I have always been a Union fan. I had hoped that Philadelphia would one day get a soccer team that I could cheer for. My dad would tell me the stories of the days when the atoms and the fury once played in the same league as Pele and many superstars of that time. So when I found out that this city was getting a team, I was beyond excited. I joined the Sons of Ben fan club and eagerly awaited the first home game. My dad had surprised me with tickets to the game and I couldn’t have been happier. I went to the game with my parents and the crowd was nuts. People were jumping around and getting rowdy, something that I have always enjoyed in a soccer crowd. My dad and I walked in with our Sons of Ben jerseys and were handed rally towels. This first game was against D.C. United, a team that I had, at one point, actually rooted for.
The game was one that I could not forget as the Union won 3-2 on a hat trick by Sebastian Le Toux. I was excited to have seen such a good game and from that point, I became a Union fan. My Uncle bought me a jersey and I now wear it during every game. Now that I have gotten your attention, let me talk about the state of the team. Yes, the team is not doing well right now. There have been multiple players traded and the coach has even been fired. Let’s go through every one of these trades and even the coach.
Le Toux Traded to the Vancouver White Caps for Allocation Money
This was a trade that certainly surprised many people, including myself. Le Toux was the offensive force on the Union squad and one person that seemed to never tire out, even having me question whether the man had a third lung.(Joke of course haha) But, the team seemed to have a different take on him. He was in the last year of his contract and the team wanted to get value out of him. This is unfortunately how sports work. Sports are a business and sometimes in business, tough decisions have to be made. Le Toux is doing well with Vancouver and I couldn’t be happier for him. While i am disappointed that he was no longer on our team, I was glad to know that he was given a chance to make another team good.
Danny Califf traded to Chivas for Michael Lahoud
This was a trade that I did see coming. Califf has been with the team since the beginning. He has always been a solid defender and has always will be. He manned the backlines and cleared out whatever situations came about. However, this season things were interesting. With the trade of Le Toux, the team was not doing as well on the offensive side and this was forcing Califf to have to work harder to clear out the situations that were coming closer to the Union net and the young goalie in Zac McMath. This was something that was hurting the entire defense, Califf included. This was not his fault and no one was blaming this on him. Then, the trade came and Califf was sent to Chivas and closer to home. The return for Califf was a young player in Michael Lahoud. Lahoud has shown that he is worth the return and I hope to see what both Califf and Lahoud can do for their respective teams.
Danny Mwanga traded to the Portland Timbers for Jorge Perlaza
This, again, was another trade that I did not see coming. Mwanga had been the Union’s first ever pick at #1 and there was hope that he would thrive as a striker. He came off the bench in his first season and provided some offensive support. Last season, he started to get more playing time, but was not producing as much as he was hoped to. This season, he had been not been performing well. The player that was received in return, Jorge Perlaza, is a young Columbian striker who has shown that he can score at will. He has played well the last few season in the MLS and other leagues. This was a trade that I was intrigued about due to the fact that I did not know much about this player. I hope Mwanga can show his true potential in Portland and wish the best for him.
Peter Nowak fired as Head Coach, John Hackworth takes over
This was something that most people could have and should have seen coming. With a team that is struggling, the coach is usually the first person to go. It is unfortunate, but that is the way things work in sports. Peter Novak was great in his first 2 and a half seasons with the Union, turning the expansion team into a contender. This season was different. There was something about the team that did not seem right. The players did not seem to have the same cohesiveness that they had before and did not seem to be able to make things work. This is unfortunate for Novak and I wish him the best at whatever he does.
This is what the team has gone through this season. There have been some changes, but as a die hard Union fan, I think this is for the best. While these players and coach were here from the beginning, sometimes things have to be changed and a new dynamic has to be in place. While this team is struggling now, I believe that they will be able to pick up the pace and make themselves into the Union that us as fans have come to know and love.