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My dinner with Ernst: a review of the Philadelphia Union sporting director’s roundtable

Ernst Tanner held a roundtable even with fans on Wednesday night

Ernst Tanner (far left) talks to fans at a Social Media Roundtable event in Chester on May 15, 2019
Photo by @Rich_Lori

You know the trouble of being a Philadelphia fan. We don’t get dynasties; we only get moments. The Philadelphia Union are in one of those moments. As Ernst Tanner, the team’s sporting director, said–and I’m so paraphrasing here–that the Union are being asked every week if they can win and the team is answering.

The Union held a Social Media Roundtable with Tanner answering questions from 20-or-so of us fans on Wednesday night, May 15. I was lucky to be selected as a participant. The session lasted a bit over an hour with Tanner talking about everything from the Union’s style of play to the selling of their picks in the last MLS draft.

The mood in the room was relaxed, almost happy. I’m told winning makes everything better. The event went on without a hitch, there were sandwiches, salad and drinks. Tanner came in and shook everyone’s hand. It’s just a little thing, but all of this shows an organization that is dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s. Competence is not something Philadelphia fans are used to.

Tanner talked about his system though he seemed hesitant about using that word. It’s not whether we’re playing 4-2-2-2 or 4-3-1-2, he told us, it’s about attacking the defenders high, playing forward, and surprising the opponent. Tanner seemed to enjoy his time discussing the cost of wingers and the looks he got when he signed Kai Wagner, a third division German footballer. Tanner glowed about of our homegrown talent like Brenden Aaronson, Anthony Fontana, Matt Freese, Mark McKenzie, Matt Real and Auston Trusty. He talked the need the team to force its own luck.

He recounted a joke a friend texted him, “You want to see Philadelphia in first place? Turn your phone upside down.” I guess that’s a Flyers joke now.

Even though the Union go into the weekend in second place — DC United got a point on Wednesday — the good feeling remains, especially with a game in hand.

Seattle will be here this weekend, and I feel oddly good about our chances. These are strange days for Union fans. Damn you, Tanner, and thank you very much.