Why Union fans are frustrated: It's not (all) about the losing

Why Union fans are frustrated: It's not (all) about the losing

We haven't had a ton about the Union here on the Level in the last two weeks. Partly because the team had a bye last week and partly because my friend and fellow contributor Dave Zeitlin had a baby last week (congrats, Dave!).

There is another reason, however, and it's related to the one word that describes the Philadelphia Union this season, especially since the middle of July:

Boring.

The Union -- who travel to Sporting Kansas City tonight (8 p.m. / NBC Sports Network) -- are boring.

There, I said it.

Along with (and largely because of) the boring play, there is also a lot of losing -- or at least not winning. Since the rainy 3-1 win over Chivas USA on July 12, the Union have taken just nine of a possible 27 points in nine league games.

They don't score goals. They don't pass well -- especially in the final third. They have no flash, no style and no "wow" factor. In the team's last game -- a 1-0 loss at home to Houston -- the official boxscore credited the Union with 10 attempts on goal and one shot on target.

Having watched the entire game, both of those numbers seem generous.

Listen (read in Andy Reid voice), there is no realistic, sane, logical Union fan who expected the team to win an MLS Cup this year. In fact, if you had asked me whether the Union would have even a mathematical chance at a playoff spot with five games to go, I would've told you that sounded about right -- and acceptable.

But what soccer fans want, more than almost anything -- often even more than winning -- is to be wowed. They want to "oohh and ahh," jump out of their seats and be entertained.

This is why you'll hear most Union fans pining for names like Kleberson or Roger Torres. We have no idea how those guys have been playing in training sessions. Clearly, they haven't been very impressive, considering Kleberson has played 25 total minutes since May and Torres has logged 37 minutes the ENTIRE SEASON. I have no idea if those two guys can help the Union win, and neither do you. John Hackworth clearly doesn't think so.

But we pine for them because they are shiny red Ferraris on a roster full of beige Honda Accords.

In the little we have seen them, we know these two -- more than any of their teammates -- have individual skills and "imagination" (one of my favorite soccer buzz words). They may not play defense. They may not pass when they should. They may not stay in the right positions. Hell, they might kick puppies behind closed doors at practice (if that turns out to be true, remember where you heard it first). Hackworth may be totally justified and correct in leaving them on the bench.

When Peter Nowak was in charge, fans begged for a consistent starting lineup (not knowing that Nowak chose his starting XI by whoever gave him life in Candy Crush). With Hackworth, people are tired of the losing, sure. But mostly, they've had enough of Keon Daniel (decent, but dull), enough of Michael Farfan (totally lost), and enough of Danny Cruz (incredible effort, very few ball skills). Lately, some of us (read: me) have had enough of Jack McInerney (bad body language, out of sorts).

(Don't say you've had enough of Brian Carroll. Defensive midfielders are supposed to be boring. He's had a solid year, but has no help in the middle).

It's likely we'll see a whole lot of the same in the final five games. And again, it might be justified from a coaching standpoint. Kleberson will likely not be here next year and Torres should demand to be anywhere but here, so it doesn't make much sense to start playing them now.

Whether the Union sneak into the back end of the playoffs in the weak Eastern Conference (possible) or miss out entirely (more likely), the 2013 season -- at least on paper -- will end somewhere close to where most fans likely expected it to.

But if the Union want to compete in 2014 -- and if they want to sell the season tickets they're desperately trying to push this fall -- they need to move for an electric yellow sports car or two, and leave the plain white minivans on the bench.

Nerlens Noel posts thankful message to Philly fans

Nerlens Noel posts thankful message to Philly fans

Nerlens Noel's tenure in Philadelphia wasn't characterized by a whole lot of winning, but he'll still likely be remembered fondly by Sixers fans as being one of the original members of the process.

It's always an emotional time when a fan favorite departs for another city and a new team instead of seeing the championship aspirations many had for them in Philly through to fruition.

Noel posted an emotional message to his Twitter account on Thursday evening thanking the city of Philadelphia and its fans for the support they showed him through the ups and downs. 

The tweet contained the hashtag #Philly with a couple of exclamation points with a screenshot of a note that read:

What an exciting journey it’s been… To have such an amazing city embrace a kid from Boston coming out of Kentucky the way y’all did, is something I’ll truly never forget. And even through the ups and downs I never doubted the love here and that won’t change. Thank you to everybody that’s believed in me and supported through #TheProcess.

Love! -NN4

Noel was traded earlier in the day to the Dallas Mavericks for Justin Anderson, Andrew Bogut, and a conditional first round pick that will likely turn into two second round picks.

Bryan Colangelo will address the media on Friday morning to discuss his rationale behind moving Nerlens.

Related:

>>Every reason why the Nerlens Noel trade was unjustifiable 

>>Video: Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid say their goodbyes 

>>Joel Embiid reacts to Nerlens trade on Twitter: 'Trust it'

Joel Embiid: With Mavs, Nerlens Noel 'to get the chance he wanted'

Joel Embiid: With Mavs, Nerlens Noel 'to get the chance he wanted'

CAMDEN, N.J. -- Nerlens Noel emerged from the trainer’s room in a red sweatshirt and made his rounds of handshakes and hugs. It would be his last time in the Sixers' training complex as a member of the team, marking the end of the longest-tenured player’s stay in Philadelphia.

The Sixers traded Noel to the Mavericks on Thursday for Justin Anderson, Andrew Bogut and a top-18 protected first-round pick, according to a source (see story). He went through a portion of practice and was removed from it because of the deal. 

Noel’s now former teammates had a strong reaction to his departure. 

“Nerlens, he’s my guy,” Joel Embiid said. “He’s been my best friend since I got to Philly and I’m happy for him. He wants to start. I think in Dallas he’s going to get the chance to start and they’re going to re-sign him and they’re going to pay him a lot of money. Here it was kind of hard for him to start unless they were starting us together. But I’m happy for him. He’s going to get the chance he wanted.”

Noel’s future with the Sixers had been in question for two years as he enters restricted free agency this summer. Last season, the team struggled to find a way for him and Jahlil Okafor, both true centers, to play together. This season, the logjam was magnified when Embiid made his debut and took over the starting role. 

Noel candidly spoke out about the overcrowding at the beginning of the season but that situation was sidetracked when he missed 23 games because of injury. Once he returned, he quickly was on the short end of minutes. 

“I need to be on the court playing basketball,” Noel said in mid-December. “I think I’m too good to be playing eight minutes. Like, no, that’s crazy. That’s crazy. That’s crazy. They need to figure this s--- out.”

The Sixers did figure out his role, later making him the defensive leader of the second unit as Okafor became the odd man out. The Sixers also considered the possibility of pairing Noel and Embiid in the starting lineup, as they did with Embiid and Okafor, but that experiment played out only over a handful of minutes. 

“I’m a little bit disappointed,” Embiid said of not playing more alongside Noel. “I thought we should have tried that a little bit more. I think the few times we did, it actually looked pretty good offensively and defensively.”

Of the bigs, it seemed like Okafor would be the one moved at the deadline after being held out of two games because of trade talks. In the end, it was Noel as the one to go on Thursday. 

“He’s one of my favorite players here,” Dario Saric said. “He’s always ready for jokes, he’s always ready to enjoy every moment.” 

Noel was the only player remaining from Brown’s first season as head coach with the Sixers. Brown could not comment on the Noel trade because it was not official at the time he addressed the media. 

Ilyasova leadership missed
On Wednesday night the Sixers dealt Ersan Ilyasova to the Hawks for Tiago Splitter, a 2017 second-round pick and 2017 second-round pick swap rights. Even though Ilyasova played only 53 games for the Sixers, the veteran leader left his mark.

“He was a consummate pro,” Brown said. “He helped teach our young guys about that professionalism and helped contribute to our culture. He was good. You add those things up and we’re going to miss him.” 

Ilyasova’s departure affects those who played with him and behind him. Embiid credited Ilyasova for stretching the floor when they were in the starting lineup together. 

Saric, though, is perhaps the most impacted by the trade. Saric moved to the second unit when Ilyasova took over the starting role. He learned from his fellow international power forward, who helped him adjust to the NBA on and off the court. Saric is likely to get the nod as a starter. 

“For me, it’s hard,” Saric said. “I lost in Ersan some kind of mentor.” 

Brown also plans to play Robert Covington and Richaun Holmes at power forward at times, as well. If Covington slides over from small forward, Brown eyes Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Gerald Henderson and Nik Stauskas as players who could fill in at the three spot. 

The Sixers will resume activity on Friday morning for shootaround ahead of their game against the Wizards. They will approach that contest without familiar faces on the court. 

“I lost two good friends,” Saric said. “But this is the NBA. This is part of the business, part of the job.”