performed well and I still trust Earnie Stewart will be able to steer the team in the right direction. With all the contracts coming off the books next year, hopefully they'll be able to add to a good core of players like Sapong, Jones, Bedoya, Picault and Blake. I might be singing a different tune this time next year when they're in the same situation and they haven't improved, and Curtin has been fired, but for now I'm optimistic about next season.”
For me personally, it’s ever more difficult to have a rooting interest in the team. I still watch dutifully and would even if I wasn’t blogging about the team, but the passion I had for the team even as late as 2014-15 has all but evaporated. There’s not one factor that’s played into my descent into apathy, it’s more the death by a thousand cuts. Friends of mine that were into the club and helped build the once vibrant supporter’s culture have left to do other things. The club culture has atrophied to a point that was unimaginable in 2011 or 2012.
The team isn’t fun to watch anymore - and hasn’t been in a while. It lacks a personality like some of the earlier incarnations had. I don’t blame the players - they’re doing what they can. I don’t blame the coaches either - they too are doing what they can with what they’ve been given. I don’t know who to blame, and at this point does it even matter if I did know who to point the finger at?
The one thing that keeps me going and that gives me hope is that the foundation is finally set for player development at the club. For the entirety of the club’s history the team has preached a philosophy of building from within, however it was only last year that the final pieces of the puzzle (the training complex and Bethlehem Steel FC) were finished and able to be integrated with the existing infrastructure (team-owned stadium, training fields, and youth academy system). In the first year or so this has paid dividends, with players finally beginning to emerge from the pipeline. I am not foolish enough to believe this will solve the Union’s on-field problems this season or next, however the foundation is there and over the next couple of seasons we’ll see the fruits of that labor start to pay off. That’s what gives me hope in this dark hour.
Sound off in our comments section on how you feel about being a Union fan. It’s cool, we get it.