Over the past few years, the Philadelphia Union have become one of the league’s most consistently great sides. Reaching an MLS final and winning the Supporters’ Shield, it’s been impressive to watch their rise. With a similar budget and philosophy to the Quakes, there is so much that the team in San Jose can learn.
The Union have gone from one of the league’s punching bags to a perennial winning side. This should serve as the best model for the Quakes to follow.
Rather than try keeping up with the MLS’ Joneses, the Union have opted to develop their own draft picks and supplement them with smart transfers. Players like Andre Blake have gone from interesting draft picks to stars while additions like Kai Wagner have added more dimensions to the side. At the same time, manager Jim Curtin has found a system that is tailor made for MLS.
Arguably the most impressive aspect of Philly’s rise has been their academy system. No other side in MLS can boast the talent that has come through their youth ranks. For a club that wants to rest their laurels on their academy, the Quakes have no better model than Philly.
Philadelphia will continue to be one of the best teams in MLS for years to come, exercising those demons that kept them in the basement for years. The Quakes have languished in that basement for close to a decade, so it has to be time to break out.
The Union’s roster has been built to fit SuperDraft picks with incredible transfers to create a contender. All the while Jim Curtin has become one of the best managers in the league by building a system that fits MLS.
It’s impressive to see a side hit on so many draft picks from Andre Blake to Keegan Rosenberry, who have become key MLS players. To properly fill out a roster that fits within the MLS salary restrictions, it’s imperative to hit on these picks. Jackson Yueill remains the team’s best draft pick and Ousseni Bouda has tons of potential, but they need to start hitting on more of these.
Additions like Dániel Gazdag and Wagner have become some of the best players in the League. Neither of these players came over for exorbitant sums, but did come from leagues or teams at MLS level. Rather than aiming for players who have made big splashes in leagues with different styles than MLS, the Union have been successful through smart scouting.
Truly successful sides can’t just hope that elite talent will get them out of any situation. Any side needs a manager who can get them to play a system that will guide them through those issues.
Curtin has spent years building a philosophy that matches the direction that MLS is heading towards. As the league has changed, so have aspects of his system by incorporating different players and tactics.
In a way this is what really sunk Almeyda, the inability to fit his philosophy to the MLS. Luchi should have less of an issue with this given his previous experience in the league. To be fair to the front office, choosing to go with a coach that had MLS experience was by far the best that they could do.
The Union’s ability to build a contender through smart transfers rather than splashy signings shows clubs how to operate in modern MLS. In addition, entrusting a manager to fit their system to MLS has only brought success for Philadelphia.
When a team can’t match the financial firepower of the MLS elite, banking on youth is the only way to go. It’s been clear since Leitch’s appointment that this is the Quakes’ current strategy and the Union offer a great path to follow.
Since their return to relevance, the Union have seen three of their most high profile academy products jump to Europe. The Aaronson brothers and Mark Mckenzie have transformed their performances in MLS to high profile moves to Europe. Brenden Aaronson has become key to both Leeds and the USMNT since his debut.
There are still plenty of players in the Union squad that have risen up through the ranks. Jack McGlynn is another example who managed to start the MLS Cup final.
Having a steady flow of talented players that can be developed while helping now is the dream of any club. The Union have found a way to tap into the immense amount of local talent to build a pipeline that will allow them to compete for years to come.
Unlike other MLS sides, the Quakes have found success with homegrown players. Tommy Thompson is an excellent MLS player who can contribute to a winning side. However, it’s Cade who remains the crown jewel as he nears closer to a move to Europe.
Waiting in the wings are exciting prospects like Cruz Medina and Niko Tsakiris, giving the Quakes a greater chance at developing them. The Bay is a great soccer location and there is just so much talent waiting to be discovered. This would not only give the Quakes a chance at competing, but giving them stronger ties to their local area like the Roots have.
As the Quakes begin to tap in more aggressively to their local talent, the Union should serve as a good template. It would be a way to develop better ties to the local community that they have ignored for years.
Although Philly lost the final, the way that they have rebuilt their club has given them a foundation to build on for years to come. The only way for the Quakes to finally find some sort of success is to follow the Philly model. Developing a tactically smart MLS side with youngsters and good transfers at every position.
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