This wasn’t one of the nail-biting, down-to-the-wire Union seasons that fans have grown accustomed to the past few years. Even for the most casual Union fan, this season was a dreadful disaster. This was a season that ended with meaningless games and sparse crowds. This season was one to forget.
After a 10-17-7 record and things pointing in the wrong direction, the Union parted ways with CEO Nick Sakiewicz back on October 2nd, a move that many believed should have been done long ago.
Back in May, the Union supporters group, the Sons of Ben, organized a protest to voice their frustrations with Sakiewicz. They staged a funeral for the franchise, parading a casket around the Union stadium which read “We Deserve Better” along the side. On the inside of the casket was an image of Sakiewicz with the words “Serial Franchise Killer” etched underneath.
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The Union replaced Sakiewicz with Earnie Stewart on Monday. Union owner Jay Sugarman has full trust that Stewart is someone who can come in and turn things around immediately.
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“In searching for a Sporting Director, we defined specific criteria we were looking for a candidate to fulfill,” Sugarman said. “Earnie rated highly on all our key metrics. … Earnie’s long-term vision and desire to positively impact soccer in the United States aligns closely with our vision for the Philadelphia Union and we are excited to welcome him back to the USA and put him in a position to drive the Union to long-term success.”
Stewart will have a lot of work ahead of him.
The Union ended the season with a minus-13 goal differential. They scored just 42 goals on the year, which ranked last in the Eastern Conference. There were a few bright spots, especially the play of C.J. Sapong, Cristian Maidana and Zach Pfeffer, but largely there just wasn’t enough talent on both sides of the ball to equate to wins.
Defensively, the Union let in 55 goals, ranking them fifth to last in the league. The defensive futility can be attributed more to a subpar back line, rather than the goaltending of both Andre Blake and John McCarthy. The Union desperately need to shore up their back line either through a free agent acquisition or through the MLS SuperDraft this offseason.
Life needs to be injected into the fanbase once again. As an organization, they haven’t reached the playoffs since 2011 and were arguably their furthest away from reaching that goal this season. Two straight agonizing Open Cup final defeats at PPL Park were no consolation for this fact.
Fans will continue to want more. Winning cures all ills, but this virus doesn’t look to be going away anytime soon.