The season is just two games old, but doesn’t it just feel like we’re all sitting in the same movie theater watching the same movie for the 10th time?
There’s a new sporting director, new team, new star player and new system to learn for the Philadelphia Union. These are all welcome additions to the Union-verse, and yet doesn’t it just feel like more of the same? It’s always more nuanced when it comes to analyzing the performance of any team in sports. Tons of factors can come together to answer why your team might be slumping and believe this: The Philadelphia Union have plenty of reasons to have started the season with two losses.
We’ve seen how the season starts and we’re anticipating the mid-season turn only to fall off the cliff flailing just missing, or flailing miserably, into the playoffs. It just has such a similar feeling as years previous and yet, you’re already telling yourself something like, “Well it’s early still?
How many times are we going to keep buying a ticket to this horror movie?
The Philadelphia Union may have shiny new toys and a new sporting director, who I like for the record, but I just can’t shake the feeling of knowing where this is all heading. There are always the same themes that occur in each season:
1. A spring slow start.
2. A early summer rebound coupled with an exciting U.S. Open Cup run.
3. A late summer lull.
4. A fall collapse.
The worst part of those themes is the last one I didn’t list: Hope.
There is always a weird sense of hope. Fleeting as it always is in this city, the hope that surrounds the Union is usually focused on a minute detail. Something along the lines of, “Well if only the Union did this thing differently things would be different.” It’s always a small thing here and there that are causing Philadelphia’s misfortune. It’s also very easy to latch onto those small things and chalk them up to chance. Whether it be in a game, an unfortune injury, or what have you. There is ALWAYS something that is cause the Philadelphia Union from reaching their potential.
This is what bothers me the most about the Philadelphia Union.
The Union aren’t unfortunate. They aren’t unlucky. The don’t fail because of things out of their control. The Union aren’t succeeding because they are not good. Every single season they trot out the best roster in their history and every single year they’ve managed to not quite surpass the “misfortunes” of the past. The typical tropes of “Philly vs Everyone Else” usually resonates as a rallying cry for the city’s blue-collar with-us-or-against-us attitude. Everyone is a rival because you’re not us and it projects a Napoleonic Complex the city’s fanbase has by lumping every other team (and their fanbase) as an amalgam enemy. For the Philadelphia Union, in their attempts to latch onto this motif, come off as the whimpering child who believes life is against them.
With every game there is the similar response to a miserable performance. Whether it be the ball not bouncing their way, calls from the ref that didn’t go their way, or a combination of everything, it follows a pattern: Things didn’t go our way today.
After 10 seasons of things not going the Union’s way, when does that excuse stop becoming reasonable? When does 10 years of the ball not bouncing the Union’s way or the ref not calling things the Union’s way stop becoming the scapegoat for a franchise floundering in MLS 1.0? The façade that this team is right there from being competitive and that they are doing all the right things in building a roster gets applauded by the national media every summer as if this hasn’t happened since 2010. When does that end? Hell, even New England made it to an MLS Cup final again during the Union’s existence.
There’s a fundamental issue with this team and it keeps replaying over and over again. Optimism has long died as the outward expression for the fans of this team. It’s hard, for me personally, to sell the idea of going to a game to anyone who’s never been. There is, however, still a small piece of hope that still somehow has managed to adapt and survive through the predictable roller coaster that the Union and their fans have ridden so many times they know when to smile for the camera.
Is there a closing point to all this rambling of a frustrated fan of 10 years who has seen his love and passion for the Union all but die? I can get all doom and gloom about what I think would be helpful to revive a dormant fanbase who couldn’t care less about this franchise, but it’s nothing new people haven’t suggested before. Rather I’d just like to send a message to the team: I’m not the only fan who has nothing but apathy for this franchise.
And with each passing season of predictability, misery and fruitless soccer, the number of fans you put into this category only grows.