Ernst Tanner gives his thoughts on Philadelphia Union in final press conference of 2018

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

Philadelphia Union sporting director Ernst Tanner addressed the media to give some closure on the 2018 season. He gave his thoughts on the good, the bad and what we should expect to see this offseason ahead of the 2019 MLS season.

Ernst Tanner poses at Talen Energy Stadium after being announced as Philadelphia Union sporting director.

Tanner addressed the media along with head coach Jim Curtin, who was renewed as coach on a one-year extension, this past Monday. He gave his thoughts on the Union’s past season, and what needs to happen in 2019 for this club to take the next steps forward. Ernst talked about changes, having more than one way to play, his plans to scout, and a change in the teams tactic/formation and addressed what all Union fans wanted to hear, that winning will be the main goal during his tenure.

Let’s unpack each of these, and see how they could happen in 2019.

Cha, Cha, Cha, Changes:

First and foremost, Tanner said that his time with the Union at the end of 2018 was good, but could have been better. He noted that the team played well, but that they came up short when it mattered most. This prompted Tanner to talk about what he sees as the Union’s overarching goals moving forward. He sees the Union as a team that can compete in the US Open Cup and challenge for that title each year. As for MLS Tanner sees this team a team fighting for the last spot in the playoffs. He said that this can change if the team changes, and he hopes to help bring the change that helps the Union forward.

The first phase of these changes comes in the form of roster building. Before this press conference, the Union announced their end of season roster moves. This is the first step of many changes that are going to be made to the Union’s roster. Tanner and Curtin discussed how they expect their players to be able to adapt in games which leads to more of the substantial changes that Tanner talked about at length.

Plan B and Plan C:

One thing that Tanner stressed in this press conference, is that the Union are going to have contingency plans when things don’t go well for them. The Union love to play a high tempo style possession game, but when teams figure them out, and hit them on the counter, the Union had no plan B or plan C. Tanner noted that it was frustrating seeing this happen in important league games and in the US Open Cup Final.  This is something that he will have a hand in changing.

This is something that has plagued the Union over the last few years under Earnie Stewart. Now Tanner will look at this squad and find ways to implement different ways to compete and win when plan A possession game does not work. This flexibility is something that Philadelphia has needed, and Tanner spoke to how this could possibly happen in 2019.

Get ready for a change in tactics, possibly formation:

Tanner talked about a change in tactics when the going gets tough. He eluded that Curtin will have the opportunity, and power, to implement a plan B tactic and a Plan C tactic if things are not going the way they want. This is something that is very different from past regimes, which stuck to plan A, even when that plan was not going to result in getting wins. Another thing Tanner addressed was the option of changing formations to find different ways to best opponents.

Tanner said he was frustrated how the opposition knew the way the Union were going to play every game in terms of formation. The Union’s 4-2-3-1 formation has been how the Union lined up for the past four seasons. There has been little to no change in formation, even when the formation failed in certain in-game situations. Tanner said that the Union will be able to play in multiple positions moving forward so they aren’t so predictable. The idea of new tactics and formations are exciting, but Tanner will need to find the right players to execute these plans and formations.

Scouting outings:

When asked about the types of player Tanner is looking for, he let the media know that he plans to go scout players from South America, Europe and Africa all before the holiday season gets under way. This is something that is a huge step up in terms of evaluating potential talent. While Nick Sakiewicz and Earnie Stewart did this in the past for the Union, Tanner seems to be much more hands on and up front on where he’ll be going.

His track record is a good one when it comes to evaluating and bringing talent to his former clubs. He discovery high-caliber players like Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Nabby Keita, all of whom developed and brought success to Tanners clubs and then were sold for a major profit to English Premier League side Liverpool. While Tanner will have to deal with the shallow pockets of the Union ownership, he has the blueprint on how to find talented players who are looking for the opportunity to develop and play at a high level. Who knows, Tanner may even be able to persuade ownership to shell out more cash with the opportunity of a high return on investment in the future.

Winning is the goal:

The main takeaway from the press conference has many excited. The goal of the Philadelphia Union moving forward is winning. It’s not like in the past anymore. The team is not about having highly sought after players when there is already good depth in that position. This team is not about just developing youth players or American national team players. This team is about winning first and foremost.

With winning comes development of players, and creates a place stars want to play. This goal is one that ownership will have to be a part of if they want to keep Tanner. They will need to spend some more money to make money. Tanner can lay out a winning foundation if given the right resources. If he is not given those resources he’ll do his best with what he’s given, but if there was ever a time for ownership to shell out cash, it’s now ahead of the clubs tenth season of existence.

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Peace out Union fans!

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union