The following is my first written piece on this site since the passing of Eric Shertz, a friend and Philadelphia Union fan. This editorial will be partially in Storify (click here) form, as what I wanted to say I tweeted out somewhat tonight on my personal account (@scottdkessler). The following will be a statement/editorial, then the Storify (click here) containing the rest of my thoughts.
The latest failure by the Philadelphia Union – a 3-2 loss that came after a 2-0 lead in a game that meant everything for the Union’s playoff hopes – is yet another poor result in a long line of ugly events for the five-year-old franchise. At the helm of the club has been Nick Sakiewicz, the team’s soccer guy in the ownership group.
Since coming onto the scene in Major League Soccer as an award winning executive with the Tampa Bay Muntiny, Sakiewicz has overseen three teams in some form and has not a single trophy to his name (he became president of the Mutiny the month after the club was awarded the Supporters Shield in 1996). In five years with the Union, Sakiewicz has directed but a single year of uninterrupted positive play and results.
The CEO/President/a lot of other titles allowed former head coach Peter Nowak to roam free of restraint, which ended up in a lawsuit in the federal court system. Sakiewicz was there for the bungling of Michael Orozco-Fiscal, who since leaving the Union has started multiple times for the United States Men’s National Team. He was there for what Orozco-Fiscal said were illegal profits for the coaches/management from player acquisitions and departures.
He was there for the sale of Carlos Ruiz, which may have been linked to the Guatemalan striker’s child support payments, to sketchy Mexican second division club Tiburones Rojos de Veracruz 2.0*. He was there for events that made Faryd Mondragon choose to return to Colombia. He was there for team’s PR mishandling of not-even-on-the-team-yet Lionard Pajoy’s CONMEBOL ban from years beforehand.
He was there for the attempted forced march of Sebastien Le Toux, a fan favorite and franchise leader in nearly everything, to Bolton, which saw the striker trial in England while recovering from injury and without the want to move. He was there for the somewhat hasty trade of Le Toux to the Vancouver Whitecaps after his value diminished due to the poorly managed try at the aforementioned Bolton transfer.
He was there for the training water incident that led to the trades of former no. 1 overall pick Danny Mwanga and former (twice) captain Danny Califf.
He was there for Nowak’s rise and fall. He was there for lifting former interim/head coach John Hackworth’s tag too quickly. He was there for the signings of Porfirio Lopez and Fabinho. The return of Fred. The constant decisions to overlook Home Grown Players (Zach Pfeffer – whose contract is up at the end of the year – Cristhian Hernandez and Jimmy McLaughlin).
He was there for the ignorance regarding continually rising academy star Zack Steffen, who stands to move to Europe when he wants. He was there for choices to not give a proper chance at any central midfield position for Amobi Okugo, who has interest from Germany and some from other leagues in Europe as his contract is due to expire.
He was there for the pitiful attempt at appeasing fans by putting in a bid for Michael Bradley that clearly would never win the Union his rights. He was there for the back-and-forth of Carlos Valdes’ consecutive loan deals to South American clubs and failure to negotiate a proper transfer for the center back once he made Colombia’s World Cup squad.
He was there for the firing of Hackworth, perhaps too late. He was there for Rob Vartughian as Technical Director/Assistant Coach. He was there for the “will he? won’t he?” process for Jim Curtin’s job as head coach.
He was there – and perhaps was the person behind the third one in this list – for the choice to draft Andre Blake, anger Zac MacMath and then sign Rais M’Bolhi toward the end of the second MLS transfer window. He was there for when M’Bolhi somehow was of two minds a week ago on Robert Earnshaw’s chipped in goal.
He was there for yet another late season climb to the playoffs after the firing of the head coach. He was there for yet another late season failure to make the playoffs. He was there for what has become the only possible end for the Union – a collapse, both in the standings and the game result.
He has always been there.
It’s time for a change. It’s time to demand more.
The fans – not just the Sons of Ben and other ‘active’ fans – must demand it. The media must demand it. The residents of Chester should demand it.
The team received nearly $90 million from the state/county/city and only had to pay $1.5 million to the city – which they didn’t properly do – and this is the end product. Chester could have used at least some of that money to fix a dying city; an educational system that “failing” doesn’t properly describe; and a business base that has all but dried up beyond Boeing/Harrah’s/and now the Union. The city of Chester is full of basketball fans who don’t identify with a soccer team that has never sought to include them beyond the part time jobs that the stadium needs to fill. Financial stuff was his realm. Team direction his, as well. Decision making at the soccer level all his within the ownership group structure. Hires – Nowak, execs, etc – were all good ol’ boys from his previous MLS days. Chester has to factor into the way the team progresses. It’s not the Union’s fault, but they’re a part of the solution and they’re not helping. The team failing to punctually send payments in lieu of taxes was not the right thing to do, and Sakiewicz’s public calling out of the city multiple times for proposed taxes while his own team didn’t pay their own debts to the city was an equally poor show.
The team is a blight upon the otherwise failing city of Chester.
It shouldn’t be this way. The season that fans watched in 2011 shouldn’t become an afterthought. It should be a regularity.
Email, tweet, call and text about it. Make sure the media that covers the team: the newspapers, the sites, the twitter accounts (etc) know that you’re asking to #DemandMore.
(Now for the Storify of my tweets for the rest of my thoughts, click here.)