The Union’s (2-7-3) 1-0 win over D.C. United (6-2-3) in stoppage time on Sunday was an afterthought to fans, especially the team’s most loyal supporters group – the Sons of Ben.
The supporters organized a protest prior to the start of the match to voice their displeasure with team ownership, parading around the stadium with a banner which read “Union Fans Deserve Better.”
Public Relations Director for the Sons of Ben, Tim Sosar, has been fielding messages all season from angry members looking for answers. The team hasn’t reached the playoffs since 2011 and has only won just three matches since September of last season or five months of MLS league play.
“We’re not exactly sure of the goal of the ownership,” Sosar said. “Is this a hobby for them? Is this a way for them to gain extra revenue? What can we expect out of them moving forward? Are they just trying to pay the bills or are they trying to build a franchise? These are the questions that are on a lot of people’s minds.”
In response to the protest, Union CEO Nick Sakiewicz issued a statement to the Sons of Ben which read, “we agree wholeheartedly with the Sons of Ben and we share the frustrations of all fans to the start of the season.”
Sosar and the majority of Sons of Ben supporters accepted the statement, but a letter which was sent to fans Monday and was later expanded upon didn’t receive quite the same reception.
“In the letter he says 'now is not the time to point fingers,'but at the same time he is the CEO and the face of the front office,” Sosar said. “It kind of sounds like he’s avoiding what got us to this point and it’s disconcerting. We’ve been told for the better part of six years that the team is there for the fans and the commitment of bringing a winning team here, but as a team we’ve really just been treading water in the bottom third of the standings.”
One key move which has been criticized immensely by the fan base was the signing of goalie Rais M’Bolhi last season. M’Bolhi, signed for three-years, $403,000 last July, has severely limited the team’s cap space since. After going 1-4-4 since his signing, the Union decided to move on from M’Bolhi earlier this month, while paying out the final amount of his salary.
“Instead of signing a quality left back, which the team has not had in several years, the team signed M’Bolhi and you wonder who was involved in that decision making effort,” Sosar said. “Have they learned anything from it and where do they go next? Should we as fans have any faith in the people making decisions like that?”
Until changes are made, Sosar and the Sons of Ben will not rest. They’re tired of the same messages from ownership and outcomes on the field. Sunday was the start of something which will continue to grow louder.
“What we strove to do Sunday was to send a message and make a spectacle of it, but to do it respectfully and in an organized manner,” Sosar said. “We got a lot of response from that and now we need to see actions taken. This could take a little while, but now our message is clear. This is groundbreaking for us. No Sons of Ben leadership board has ever gone this far. We’re treading in uncharted waters and we’re not going to let up.”
Ownership mistakes leading to management hot seats:
“The Union had to get away from the salary cap issue that hampered them in 2013 and it didn’t work out so they fired [John] Hackworth. Jim Curtin came in and was a likeable guy from Philly, he had a good reputation and he was turning things around on an interim basis up to that point, so he was hired. Do I think that he’s been dealt a bad hand? To a certain degree, yes. He has to deal with a team with a lot of injuries, that’s limited in depth and that doesn’t have the financial flexibility to bring many experienced players in.”