Well fans, here we sit in the month of September with the most realistic chance of making the playoffs in years. How are you feeling? Nervous? Yeah, me too. But we are sitting in a great position this late in the year. So as I look back on the season, is it a success?
To look at this season, you need to look back to last fall. When the Union fell short both in the Open Cup, and in the MLS season. Was it disappointing? Hell yes. I sat there with the other 18,499 fans during the Open Cup Final thinking what could have been. Then I sat there with all the other fans on October 25th, watching the Union win a 1-0 match against Kaka wondering what will happen next year. I sat in my seats for a moment watching my kids scramble to get anything they could find signed by their favorite players thinking, why do I do this to myself? Every year we have the Philadelphia mentality of “This is our year!” And as with most professional teams in this area, by mid-season we are already told of the “rebuilding stage”. So when my wife and I got home, we talked about it. Should we renew? And of course, like all of us diehard fans, the answer came rather quickly. There was no doubt. We are supporters. Through the good and the bad, through the wins and losses, We are Union!
I talked to Coach Jim and congratulated him on an exciting season. He was more than apologetic for not making the playoffs, and said he was excited about the core roster, and what was going to happen next year. I talked to a couple of the players, and they all seemed optimistic. Then came the news of Earnie Stewart on October 26th. Maybe the team is heading in the right direction. The guy is a proven winner. But I was with Cristian Maidana on Dec. 7th, when he got the call that he had been traded. I couldn’t believe we were getting rid of such a talented player. Hell, he led the team in assist the last 2 years, and gained respect from other teams because of his magic with the ball. But I understand this is a business, and that’s part of it. Was I upset about it, yep. Not going to lie. Still am, but we maintain our friendship. His jersey is still displayed proudly in my house. And it’s part of the business.
But we made some moves, some fantastic draft picks, and were starting to get the attention of other clubs. What do they know that us self-doubting Philly fans don’t? The “In Earnie we trust” slogan was gaining momentum around the tri-state area. And then Blake happened.
Andre Blake is a phenom between the posts. That is without question. In every championship season, you look back at games you should have won/lost. Andre is responsible for a lot of those wins. Not like a previous keeper from Algeria that was responsible for plenty of losses. And the team builds around his hard work to fight in those tough games. Our 1-2 Keeper squad is the best in the league in my opinion. And John McCarthy and Andre are friends. They got each other’s back, which is how every fan feels in the stadium.
We have lost key players during the season, (that is for another article), but a champion is defined by its character. How they react to being tossed to the curb. How they show their heart in times of grief. Their ability to keep going forward when people try to drag them back. But this season is special. You can feel it down the stadium. There is something in the air. Something about the way Tim McDermott walks by before the game and gives the crowd a wink. He knows something. Will we be upset if we don’t win it all is what we need to be asking each other. If you ask me, I can tell you that I will, but it is definitely a step in the right direction. Correction, not a step, a leap.
So Earnie, Tim, Charlie, Mark… I have Re-Dooped. Not because I am afraid to die like your advertising says will happen if I don’t, but because I believe in you guys. The season is a success. I am pleased with the current state of the Union. We are heading in the right direction, and I have never felt more proud to wear my Union colors, even with the Eagles starting, I will spread your name everywhere I go. Kudos….