After a seemingly endless international break, the Union are back, and so is the Brotherly Bag. This week, we’re talking Josh Yaro, attendance, and playoff hopes (lol).
Why does Joshua Yaro still get starts, and do you think we have finally seen the last of him?
Jordan Wohl: Josh was pretty good in the first half against Atlanta, but let himself down when he made a bad mistake that got him sent off. He is still a young player and likely to be a decent portion of the future of this team. It makes no sense for him to not to start for an extended runout to see what he’s got. Oguchi Onyewu, for as good as he has been this season, is not the Union’s future. Yaro is. Realistically, next year, Yaro and Elliott should be your starting center back pair barring unforseen circumstances. You can't want to play the kids and also want to see one of your top five draft picks ride the bench; the two things are incompatible.
John Rossi: Josh Yaro still gets starts because he’s 23 years old and he needs professional match experience. His development has been impeded by injury so far, and the final stretch of this meaningless season is the perfect time for Yaro to get his feet under him. As Jordan said, Oguchi Onyewu is not the Union’s future at center back, and neither is Richie Marquez or Ken Tribbett. Auston Trusty is the only other center back who should be rivaling Yaro for playing time at this point.
Since Yaro’s Generation Adidas status—which exempts him from hitting the salary cap—is likely to carry over to next season, you’ll be seeing a lot more of him for the foreseeable future.
Is there a fan attendance problem?
Jordan: The optics of the match against Atlanta shouldn't reflect on the fans’ passion; it has to do with the poor play as well as fans’ end-of-summer plans. However, this team should take heed of the fact that their time to produce some sort of winner and keep fans’ interest is starting to dwindle. Back when the big four sports teams in Philly were terrible in 2014-2015, the Union legitimately had a chance to create serious buzz with all local eyes on them for the U.S. Open Cup Final. Despite the publicity, the Union have gotten worse since then and lost any PR momentum they might have had.
To add to that, season ticket prices seemingly have risen, according to this article by Philly Voice's Kevin Kinkead (http://www.phillyvoice.com/union-struggles-continue-season-ticket-holders-approach-renewal-discretion/).
At the end of the day, you don't owe anything to this team. I believe John and I have said this many times over the course of this mailbag series. They are bad and have been bad for the last eight or so years. It is not a homer thing to me to not want to spend money on a poor product. In our sixth mailbag, John wrote "they’re the ones who should be committed to you, not the other way around". With ticket renewal period coming up, keep that in mind.
John: It definitely looks that way. Paid attendance is down by more than a thousand per game, and the actual attendance is even worse. For the first time in team history, the Union have dropped below an average figure of 17,000 people per game, and their attendance by capacity is below 90% for the first time as well.
As Jordan outlined elegantly in his response above, and again in the column linked a few sentences back, the Union have been bad pretty much forever. So why has the attendance dropped so dramatically only now? Because they’re boring. They’re so boring. While the early Union teams had that new franchise smell to mask the stench of the on-field product, there’s nothing to distract from how unentertaining Union games have become.
If the Union fail to find more lively attacking midfielders than Ilsinho and Chris Pontius in the offseason, their results will surely suffer, but so too will their already-ugly attendance figures.
Are the playoffs possible?
Jordan: In short, no. Yeah, in a fantasy world, the Union win five or six out of the seven remaining matches this season and go on to the playoffs as the sixth seed. Ok, that was nice right? Let’s come back to the grim reality. The Union have four of their last seven on the road, where they have been atrocious (seven points in 13 games). Five of those seven matches are against playoff teams. So, yes, in a literal sense, the Union have a shot to make the playoffs, but really that shot is a minuscule two percent shot. It does not look pretty.
In reality, this season was over when the team lost 3-0 against Montreal at home back on August 12th. The team looks lethargic and ready for the season to be over. That may seem harsh, but you cannot start the season by earning four points in eight game and really expect to have a great shot to make the playoffs in the end.
John: There’s no way. The Union would need to win at least five of their remaining seven games, if not more. As Jordan pointed out, most of these games are either on the road, against a playoff team, or both. Even if they do manage to pull out a franchise-long winning streak, which they will not do, they still need plenty of other results to go their way. It’s over.