2016 was an interesting year to cover the Philadelphia Union. The overwhelming success from the first half of the season, brought happy thoughts about possibly winning the east. The summer months brought inconsistencies, which carried into a dreadful string of games in the fall. Still, the Union made the playoffs for the first time since 2011. The boys in blue fought but their inconsistent defense resulted in their knockout round loss to Toronto. It’s time for a new year, new Union coverage; a time to reflect on aspects of 2016, and move to the new year.
The first half of the Union’s season consisted of dominant defense. The back line of Fabinho, Richie Marquez, Ken Tribbett/Josh Yaro, and Keegan Rosenberry meshed early. The expectation was that the young back line would struggle, that wasn’t the case in the early days of 2016. With Andre Blake making one amazing save after another didn’t hurt them either! The defensive midfield pairing of Vincent Nogueira, and Brian Carroll sat in front of the Union’s young back four and helped to shut down opposing attacks and created mighty counter attacks. Attackers, Chris Pontius, Tranquillo Barnetta/Roland Alberg, Sebastien Le Toux/Ilsinho, and CJ Sapong helped press the opposition to create turnovers and counter attacks. The Union lead the east with a 6-3-5 record heading into the Copa America break in June. Then, the entire organization was rocked with the departure of Vincent Nogueira.
The dog days of summer brought tough times to Philadelphia. The hole left by Nogueira needed to be filled by someone; the part-time fix was Tranquillo Barnetta. The attacking midfielder moving to a more defensive spot created some problems. The Union’s lineup was made up of more attack minded players, so when a there was a counter attack, Tranquillo pushed too far forward. This created a gap between the defensive midfield pair and the back line. Many teams exploited this weakness, which is why Philly was 2-5-1 in games with Tranquillo sitting deeper. Earnie Stewart used the summer transfer window to try to fix the Union’s structural problems.
In came US mens national team midfielder Alejandro Bedoya. The million dollar signing came to the Union strictly to fill the Nogueira sized hole. The Union’s new number eight wasn’t the only summer transaction. The Union sold their number one fan favorite player, Sebastien Le Toux to Colorado. With that money, they went out and got another striker; Charlie Davies was acquired from New England to give the team some added attacking depth. The new additions first two games were polar opposites. A four to nothing win at New England saw the debuts of Bedoya and Davies; the next game was a three-one loss at home to Toronto. With the departure of Le Toux and Ilsinho’s injuries created the emergence of rookie striker Fabian Herbers becoming a wide player.
For the remainder of the season, Herbers started on the right-wing for the Union, and he was the best attacking player on the pitch. The feisty rookie scored three goals, and lead the team in assists with seven. Even with the rookie’s impressive numbers the Union still only managed to go 2-5-2 in the last nine games of the season. Philly ended their regular season not having won since August 27th; they backed into the sixth and last seed in the east, and had a date with Toronto.
They fell short in Toronto three-one, but gave the eventual MLS Cup runner ups a real fight.This offseason so far has seen the Union have lost Tranquillo Barnetta who is returning to his hometown club, FC St. Gallen, in Switzerland. His absence will be felt. If the Union can add another box-to-box midfielder, then Alejandro Bedoya can move up to the 10 spot to help the attack; he does well when starting at the 10 for the Union. There is no doubt, that with some more pieces added the Union can be a playoff team again in 2017. Now that we’ve recapped, it’s time to look to how Philly Sports Network will cover the Union in the new year.
I have now been writing for Philly Sports Network for almost a full year now, and this is the 50th article I will have written! I love doing this, and am very thankful for the opportunity to do so. That being said, 2016 was the year for me to get my baring’s covering this team. My goal’s last year before the season started were to: write from a fans perspective, and write match previews, match reviews and occasional pieces on player/MLS news. I feel I did a decent job doing this, but I want to improve on this in 2017. Here are my goals for covering the Union during the 2017 season.
1.) Write thee-four articles a week:
This will be the same as last season; match previews, match reviews and occasional pieces on player/MLS news. However, last season I averaged one-two articles a week. In the new year I want to double my output; that way all you Union fans can keep up to date on all the happenings.
2.) Live tweet games from @PhiladelphiaSN twitter account:
Last season I live tweeted some games from my personal Twitter account @TGing21. This season I want to be able to give Union fans information/interact with them during Union games. Doing this from the Philly Sports Network twitter account, will allow me to broadcast the happens of each match to a larger audience. It will also help fans know that Philly Sports Network is an account where they can come to get their Philadelphia Union news.
3.) Presenting unique video of Union fans at Talen Energy Stadium:
Philly Sports Network is an outlet that shows how crucial fans voices can be while covering Philadelphia teams. Philadelphia fans are a passionate group, and the Sons of Ben are up there at the top of passionate Philadelphia fans. I will take video of fans during games and post them on twitter; fan reactions to big plays, fans chant’s, etc . This is to show the atmosphere of the stadium and the fans, which is something that not many other sports outlets do much of.
4.) Get post game interviews/ coverage of press conferences after home matches:
This is the most ambitious goal I have for this season. No one from Philly Sports Network has gotten press access at Talen Energy stadium before. Doing this, will give fans more after games. Seeing, hearing, and connecting with coaches and the players after matches will create a better fan experience.
Those are my four goals for the 2017 season. They are ambitious, and hopefully I will be able to do them all, so you fans can get the most from the beautiful game. I will strive to give my all this year, so Philly Sports Network can be the outlet that is by the fans for the fans! Peace out Union fans, see you all in 2017!
Mandatory Credit: Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports