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A Philadelphia Union blog hosted by Christopher A. Vito and Matthew De George

Friday, May 8, 2015

The Union and slows starts: A dire history

Union manager Jim Curtin has joined some undistinguished
Union coaching company with the slow start to 2015.
(Times Staff/Rick Kauffman)
The Philadelphia Union are struggling. That isn’t in much question, certainly not after last Saturday’s 1-0 loss to Toronto FC, which sealed the Union’s worst 10-game start to a season in terms of points.

Some of this alarming trend has already been explained by my colleague Kevin Kinkead in a recent post, but it’s worth digging a little bit deeper to put numbers to the overarching measure of the Union’s futility, which includes just two wins in the last 17 matches.

First off, the Union are 1-6-3 through the first 10 games. How does that compare to previous years? Not well:

2015: 1-6-3, 6 points
2014: 1-4-5, 8 points
2013: 4-3-3, 15 points
2012: 2-6-2, 8 points
2011: 5-3-2, 17 points
2010: 2-7-1, 7 points

The Union aren’t generally quick starters, but this is sluggish even by their standards. There’s a clear delineation between the season in which they made the playoffs (2011), the season in which they contended for the playoffs into the fall (2013) and the rest of the disastrous campaigns.

But the numbers are even grimmer than that. Not only is this the Union’s worst 10-game start to a season; it ties the worst 10-game stretch in franchise history. It joins the run from the April 5, 2014 draw with Chicago to the May 25 loss to L.A. Galaxy as the lowest points total over 10 matches. (That was also a 1-6-3 stretch.) The consideration of 10-game streaks includes ones that bridge the gap between multiple seasons.

Perhaps most alarming for manager Jim Curtin is this: Each of the last two managers of the Union was axed after a slow start. Then again, “slow” is a relative term:

Peter Nowak, 2012: Fired after 11 games, 2-7-2 record, 8 points, 0.72 points per game
John Hackworth, 2014: Fired after 15 games, 3-6-6, 15 points, 0.94 ppg 
Curtin, 2015: Through 10 games, 1-6-3, 6 points, 0.60 ppg

It’s important to stress that each of these situations is vastly, vastly different, and the numbers are no guarantee.

But as they stack up, Curtin needs some wins quickly to catch up to the pace of his predecessors. He needs a win against Vancouver Saturday to better Nowak’s ill-fated past, and it’ll take pretty close to a result in every game (over a very tough schedule) in the next three to improve on Hackworth’s record.

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