The Philadelphia Union suffered one of their worst home losses in franchise history on Saturday night, conceding in stoppage time of a 1-1 game while Miami was down to nine men after two red cards:

It’s a hideous goal to concede. They’re pushing for the game-winner, throwing numbers forward, and then Jack McGlynn turns the ball over trying a speculative through-ball. At least four guys are ball watching, Miami gets out on the break, and Jakob Glesnes is cooked by a fresh-legged, 22-year-old sub who came on the field about three minutes earlier.

The Union are down a couple of key players due to international duty, but Miami was also without Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez for this game, so we’ll call it more than a wash. The loss dropped the Union below .500 (4 wins, 5 losses, 8 draws) and Jim Curtin confirmed the departure of Julian Carranza in the summer transfer window. They remain 8th out of 15 teams in the Eastern Conference, but they’re 18 points from 1st and just four points from the very bottom. They’ve allowed 25 goals through 17 league games this year (1.47 per) while allowing just 67 over 78 games in the two years prior (0.86). And they have 5 losses and 2 home draws in seven home games since the new beer hall opened, so we may have to burn Union Yards to the ground and then douse the embers with nasty IPA to right the ship.

Or maybe the ship has sailed? I think it’s been out to sea for several months already. There are various inflection points for the vessel’s figurative departure. You could point to this offseason, when the front office did nothing to improve the roster. Losing 6-0 to Pachuca in the Champions League may have been the final nail in the coffin for some fans. Others think the window closed last year, which I personally disagree with. Even during the first run-it-back year, they went to the semifinal of the Champions League and Leagues Cup and disappointed in winnable games in each competition.

Regardless, I think Union fans are pragmatic and will admit that, no matter when it actually happened, the trophy window officially closed. It slammed shut. This squad could go on a nice run of form maybe, rip off some wins, and get into the playoffs, but let’s be realistic here. Is this team any postseason threat to Miami? Cincy? Columbus? I don’t think so. They just sold their best forward, and if Jay Sugarman didn’t finance improvements to the team last offseason or this offseason, what’s to make you think he’ll do it now? One only needs to pay half attention to hear the frustration with ownership seeping into these quotes from Jim Curtin and the players. It’s been obvious for a long time now. Jay took the Moneyball strategy as far as possible, overachieved dramatically, and now his team has fallen back to Earth with a resounding thud (while the franchise value skyrocketed, mind you).

We also know we’re not getting any help from KD:

What’s interesting is going to be how they handle the next month or two. Do we get some sort of admission that the best run in Philadelphia Union history is over? Do they transfer anyone else in addition to Carranza? Do they explore an in-league trade for allocation money to restock on assets ahead of a rebuild? And even then, does Curtin stick around? Ernst Tanner? Who or what is going to be the first domino to fall?

I think you look at the Flyers of recent history for some lessons on how to handle, or not handle, this transition. Chuck Fletcher and others dicked around for too long, made some poor moves, and sold us on an “aggressive retool” that devolved into a full rebuild and saddled Danny Briere with bad contracts and dead cap. They could have saved a year of everyone’s lives if they admitted that the local hockey team wasn’t going anywhere, and began to execute the strategy 12 months earlier. You can make similar comparisons to the post-2012 Phillies as well, when they kind of languished in the purgatory of “maybe this team is cooked or maybe not.” Spoiler: they were cooked.

As a fanbase that appreciates decisiveness, wouldn’t it be more appealing if the Union assertively turned the page here? Let’s see the next wave of academy products and give the U2 guys some run with the senior team. Accrue assets and decline options. Send a clear message that this era is over and a new one is beginning.

My main worry is that they become the Doug Collins Sixers, i.e. a team that’s good enough for the 7th or 8th seed but isn’t going to win anything, or sign any real stars, or they become that Flyers team that alternated making and missing the playoffs for eight seasons in a row. In both cases, fans had one foot on the bandwagon and one dangling off, and ownership and the front office really need to think long and hard about regression in that area. They worked very hard to grow that supporter base and get people to care about soccer, to make inroads in a tough sports market.

A half-empty Subaru Park is nigh, but if you admit that this era is over, maybe you retain season ticket holders who aren’t interested in a purgatory slog. What’s exciting is  looking out at the horizon and wondering what comes next.

That’s not to say the Union need to embark on Sam Hinkie’s Process, but it’s pretty obvious that a rebuild is in the cards here. The best way you can respect the last five years of Union soccer, the best run in franchise history, is to admit that it’s over.