I am new to writing for this site and I have a secret. It’s a soccer secret that I’ve kept close to the vest for this season and part of last season. Frankly, I have only had a few months to test this theory to see if, in fact, it is truly a secret. If I go strictly by the evidence, then I would have to say that this secret’s magnitude is massive and unrivaled in the annals of time!
Like a lot of you, I have been a Philadelphia Union fan since the beginning. I was not able to afford season tickets the first few years but came to every game I could. One of the questions I always had was, “Why don’t the Union have an expert in the position of evaluating and bringing in player. I know my other team, Chelsea, has a Sporting Director who works with the coach, or in Chelsea’s case, coaches to find the talent needed to play a certain way. In fact, why couldn’t the Union pick a style and play that way.”
So, I did what any loyal soccer fan would do. I prayed the to the gods of international futbol, (not to be confused with FIFA). Before and after every Union game I prayed to the Gods to no avail. Then, one day after a particularly devastating Open Cup final loss, at home no less, the gods descended from the heavens in a helicopter and the next thing I know big changes came at the top of the Union’s front office structure.
No longer would the CEO be deciding who was on the Union’s roster; they were going on an international search for a true soccer man. Yes that’s correct, a SPORTING DIRECTOR. My prayers had been answered!! They also brought in a new Coach, a local who had played in MLS and been part of a championship.
Maybe, just maybe we were on the path to victory! Then came the news that the Union had hired a Sporting Director who was a former USMNT player and currently plied his trade in the Dutch League. He had developed a reputation as a guy who could find great players with the meager budget that the Union were operating under. Soon, came new players, some are still with us. With those players came a preferred playing style, which to this day, eludes me. There was hope.
The Union, however, game out of the blocks shooting blanks and we, the fans were once again in anguish. Then, there came a miracle from the heavens. The Philadelphia Eagles won the Superbowl and in doing so, beat the hated New England Patriots. Being a Philadelphia sports fan was never better. It was like living in Shangra La with cheesesteaks!
As the new Union season opened, we were all filled with hope and glee! The team had developed a chemistry between Alejandro Bedoya, Haris Medunjanin and Borek Dockal. This triangle was on fire, controlling the ball, moving the pivot when and where needed and we were headed for the playoffs still riding that Eagles high.
With all of the joy in the new Title Town something was still stuck in my craw. Why was our Sporting Director telling us not to expect much, getting in the playoffs would be a good result? Ultimately, we lost another Open Cup final in embarrassing style and were knocked from the playoffs after one game.
Our Sporting Director had left us in the summer to join the what I call the USMNF or U.S. Men’s National Fiasco. Again, we were rudderless. So, by now you are probably wondering what this has to do with the secret I wanted to tell you about. Just be patient my fellow Philadelphians, I’m getting there.
It was after that grueling loss that I finally realized that what I had asked the gods of soccer for was not a sporting director alone, but a sporting director who could understand Philadelphia. How we think, what we expect. We love a great defense, BUT we love attacking more. It had become clear to me. What I wanted was the God of Soccer incarnate to come down and lead us to the promised land. That was when Ernst Tanner arrived! I wanted a leader who would be direct, decide on a playing style and bring in great players from around the world while cultivating, but not completely relying on the academy. Don’t get me wrong, the academy is great and we’re seeing the fruits of those labors now, however building a team with 11 academy players, Bedoya, Blake, Medunjanin and warm breeze was not how we do things here.
So, I spoke my mind to anyone who would listen. We need a reliable everyday left back. Ernst brought us one. Then I prayed for some midfield help. We needed more speed and players who are tactical and can make better decisions. Voila, we got not one, not two, but THREE! One of them being a Mexican International with pedigree. I then, as I’m sure most of us did, turned my attention to the Number 9 position. Well little did I know; Ernst already had that little request under control when he signed a Polish striker at the end of the previous season.
Still, I was concerned about the striker position and, I thought, we should try and bolster that position when the transfer window opened. Check off that box. Done and done! Well, now that I’ve brought you all this way, if you are still reading I can tell you my secret. Ernst and I have a special bond. I wish for it, he makes it come true, well except for the Tesla. Anyway, Ernst is focused on winning like me! He knows how to get things done like me (okay maybe is a bit better than me there).
He and I are connected. We’re brothers from another mother. Whatever I think, he makes happen. He’s the German Howie Roseman and I have a special bond with him. Golly day! Now, I’ve always been willing to share, and I will make you, my fellow fans, an offer. Just tell me what you spend your nights worrying about concerning the Union and I will pass that information on to Ernst.
Oh and for the superstitious, I know we have a long way to go, but isn’t this better than anything we’ve ever tasted as Union fans? Oh yes, Ernst? Yeah, I’ll be there in a second. Gotta go…