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This time it ALL counts

The Philadelphia Union had a good season. Now they have a chance to do something special.

MLS: Philadelphia Union at Columbus Crew SC Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

I am not accustomed to writing pieces like the one I’m about to write. However, I do think that time has come for this. There are many people out there in Philly Sports Land that root for the Philadelphia Union and by their good play in the last few months one can easily notice that the stadium has gotten more crowded.

Philly fans know how to bring the energy and I can tell you firsthand that since the FC Dallas game earlier this year I have not felt the kind of stadium shaking at a Union game EVER! So, what happened to the team? Where have they been for the last month? For those of us who recently endured an embarrassing loss to our rivals 80 miles north that was the worst loss I have witnessed in the 10 years the Union have been in MLS.

I don’t know what has been said in the locker room before during or after that last game. Jim Curtin is too classy a person to air dirty laundry in public. I certainly hope that the conversation revolved around the fact that several veteran plays merely watched the game more than those of us in the stands. New York came here to send a message and frankly, I received that message loud and clear! I hope this team did too. If you are not ready to give every ounce of energy and skill and if you don’t think you can win it all, then please stay home.

This is Philly; Philly guys don’t quit, ever! Philly guys play for their mates and have their mates’ back always. Philly guys know what the fans expect, and that bar is high!

This team inexplicably took a nosedive at season’s end, just like last year and the year before that ad nauseum. While the statistics show this as the best finish in Union history. I can’t help but feel we left quite a bit on the table. In spite of a weak showing in the last month we still finished in third place and have a home game on Sunday.

It is not my intention to disparage Jim Curtin, but if I were the coach the conversations we would have in the days leading up to this game would have this flavor…

Gentlemen,
We have played an entire year of soccer and have earned ourselves a bonafide playoff spot and a home game. When I look back at our performances this year, particularly at the losses I can tell you that there were very few instances where we were beaten by a better team. In many cases, we beat ourselves and that is simply not acceptable.

There are 25 names on this roster, and I expect 25 guys to be working on fitness during practices. We need to play as a unit and play for each other, when we do, we win. When we don’t, we look ridiculous! If you are tired or feel you cannot give a complete performance in practices or games let me know and you can play the remainder of your careers in the USL. I need every one of you to be prepared to win and to expect to keep winning until the trophy is ours to share with our supporters.

I’ve seen players not chasing through balls. I’ve seen weak passes that will never make it to intended target. I want to see everyone looking for ways to support your teammates on and OFF the ball. I get to make three substitutions in each game. If I see anyone relaxing, taking plays off or playing like they are the only person on the pitch, I will pull you out so fast it will make your head spin. If I use all three substitutions in the first 20 minutes so be it!

We have a chance to do something special when you play together and communicate you are unstoppable but the team I saw against NYCFC couldn’t have beaten the Academy U15s. So, I’ll ask you all right now, which side of the ledger will you fall on? Will you be able to say truthfully “I left everything on this field?”, or will your legacy be something less? Who is going to make that pass, or that shot, or that run that moves a defender, or tight marking that prevents the other team from getting off a shot?

Gentlemen, we have an opportunity to bring our supporters, the best supporters in MLS their first trophy. If we play together and do the little things for each other we cannot be stopped. If we win this, you all will have a legacy in Philadelphia, one of the greatest sports towns in America, that you can always be proud of. Let’s prep as hard as we can and go win this cup!

Maybe Jim has already said this, maybe we will soon or maybe he has a different message altogether. He has earned the right to be our leader and lead this team to the cup.

I think I can speak for supporters everywhere in Philly/Union Nation that anything short of the cup will be disappointing. As my father used to tell me, “Second place doesn’t matter. Unless you’re the lead dog the view never changes”!

Let’s change the view.