In my post from earlier today, I discussed how 2014 has been a lost year for this team. How do the Union salvage this mess and take the necessary steps to end five years of underachieving? I have broken listed some of the steps this team needs to take in the immediate future, this off-season, and going further forward.
The Union have a series of steps that need to be taken before this season ends. The Union coaching staff and front office needs serious work to get past the Hackworth era. Our main focuses in the present need to be:
1. Management: We need a manager before the season is out. The new boss needs real game time to evaluate this roster to see who is in his plans going forward and who needs to be replaced.
2. GM: The Union need to finally sign a full-time general manager. Currently, the transfers are handled by the manager and Sakiewicz. Real Salt Lake should be a model here. Gareth Lagerway has been enormous for the club in his general manager position. Like Lagerway, the Union need someone who can focus full-time on unearthing talent for this team while getting the best bang for his buck.
3. Coaching staff: As of now, Jim Curtin, Mike Sorber, and Chris Albright are the only coaches on the Union’s payroll. Academy coaches have filled the void in the absence of Hackworth and Vartughian. How can we expect any of the players to develop with only three coaches? The new boss needs to be allowed to bring in several staff members to this team. Fresh ideas should help this team’s recent stagnation.
Some areas require planning and coordination and should wait until the off-season. The major focuses of this off-season should be:
1. Filling our areas of need: This team still has several holes. Center back and left back may be the most glaring positions, but we need a true starter on the left wing, another striker, and general defensive depth. We need to make some serious moves if we want to compete next year. These players don’t need to be big name or money DP talent. I just want the players that fit the new manager’s plan going forward.
2. That damn training facility: The lack of a training facility has been a running joke for a while now. Sakiewicz promised the team would break ground this past spring, but there are no signs of progress. With Kansas City building a $75 million plus training facility, the Union need to get serious. Now, I’m not expecting anything as big and grand as Sporting’s plan, but the Union need to get out of Chester Park and into their own training facility.
3. Philadelphia II USL team: I explained a few days ago why a USL team would be beneficial to the Union. Creating their own lower division league would allow them to control the training of young talents while preventing players like Ribeiro from being played out of position. Further, it keeps the players local and allows the Zolos to do a better job rotating young talent into the first team.
Going Forward From There
The following are far less pressing issues that still need to be planned for nonetheless. To really move this team forward in the next few years, the Union will need to:
1. Pave the Lots: At this point, the parking lots just look minor league. Once the on the field team is stabilized, the team needs to get these parking lots paved. Hopefully Union fans will no longer have to talk about PPL dust storms.
2. Think about expansion: I think we are still a bit off from seriously needing a plan for expanding the stadium. However, it’s not too hard to fill PPL Park when the team is playing competitively and the on the field product is entertaining. Once this team gets back to selling out every week, we need to think about expanding PPL Park and taking advantage of soccer’s increased popularity in this country. More asses in seats means more revenue for the team.
3. Hire more scouts: As of now, mystery man Ricardo Ansaldi is the only scout for the Union. If we want to compete with the new big boys in the East, the Zolos need more scouts to unearth affordable talent. Ideally, we should have full-time scouts in North America, South America, and Europe. Scouts in Africa and Asia would be wise considering the talent level of several of those continent’s leagues. We can’t outspend anyone, so we need to out-scout other teams and find the best bang for our buck.
4. Find a feeder team: The Union would really benefit from partnering with a team in Central America or the Caribbean. In 2012, the Union partnered with Sarprissa, but that partnership seems to have faded alongside Josue Martinez. A partnership would give us easy access to both first team players and hot prospects from the partnering team. While not a necessity, it would be a smart move going forward.
What else do you think the Union need to focus on moving forward?