Lister is back with a final edition of Three Takeaways, in which he provides his own analysis on the Philadelphia Union’s 2017 Major League Soccer campaign.
Sorry for the lack of posts toward the end of the season. I hope to improve on the amount of Three Takeaways that I do, and I hope to post weekly next season. In the meantime, I plan to offer Three Takeaways during the offseason as well, evaluating the players the Union pickup and drop off.
For now, let us hop into the final Three Takeaways of a disappointing 2017 Philadelphia Union Season.
Questionable Decisions From the Front Office
First, the Union made a number of questionable decisions immediately after the season ended, including the decision to keep head coach Jim Curtin at the helm, despite the team starting the season winless in its first eight games.
“We were at one point in a position to once again get back into the playoffs – and that is a great credit to Jim and his coaching staff,” Union Sporting Director Earnie Stewart said in a press conference held earlier this month. However, after making the playoffs last season, and with the amount of talent and depth the Union had, they should have had more than just a “chance.” In my opinion, they should have easily made the playoffs.
Secondly, the Union declined contract options on veteran defender Oguchi Onyewu, young midfielder Fabian Herbers, and the Brazilian, Ilsinho, while making sure 3rd string keeper Jake McGuire and rookie midfielder, Adam Najem stayed on. While I do think that McGuire should stay on, using one of their options on him was not a good idea, in my opinion. I am not too worried about losing either of the two mentioned above; Najem only saw 153 minutes in 5 games last season.
Overall, I do not believe these decisions were smart choices by the Union front office who, in my opinion, do not seem to have their priorities straight.
Roll out the Youngsters
I believe the future of the Union lies in its young players: Keegan Rosenberry, Fabian Herbers, Jack Elliot, and though some may disagree, Marcus Epps.
Out of those four, Rosenberry was a Rookie of the Year candidate last season, Herbers had a surprisingly good rookie year last campaign, Elliot, at the time this article was written, is in consideration for Rookie of the Year, and Epps is a rookie on an upswing.
However, I believe Rosenberry, Herbers, and Epps were not given nearly enough time to play, which they need to bond as a unit, because that unit should become the future of the franchise.
Last year, Herbers and Rosenberry combined for 4296 minutes and 5 goals. This year, they combined for 1446 minutes and 1 goal. Both of these players, in my opinion, deserve far more time next season. And while Herbers was hurt for a few games, he still needed time when he was healthy. By Curtin electing not to play them consistently, it hurt not only their development, but also the team’s.
Improvement Came, But It Came Too Late
During the season, we saw many players blossom into better versions of themselves.
Marcus Epps learned how to control the ball and get past defenders with fewer mistakes.
Ilsinho improved his distribution, had some nice goals, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, but hopefully the Union will restructure his contract to keep him around for another year.
Jack Elliot gave us all less heart attacks, when he learned to dish the ball upfield to field players and not backward to Andre Blake.
CJ Sapong stayed on his feet more this year, and although he still has a habit of falling down pretty easily, he bagged a club record 16 goals.
While all of these developments came too late in the season to salvage a playoff position, they at the very least give Union fans something to look forward to next year.
Check back soon for Lister’s next edition of Three Takeaways, which will evaluate the players the Union add or drop throughout the offseason.