After watching the Eagles flame out of the playoffs in incredibly lame fashion, I felt inspired to write about the next best team in town, which is your Philadelphia Union.
It's true. The Union is the second best team we have, unless you count Villanova basketball. But that would make Philadelphia a "six for six" city, and the Wildcats don't even play in Philly anyway.
We know the Sixers are tanking. The Flyers and the Phillies are also tanking, they just don't realize it. And the longest tenured coach in Philadelphia couldn't find a way past the Dallas Cowboys and their intolerable fans from Iowa and New Mexico.
This time of the year, which is ironically the holiday season, also tends to be the most annoying for MLS fans. It's that sort of "in-between" period where not much is happening, and fans (and writers) are itching for transfer rumors or even a done deal. We need something to look forward to, because spending time with our families just isn't cutting it in late December.
Where are the signings?
Philadelphia's lone addition of the offseason is forward C.J. Sapong, but that DOESN'T MEAN THE SEARCH FOR A STRIKER IS OVER!
Sapong won't be your starter at the No. 9 spot going into 2015. He is an upgrade for Brian Brown and a solid depth-piece who can play any of the "front three" spots in Jim Curtin's 4-2-3-1 formation. Sapong played in a 4-3-3 at Kansas City, and while the system was predicated on the high press, it isn't entirely dissimilar to Philadelphia's shape.
He'll fit in nicely here.
And don't worry about trading away the draft pick. The MLS SuperDraft is becoming more and more irrelevant each season. This year, only about eight players in the entire draft saw significant MLS action. Philadelphia hasn't had a great track record of drafting anyway, so would you rather have the tenth overall pick, or a proven commodity in Sapong?
The Union missed out on a Ligue 1 striker who would have been a perfect fit for this club. I reported a few weeks ago that this guy was interested in coming to Philadelphia, but a bigger team from Europe entered the picture and the deal fell apart. As a condition of passing along the information, my sources asked me to keep the name of the player confidential. I'm sorry that I can't reveal this guy's name, but I'm sure it will be made public at some point in the near future.
You will be pleased to know what kind of players the Union are targeting, even if they might lose out to bigger clubs in the end.
I can tell you that the Union are in Europe and South America right now. They've been checking out some bigger clubs on these scouting trips, and they are mostly focused on bringing in attacking talent. Finding a starting, designated player-level striker is the top priority at the moment.
Don't be worried that the team hasn't made a big splash yet. At this point last year, the Union's only addition to the roster was midfielder Corben Bone, who was picked up in the first round of the re-entry draft.
The signing of Cristian Maidana was not made official until January 15, 2014. Maurice Edu's press release didn't go out until January 27, and Vincent Nogueira's deal was completed on January 30. Austin Berry joined in late February.
That's generally how these things work out.
This year, you've also got collective bargaining taking place, so that places uncertainty over the entire offseason. Don't be surprised if that holds up some moves, or if the salary/DP/whatever information is withheld until a CBA is hammered out.
I also reported the Union's interest in William Kvist, so stay tuned for updates on that as well.
What about the other guys?
Everybody is talking about Orlando City and all of the deals they have done.
Obviously they are going to be wheeling and dealing because they don't even have a full roster. They are an expansion club.
They've made some nice moves, and they've splashed a ton of cash on Kaka, but you can't compare the moves of a well-funded expansion club to those of an existing franchise with fewer resources.
I know a lot of people disliked the Amobi Okugo trade. I've known Amobi for years now, and I think he's a great young player.
But ask yourself this - where would you rank Amobi among defensive midfielders in Major League Soccer? Would you start him over Kyle Beckerman? Would you rate him higher than Ozzie Alonso? Would you play him before Dax McCarty/Matias Laba/Diego Chara/Jermaine Jones/Juninho/Tony Tchani?
Sometimes you have to put things into perspective. I hope Amobi has a good year in Orlando, but it's premature to say whether or not it was a good or bad trade.
The Union made it clear this offseason that they just don't have the money that other teams do. Jay Sugarman openly admitted that he is not a "soccer guy". They outlined a simple plan that included the addition of Rene Meulensteen as a consultant with the aim of hiring of a sporting director in the future.
Jim Curtin is a young coach with a lot of upside. He played in MLS, he's from Philadelphia, and he understands the city and the fans. Some of you don't seem to think it matters, but I do. He speaks our language and doesn't bull**** like other managers in MLS.
There are obvious challenges in Chester. Curtin and Chris Albright are young. There is no general manager and there are few resources. But this team has a good defensive spine and decent core.
What's the alternative?