The decisions a sports organization makes when falling short of expectations defines what they are all about. For the Philadelphia Union, their first six years were ones spent under the reign of CEO Nick Sakiewicz. Sak, as many fans called him, made questionable decisions to say the least. Along with his CEO powers, he also had the final say on players brought into and shipped away from the team. To see his awful track record, google Nick Sakiewicz Philadelphia Union. We wont dwell on the past in this article; we need to look to the future of the Union. Not long after sacking Sak, the Union appointed a replacement CEO, and decided to not give their new CEO the power to acquire or sell players. the Union’s owner, Jay Sugarman, decided to create a new position for the Union, sporting director, but who would Sugarman find to fill the position?
Enter former US National team star, and DC United player, Earnie Stewart. Other than being a star defender for USA and DC, Stewart has had over a decades worth experience of front office work in the Netherlands. When there was an opportunity for Earnie to return to the America, he jumped at it. Earnie is the perfect person for Philadelphia. He is an expert at getting the most bang for a teams buck. Some people call this money-balling, but this will work to the Union’s advantage.
Over the years we all have heard of big names coming to MLS, and every time the big name player comes to a team not in Philadelphia. In the past this was because the Union do not have the funds to get that big name player, and to also get other players that would help fill needed spots on the roster. Earnie wont necessarily change this; he wont just bring big name players to Philly just because they have a big name. Earnie will bring the right names to Philly.
He has a knack for finding talented players that have not yet reached their full potential; in other words, he finds star players before they become stars. That is the way the Union, as a front office, has always tried to operate. Players who are young and have a lot of potential have been brought into the team, and most have been either busts or one year and done players. Now with Earnie at the helm, the team has a leader who is known for finding the players that fit the system the team runs, and enhance the team.
Not long after Earnie was hired he and, head coach Jim Curtin, began meeting and looking at the way the team should look in 2016. The speculation is that the team will line up in the “dutch” 4-3-3 style. This is a formation that Earnie ran in all of his teams, and he found a lot of success using this formation. The consensus between Earnie and Jim is that they would find players that would fit this system, and get rid of those who do not fit the system. That happened throughout this offseason, sending away 15 players that were on the team last year, and bringing in 11 new players. The players sent away from the team are ones that did not fit the new system and vision of the team; this included the teams assist leader from last season and playmaker Christian Maidana, young designated player Fernando Aristeguieta, and first ever homegrown player Zach Pfeffer. The players brought into the team are a different story.
These players fit the system, but some have had an interesting path to this point of their professional soccer careers. A injury prone veteran (Chris Pontius), A player once traded between North American Soccer League teams for free lodging and transportation (Walter Restrepo), and a talented Brazilian who hasn’t ever had a crack with his national team (Ilshino). Other players are just young players looking for a chance to have and keep a professional job; Joshua Yaro, Keegan Rosenberry, Ken Tribbett. These players fit the system, and pass Earnie’s eye test, as players who have not reached their full potential, and will benefit the team.
Earnie Stewart is the man who has changed the trajectory of the Philadelphia. He is someone who will make sure that this club does not make decisions that will set them back, unlike the days where Sak was in charge. This club needed a makeover, and Earnie is the man to give them the appropriate makeover. He will not sign high salary big name players that wont help the team progress in the long run. He will look for younger players who buy into the system he is putting in place in Philadelphia, and that is what this club needs. Players that will play their hearts out for the fans, and for the city, and will bring quality to the team. There has not been a game played under Earnie Stewarts watch, but the future looks bright. The season starts tomorrow! Now we just have to sit back, and wait and see, if this system is one that will project this young MLS team to the level they want to be.