This season has been a disappointment for the Zolos and their fans. Rather than focus too much on the negatives, I want to look at what could have been for this team.
What if the Union had fired Hackworth at the end of last season and started this season strong?
The early months of 2014 are disappointing for Philadelphia sports. The Eagles are in off-season and had just cut star player DeSean Jackson while the tanking Sixers talk of a multi-year rebuild. Throughout this, the Phillies are still the Phillies.
Come March, MLS begins and the Philadelphia Union are off to a hot start under their new manager, winning their first three games. Captain Amobi Okugo leads the way from midfield while Aaron Wheeler is only seen coming off the bench as a striker. The hilariously named Berry White backline isn’t perfect, but the two young players show flashes of potential.
A month or two in, the Union are in playoff contention thanks to the striker pairing of Jack Mac and Casey. The manager’s patience with the Berry White pairing is starting to show signs of chemistry. The competitive Zolos catch the eyes of casual Philly sports fans desperate for a winner.
The World Cup
Due to his superb form on an overachieving Philadelphia, Maurice Edu makes the final 23 man squad of the United States. Casual fans are intrigued by having a Philadelphia player for the United States, making sure to tune into U.S. matches.
On the back of the World Cup hype, more casual fans start paying attention to this team. While the Zolos certainly cannot match the play of Germany, fans are rewarded with exciting, competitive play. Berry White have finally developed chemistry while Jack and Casey are a dynamic partnership up top. Maidana and Nogueira lead the way for this entertaining side. Some of these newcomers and fence-sitters decide to buy season tickets as PPL Park begins to get back to consistent sell-outs.
End of July 2014
Let’s compare where we are now to where we could be. Now, we are searching for a new manager while chasing the playoffs and an Open Cup title. Things are looking up since Hackworth’s dismissal, but we are still digging ourselves out of Hack’s hole. Fans are finally beginning to see entertaining soccer on the field, but is it too late to catch the World Cup hype?
We could already be in playoff contention. We could have had a manager who plays people in their natural spots and who plays to their strengths. We could have been able to score goals and defend from the season’s beginning. Unfortunately, a team of talented players underachieved under poor managing. In a year in which soccer has finally gone mainstream in America, we can only look at what could have been for the Philadelphia Union.