Happy New Year everyone. I was hoping to get this out sooner, but my year has started out with a fairly nasty cold.
2015 is here. With that said, here is my wish list for the team in this upcoming year.
1. I want to see the team bring in a big time striker.
Striker has historically been one of our weakest positions. It says a lot when a broken down Connor Casey is likely our best ever player at that position. To take the next step as a club, we need a big time goal scorer.
I’m pretty open to different options at the position. I don’t think we need a big name striker like a Jozy Altidore or an Emmanuel Adebayor. Would they be nice? Yes. Are they worth the money? Probably not.
I think we would find the best bang for our buck by finding a relative unknown willing to make a jump from Europe or a young, up and comer from the Americas. Sloan Privat from Gent was a name thrown around a few months ago. He may not have the name appeal of an Altidore, but neither did Bradley Wright-Phillips last year. I’m more concerned with goalscoring than name value.
The other option would be to find some young up and comer. It worked for Seattle with Freddy Montero. Erick “Cubo” Torres also hit the ground running and made a major impact. A young player could give us some much-needed energy up top and some much-needed re-sale value when they inevitably leave. A young player fits a smart business plan of buying young and cheap and selling high to Europe.
Either way, I want to see the Union commit to signing the clinical finisher that this club has lacked for years. We can’t take the next step as a club until that point.
2. I want to see a Home Grown Player finally break into the first team.
Despite all the talk from the front office about how great our academy is and how important we find youth to be, no home grown player has been able to break into this team yet.
This is an important year for our academy. Zach Pfeffer and Jimmy McLaughlin have been here for several years and have not been able to break into this team despite playing well with the youth national team and Harrisburg, respectively. If we are going to center our team around the academy, one of these players needs to step up.
With Pedro and Fred gone, there is a big hole in the central attacking mid spot behind Maidana. Considering his injury history, we need someone who can fill in for Chaco. This season, Zach has a real opportunity to finally claw his way into the team.
As for Jimmy, he provides depth at a position that is very thin. Out wide, we only have Wenger, Seba, and Danny Cruz. A real spark off the bench in that position would help this team push for the playoffs. Considering his successful season in Harrisburg last year, can Jimmy be that player here?
3. I want to see the team find a full-time sporting director.
Right now, Rene Meulensteen is advising the club and helping us find someone to fit the position. There have been reports that perhaps this period is a trial for Rene to see if he is interested in the spot full-time. Personally, I would love to see the Mule stay here and use his wealth of experience to improve this organization. However, even if he leaves, we need someone to take this role full-time. We don’t want Nick Sak running player personnel decisions full-time anymore.
4. I want to see the coaching staff filled out.
It’s a bit worrying that we have not announced any new coaching hires. We have a three-man staff consisting of Jim Curtin, Mike Sorber, and Chris Albright. How can we expect players to develop and maximize their potential with such an under-funded coaching staff?
5. I want to see the team figure out their USL affiliate.
Our relationship with Harrisburg has had several problems in the past. Most notably, players are not guaranteed to play in their natural spots. Last season, Harrisburg played Pedro Ribeiro at center back for several games. Clearly, that is not the position he will be playing in this league. That will not help this team.
Now, there are two real solutions. We stick with Harrisburg and sort the issues, or we create our own USL team. If we stick with Harrisburg, the Union need to take a more prominent role in the relationship. The team needs to sort out issues with their playing field and issues with not playing Union players consistently. Perhaps the Union buy the majority stake in the club. Perhaps the team is moved closer to Philadelphia. Perhaps the team practices at PPL’s training field. There are a lot of options, but some plan needs to hashed out.
Alternatively, the Union can follow the popular trend and create a Union II team (U2 if you will). I prefer this option. It allows us to sign more young players and give them professional minutes to develop. Further, it allows us to control their development so that we don’t see travesties like the Ribeiro playing as a center back. This option seems to make the most sense when we look at the Union organization’s emphasis on youth development.
6. I want to see Jay Sugarman continue to play a more visible role.
Everyone knows that Nick Sak is a very unpopular figure with the team. In his lone press conference with the team, Jay showed the ability to relate better to fans and to present a more humble image for the team. Jay has the potential to repair the strained relationship between the F.O. and the fans. It also would go a long way to dispel the idea that the F.O. only cares about making money at the expense of the on the field team.
7. I’d like to see a nice new away kit.
Admittedly, this is a minor concern, but a nice looking kit goes a long way. A few months ago, a potential away kit leaked online. Closer images revealed some stars on the kit (credit to billf on Big Soccer). Personally, I hope these are fakes. I like the idea of a yellow kit stylized after Club America. This team might as well look good on the field.
This is a brand new year for the Union. Now is the time for the organization to hit the ground running and put five years of failure behind them. Can them do it? It remains to be seen. Addressing the areas of concern would be a big step for this club. With all this said, what do all of you wish to see from the Union in 2015?