At least the 2015 Philadelphia Union didn’t tie the team record for futility. The Union closed the season 10-17-7, one loss shy of tying the franchise record of 18 set in 2012. It was the fifth time in six seasons Philadelphia failed to qualify for the Major League Soccer postseason.
In Jim Curtin’s first full season as manager (took over for John Hackworth during the middle of the 2014 campaign), the Union deposited 42 goals and surrendered 55. Curtin’s squad didn’t concede a score in 10 of 34 MLS matches. The Union earned a second consecutive berth in the U.S. Open Cup final but lost in penalty kicks to Sporting Kansas City on Sept. 30 at PPL Park in Chester, Pennsylvania.
Even with the additions of New York City FC and Orlando City SC, the Union couldn’t get over the hump in the Eastern Conference. There were periods when the Union had been within three points of the sixth and final conference playoff spot. However, the Union either tied or lost in such circumstances, leaving the club 12 points out of a postseason berth at season’s end.
You can’t simply accept another disappointing season that was supposedly filled with promise. Perhaps the difficulty started in the preceding offseason by sending primary goalkeeper Zac MacMath on loan to the Colorado Rapids. MacMath appeared in only three matches for the rapids and his exit from the Union started goalie controversey.
Once upon a time, the Union had one keeper play every second on the pitch (MacMath in 2013). In 2015, four different players defended the net: Rais Mbolhi (0-3-2), Brian Sylvestre (5-6-1), John McCarthy (3-5-3), and Andre Blake (2-3-1). Mbolhi actually had a falling out dating back to when he joined the club in 2014 and finally agreed to part ways in summer 2015.
Sylvestre led the keeper caurosel in matches (12), minutes (1,080), shots faced (50), saves (30) ,goals allowed (19 ), and shutouts (five). McCarthy always wore a helmet in his 11 appearances, facing 41 shots, saved 22, permitted 18 goals, and shutout two opponents in 990 minutes.
Sending defender and throw-in specialist Sheanon Williams to the Houston Dynamo in the summer couldn’t sit well for the Sons of Ben. Williams left town with two assists in 17 matches. Until the trade, Williams had been the longest-tenured player on Philadelphia’s roster (he was on the team since 2010, the Union’s inaugural season).
On match days, Curtin’s starting lineup consisted of forwards C.J. Sapong and Fernando Aristeguieta, midfielders Sebastien Le Toux, Vincent Noguiera, Eric Ayuk, Cristian Maidana, Brian Carroll, and Andrew Wenger, and defenders Maurice Edu, Ray Gaddis, Fabio Alves, and Richie Marquez. Midfielder Tranquillo Barnetta and defenders Steven Vitoria and Ethan White also logged starts. Subsitutes included forward Conor Casey and midfielders Zack Pfeffer and Michael Lahoud.
Le Toux posted eight goals and six assists with 50 shots (25 on goal), two game-winning tallies, one successful penalty shot, 21 fouls committed (22 suffered), and four yellow cards in 31 matches. Sapong collected nine goals and four assists in 27 matches despite accumulating eight yellows. Maidana notched one goal and 15 assists, yet he once sat out due to a red card.
Noguiera chipped-in five boom-shaka-lakas, suffered 37 fouls, and received six yellows. Casey found the back of the net three times and assisted on one score.
PPL Park averaged 17,471 spectators per MLS match. The Union parted ways with CEO Nick Sakiewicz on Oct. 2. Earnie Stewart had been named the club’s Sporting Director effective January 1, 2016.