Posts for Union Category

The Union Made a Blockbuster Trade

Kevin Kinkead - January 19, 2018

Look at the Philadelphia Union sneaking into the spotlight.

The MLS Draft took place today in Center City, but with a total of zero early round picks, the Union instead pulled off a huge trade, acquiring 27-year-old winger David Accam from the Chicago Fire for $1.2 million in allocation money.

I’ll explain “allocation money” in a minute.

Accam is a speedy attacker who put up a career-high 14 goals and 8 assists last year. He’s played three MLS seasons and was heading into the final year of his Chicago contract. I’d assume, hopefully, that the Union wouldn’t spend $1.2 mill on a guy who might not re-sign. Accam had recently been going back and forth with the Fire front office over his contract situation, which might have precipitated their decision to move him. He’s a designated player who made a $750,000 base salary last season.

He’s worth that salary because he can do stuff like this:

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The Philadelphia Union are Getting in on the ESports Thing

Kevin Kinkead - January 12, 2018

The “four for four” Philadelphia sports fan might find both soccer and video games to be incredibly dorky.

And the only thing dorkier is when you combine the two in some way, shape, or form, which is exactly what’s happening in 2018.

Major League Soccer is partnering with EA Sports to create “eMLS,” a competitive FIFA 18 league. This is basically the exact same thing that the NBA is doing with the NBA 2k League, where most of the franchises, Sixers included, will feature a competitive gaming counterpart.

The Union are one of 19 MLS teams involved in the inaugural FIFA league, where hopefully they’ll win a playoff game for the first time ever. According to the press release, “each club will pursue its own process to select a player from its region to represent it in eMLS competitive play.”

I guess that it’s just one player per franchise, so you’d better be damn good if you’re going to represent our hard working, blue collar, lunch pail type of city.

More from the release:

eMLS will feature eMLS Cup, MLS’s elite competitive gaming event, where each club’s pro will vie for an automatic berth in the EA SPORTS FIFA 18 Global Series Playoffs and a chance to be crowned the undisputed FIFA 18 World Champion at the FIFA eWorld Cup 2018 taking place in August this year. eMLS Cup will debut this April at PAX East, the enormously popular gaming culture festival in Boston that takes place this year from April 5-8 at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center.

I haven’t played FIFA since 2010 or 2011, when I’d regularly get smoked by 14-year-olds rolling out Barcelona and Chelsea. I tried to compete with random underdog teams, but didn’t do so hot with the likes of Fenerbahce and Atalanta. At least I didn’t pick a cheesy five-star club.

Anyway, the real takeaway here is that another pro league is getting in on the eSports wave. Just this week, the Comcast-owned Philadelphia Fusion began play in the national Overwatch League, and they fucking killed the Houston Outlaws, 3-2.

They even had a bunch of people show up to watch:

Let’s go Fusion! clap clap, clapclapclap

Let’s go Fusion! clap clap, clapclapclap

Sure, Brian Dawkins is one of the toughest Philly athletes of all time, but I wouldn’t want to fuck with these guys:

A Pro/Rel Column – Why American Soccer Can Exist Without It

Kevin Kinkead - December 30, 2017

I’ll start by saying that I don’t hate promotion and relegation. I can’t dislike a system that rewards success, punishes failure, and provides opportunity. Stripped down to the simplest of explanations, it sounds very American.

My stance has always been that domestic soccer has unique challenges and considerations that aren’t necessarily fixed by structural changes to the pyramid. There’s no magic bullet here, as some would have you think.

What we get is a noxious clash of ideas with a lot of shouting and idiocy on both sides. Pro/rel advocates froth and whine on social media while those of us on the other end of the spectrum, or somewhere in the middle, are guilty of engaging in the pissing contest instead of ignoring the trolls and seeking out rational thought instead. Just like Capitol Hill, moderate voices and measured takes are often drowned out.

So I think the premise of the column is this –

American soccer doesn’t necessarily need promotion and relegation. I think we can be successful in our current setup, with a closed league, steady growth, and a soft salary cap that promotes pseudo-parity in lieu of top-heavy foreign-framed systems. Let’s fix MLS before tearing the whole thing down and starting over.

The main pro/rel argument basically suggests that opening the pyramid will provide opportunities for smaller teams and result in widespread investment at lower levels due to the removal of the ceiling that limits those clubs. Would-be owners who can’t buy in to Major League Soccer can start a lower division team that has unlimited potential for upward growth. Lesser division one teams, like your Philadelphia Union, can’t be cheap and lazy, or else they go down.

Sounds good in theory, right? Fresh blood and motivation. Jay Sugarman, one of the worst sports owners on this side of the Atlantic, would be punished for his thriftiness with D2 relegation, which would have happened in 2015 after the Union finished with 37 points and a 10-17-7 record. Down goes boring Philly, up comes the exciting New York Cosmos. We punish the underachiever and reward success.

Nothing wrong with that on paper. My stance has always been predicated on four things:

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Stay or Go? The Philadelphia Union and the Road to Relevance

Kevin Kinkead - October 23, 2017

The 2016 Philadelphia Union finished with 11 wins, 14 losses, 9 draws, a -3 goal differential, and a playoff appearance.

The 2017 Philadelphia Union finished with 11 wins, 14 losses, 9 draws, a +3 goal differential, and no playoff appearance.

So.. they improved? Or they didn’t..

Wait, what?

Jim Curtin’s team clobbered Orlando 6-1 on Sunday evening, a visiting team that phoned it in so badly that I could have sworn they were match fixing. It was the Union’s biggest margin of victory in franchise history and only the second time the team had ever scored six or more. C.J. Sapong set the record for most goals in a single Union season and the retiring Brian Carroll was sent out in winning fashion.

In a way, that performance was the perfect end to another bland campaign, meaning that they played well when it didn’t matter. The Union needed results from March through September and didn’t get it done, beginning the season with zero wins through eight games and slumping to a miserable 1-10-6 road record. Questions of Jim Curtin’s job security were casually brushed off even as teams with similar records were axing their managers.

It was business as usual in Chester, where the season’s inevitable outcome was determined less than halfway through. Young players were benched, others regressed, and the team played the same damn formation before finally getting experimental when the season was lost. One step forward, one step back for a franchise that can’t seem to get out of its own way.

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A Discussion with NLL Commissioner Nick Sakiewicz on His Union Past and Lacrosse Future

Kevin Kinkead - September 19, 2017

Nick Sakiewicz never left town, he just changed jobs.

The former Philadelphia Union executive resurfaced as National Lacrosse League Commissioner last January following 21 seasons in Major League Soccer.

That was three months after his split with Union majority owner and principal investor Jay Sugarman. The pair brought soccer to Philadelphia in 2008, but parted ways at the end of 2015 when their relationship became strained following years of on-field struggles and disagreement on how to move the franchise forward.

For some of that time, Sakiewicz was seen as public enemy number one in Chester, a CEO and Operating Partner who became the face of an underachieving club. In fairness, that was something he never really disputed.

“Someone has to answer and take the heat, I guess,” he told the Delco Times a few months back.

To that point, I viewed Nick as a person who covered for Sugarman’s shortcomings by repeatedly falling on the sword. There was never a doubt that Sakiewicz was a smart businessman, but a lack of resources stunted early Union gains and quickly brought an end to the club’s honeymoon period. Whether he helped his cause or not, most people realized that this was a thrifty franchise with a young coach, no scouting department, and no general manager.

But those days are long gone, and Sakiewicz is now building a new foundation for the NLL.

Attendance is up and expansion is underway. There seems to be stability and foresight for a league that has existed for quite a while now, but for most of that time just spinning its wheels. In many ways, Sakiewicz’s experiences with a rapidly growing MLS made him an ideal candidate to oversee the growth of another niche sport with similar upside.

I ran into Sakiewicz for the first time in two years at last Thursday’s NLL Philadelphia expansion announcement. He agreed to speak further about his lacrosse gig and Union departure, and we followed up on the phone this week. Continue Reading

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More People May Have Watched The US Men’s Soccer Match Than Hockey Last Night

Kyle Scott - June 12, 2017

On Friday, I was on 97.3 ESPN in Atlantic City and asked if soccer would become a major sport in the US on par with the four others. I said it would first topple hockey (obviously) but that it would take a truly remarkable run by the US Men’s team or legitimate stars in their prime playing in the MLS.

Or just a random World Cup qualifier against Mexico.

These are just preliminary numbers, but according to these two Tweets, the US-Mexico match last night may have outdrawn Game 6 of the Stanley Cup:

I’m not good at math, but 4.5 + 2.3 comes out to… carry the 2… 6.8. The estimated range for Game 6 was 6.7-7.3. That’s not great considering the Penguins were playing in a tied, tight and controversial clinching game on NBC proper while the soccer game featured a rather uninspiring effort on a network no one watches (FS1).

The fact that a non-World Cup, non-championship soccer match went toe-to-toe with the best hockey has to offer is more indicative of soccer’s rise rather than hockey’s decline– Game 6’s 4.8 rating was up from 3.7 last year. But still, while the MLS may have a ways to go, soccer, as a sport, is big-time.

The Union Are Hiring a Chief Tattoo Officer

Jim Adair - February 14, 2017

We just wrote yesterday about how iffy sports tattoos can be. In addition to fans, athletes are now more tattooed than ever, filled out chest pieces and arm sleeves regularly. So when a new player or coach or trainer comes to the Philadelphia Union and needs some ink, what are they to do? That sounds like a job for the Union’s new Chief Tattoo Officer. Really.

As the job listing says:

To reflect this love of ink and club, the Philadelphia Union is searching for the first ever Chief Tattoo Officer. This is a one-of-a-kind, revolutionary position for an artist or shop to become the go-to place for the Union. Players, coaches, front office staff and even fans will come to you for their tattoos, Union related or not. Tattoos are for life, just like supporting a club, and we want you doing the work.

“This is an exciting initiative for all of us here at Philadelphia Union as we look to provide a revolutionary service for our players and front office, particularly those new to the area,” said Doug Vosik, Vice President of Marketing. “Our hiring process begins immediately; we are looking for a partner with a wide variety of talents and skills, and someone who can offer a broad range including American traditional, as well as Japanese, realism, new school and more.”

Inspired by yesterday’s tattoo post, here’s a suggested design:

union tattoo

Houston Reporters Are Giving Carli Lloyd Shit About Missing Her Women’s Soccer League Games After The Olympics

Kyle Scott - August 29, 2016

It seems Houston area reporters are engaging in a losing effort to pick on Philly area native and THE GREATEST WOMEN’S SOCCER PLAYER IN THE WORLD Carli Lloyd for missing a few NWSL (I found out that was a thing today) games after the Olympics. Oh, I’m sorry, Houston reporter covering professional women’s soccer, national hero Lloyd, who has a narrow window once every two years to make a living – because lord know she’s not doing it playing in the NWSL – wasn’t there to play for the 9th place (out of 10) Dash as they pursue the coveted NWSL playoff spot, probably because she was off tending to endorsements and other business related ventures so she can capitalize on being THE GREATEST WOMEN’S SOCCER PLAYER IN THE WORLD. Oh, Lloyd might not be there for the playoffs the Dash aren’t going to make because she, quite literally, has better things to do during her limited earnings period? Fuck off. Everyone else is laughing at you– somewhat because of your ridiculous line of questioning, but mostly because you cover the Houston Dash.

H/T to Houston area reporter covering the Dash  for a living Corey Roepkin (@RipSports) who would give his right arm and left testicle to ever get a book deal like Lloyd