The Philadelphia Union plays its first game of 2023 this Saturday! The club is coming off its best season ever; 19 wins, five losses, 76 goals scored, and only 26 conceded. However, they fell just short of winning a trophy last year, losing the Supporters Shield on a tiebreaker and the MLS Cup on penalty kicks. Philly must win a championship this season, A good point total and playoffs are no longer acceptable, the upward trajectory can only continue with hoisting a trophy!
The Union must win a trophy in 2023
It’s trophy-or-bust for Philadelphia in 2023. This is a team that has been great but has not won the silverware to be considered the best in the league. Don’t get it twisted, Philly is now a perennial powerhouse in MLS. However, only winning one trophy in the past four seasons when this team has been considered good is not enough.
When looking at the makeup of this team, Philly has created a team with multiple best XI players by getting the most out of a Moneyball system. Sporting Director Ernst Tanner took the foundations of what his predecessor Earnie Stewart built and made Philly a great team with hungry players. Jim Curtin has progressed as a coach coaching these players, and now the team is prepared to win one if not multiple trophies.
Players like Kai Wagner, Jakob Glesnes, Jose Martinez, Leon Flach, Daniel Gazdag, Julian Carranza, and Mikael Uhre were all brought in by Tanner in deals that were low-risk buys for the club. Now these players, along with the few who came before Tanner’s time (Olivier Mbaizo, Jack Elliot, Andre Blake, and Alejandro Bedoya,) are the backbone of the club. The team has been assembled by Tanner and led by Curtin in ways that put the team’s success over player accolades, now all that’s left is to win a trophy.
Success is now based on Trophies won, not playoff appearances
In the brief 13-year history of the club success used to be measured by trying to get to the playoffs. From 2010 to 2019 the goal was just to make the playoffs. The team did so in just four of its first 10 seasons. Fast-forward to today, and the club is on a five-year playoff streak, they’ve won a Supporters Shield in 2020, and made their first-ever MLS Cup in 2022.
Success cannot be based on making the playoffs in one competition; it must be based on doing well in all aspects of their season and winning some silverware. That is why Ernst Tanner and Jim Curtin have spoken ahead of the 2023 season of playing in 50+ games. The only way the team plays in that many games is if the club can compete for and possibly win trophies this season.
They’ll have their opportunities with a deep roster, and five different competitions that can lead to a trophy. The MLS regular season champions can claim the Supporters’ Shield, the MLS Cup awaits the winner of the playoffs, and there are the three Cup competitions, CCL, Open Cup, and Leagues Cup. This team has been trending up for many years now; all that’s left to do is win more silverware.
The upward trajectory of the club can and should lead to a trophy
Since 2018 the Union has made the playoffs every single year. Their success in that time has shown a linear progression. 2018; made the playoffs. 2019; won their first-ever playoff match. 2020; won their first-ever trophy: Supporters’ Shield. 2021; went on their first-ever deep playoff run: made the eastern conference final. 2022; made their first-ever MLS Cup.
What’s left for this Union team to do now in 2023? The progression, team chemistry and cohesion, and talent on the field all point to Philly hoisting a trophy this season. They have five different competitions they could win. So, will we see them finally win another trophy before the core members of this team are disbanded?
This season really is the Union’s final quest to get a trophy with the team that they have put together. The on-the-field and statistical success that has followed this team for a few seasons now means that the window to win with this group of guys is closing. The quest to win one, or more, trophies begins this coming Saturday. We’ll all be along for the ride to see if they can actualize their goals on this quest!
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Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union