After a 6-0 thrashing from Pachuca, the vibes around the Philadelphia Union are in the gutter. After refusing to invest in the roster and fans, it begs an important question. If ownership doesn’t care, why should fans?

Blame the packed schedule or blame the conditions in Mexico; it does not matter. Losing 6-0 on the international stage can’t happen. In the words of Jim Curtin, it was an embarrassment to the Union and MLS.

While the Union’s schedule is open now, it does not mean the road gets any better. It is going to be a long 2024 season. Unfortunately, a terrible season may be what the Union brought upon themselves.

How Bad Could It Be?

While we are just 1 month into the season, there has not been much to cheer about. They are winless in MLS, have given up 15 goals in 6 games, and have no depth at any position. Unfortunately, the Union’s opponents are improving, and the Union is staying the same.

The landscape of MLS is changing and improving. While Lionel Messi’s arrival ensured that other clubs were not scared to change with it. Teams like Portland, Colorado, and Chicago are making 10+ million-dollar bids for players. The Union’s biggest incoming transfer is still 2.7 million dollars. The club will not survive in MLS anymore with their philosophy. The writing is already on the wall as the Union is outgunned every time they reach big stages.

There could be a silver lining: if you told a Union fan in 2014 that in 10 years, the Union would have a Supporters Shield and MLS Cup appearance, I am sure any fan would be ecstatic. However, the story of how we got here leaves a sour taste in the mouth. The Union was 90 seconds from holding the MLS Cup. Unfortunately, from then on, the Union decided they did not need to improve.

Who Holds the Most Blame?

Jay Sugarman

The biggest culprit is Union majority owner Jay Sugarman. Union ownership is fine where the team is. Sugarman has been in the negative view of Union fans for a long time. Things got easier when the club was doing well, but his cheapness is coming back to bite him. There have been no significant improvements to the roster or the experience for fans. Pricing is going up, and the quality is going down.

This is more of a business to make money from for Sugarman than anything else. Despite hiking up stadium and season ticket prices, none of that added revenue is being reinvested into the team on the field. However, there is a giant complex next door now to make sure he can host tournaments. Also, we can’t forget about the big DELCO sign.

In all seriousness, the WSFS complex is a great thing for the community. Unfortunately, it won’t matter to the Union when the stadium starts to empty. Fans have every right to be furious at ownership. Seeing the price of tickets, concessions, and memorabilia skyrocket is infuriating. Add to it the fact that money is not being invested to make the team better.

Jay Sugarman has not changed his ways during his tenure. He likely will not until fans cohesively make their voices heard. Unfortunately, the only way to do that is to hurt his pockets.

Jim Curtin/Ernst Tanner

Union head coach Jim Curtin and sporting director Ernst Tanner should not get massively blamed for the state of the Union roster. However, despite being handcuffed by their budget, the two are not completely blameless.

For Ernst Tanner, his diamonds in the rough aren’t coming in like they used to. While he did pluck studs like Kai Wagner and Jose Martinez out of nothing, he is accruing more misses than hits. He finally got to spend a decent sum of money and brought in Miakel Uhre. Uhre has not been awful but has not lived up to the expectations. Now, his lack of any level of move in the offseason has left the Union fighting for their lives without any depth.

Now, for Jim Curtin. Jim Curtin is a great coach who will likely move on to better things soon. He does not deserve a massive amount of blame. However, his shortcomings have hurt the club as well. Curtin has a history of not using subs and not giving players many chances. Now, we are not at practice. Some players may just not fit in correctly. Last year, we saw it with Perea and Torress. However, it seems Curtin does not give many opportunities to prove it in the game.

Of course, if a player wants game minutes, they have to earn it in practice. However, the Union spent a million dollars to bring in Tai Baribo. Baribo is yet to feature for the Union this season. Did Ernst Tanner completely miss on Baribo? Or is Curtin not giving him a full chance to earn his spot?

Nonetheless, the Union is struggling to find its identity in the new era of MLS. Spending at the bottom of the league worked in the past, but it will not anymore.

The Future Will Tell All

As stated before, we are just 1 month into the 2024 season. While the Union stares down the barrel of losing top players in the summer, perhaps they can pull it together. Unfortunately, fans have every right to be upset and concerned as the Union core is declining while everyone else is getting better.

The real test of how much ownership cares will come in the summer. The Union likely stands to lose Julian Carranza. Will the checkbook finally be opened to make a big splash? Union fans will likely even accept just some reliable depth moves.

Nonetheless, the sense is fans are growing tired of the same old Union moments. This is a defining year in the club’s history. Whether they decide to grow what they have built over the last 5 years or let it dwindle due to a lack of care and reinvestment to the fans.


Featured Image: Wes Shepherd/PHLSportsNation

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