It's officially official, after the whispers became a murmur, Earnie Stewart has been hired as the first-ever general manager of the United States Men's National Team. In this role, Stewart will (possibly) be tasked with hiring the new coach of the team and ensuring qualification for the team for the 2022 World Cup and beyond.
But while this is a good hire for the National Team, where does it leave the Union?
Stewart's legacy can't be fully judged in Philadelphia due to the amount of time that it will take for the baby U to mature. But what Stewart did do is bring stability to the organization. An organization that has had quite a few coaches in its short history. While the Union may not have won anything under Stewart, the foundation is there for long-term success, something that Stewart has preached during his time with the team.
The majority of the hand-wringing in Chester Will be done by head coach Jim Curtin who is lucky to still have a job due to being one of "Earnie's guys". Based on results, whoever the new Sporting Director of the Union is may want to hire their own coach and they would be justified doing so. In a statement from owner Jay Sugarman, he preached confidence in the system saying,
“As a result of our youth development strategy, we are confident that others are recognizing the quality players that our Academy and Bethlehem Steel FC have developed. U.S. Soccer’s interest in Earnie is indicative of the work that our organization has done in building the sporting foundation of the Philadelphia Union – from our Academy, to a First Team seeing meaningful contributions from both Homegrown Players and established veterans. Earnie has earned this opportunity in every sense of the word, and we wish him the best at U.S. Soccer."
but does putting a system in place guarantee results? History and the fact that it takes about 10 years for an academy project to bear fruit says no. But if the Union can nail the Sporting Director appointment by bringing in someone not named Chris Albright as the easiest option, they can build upon this stability to build something special.
On that note, let's take a look at some Sporting Director candidates:
Chis Albright, Philadelphia Union
Current assistant technical director for the team, Albright has to be on this list because he is already in the system. Responsible for scouting and the day to day operations of the team, appointing Albright would show that the Union want to stay par with the current course. What it also shows is that the team isn't content with winning now and that's my issue. It is possible to win now with an eye on the future and that's where Albright fails my test of approval (for whatever that's worth).
Ali Curtis, Unattached
The architect of the New York Red Bulls, Curtis has been in similar situations to the one that Stewart is leaving. Where it gets murky is in the way that Curtis departed New York but it cannot be overlooked that he accomplished a lot in a short period of time. But will the Union want to bring in someone who oversaw a rival and lost out a job to their current Sporting Director? Maybe not but of the free agent American options, Curtis is the cream of the crop.
Some random guy from overseas:
One would assume that the search is underway for the new Union Sporting Director and if it is extensive enough, it will end up abroad.
New ownership has expressed to me that there are numerous connections in France and England that could be called upon for GM's. Seems it'll be out of Jay's hands; aka just the way he wants it.— Paul Colangino Jr. (@catrino93) May 23, 2018
Looking at this it would be tough to pick someone but this is a decision that could change the fortunes of the Philadelphia Union if done properly. Hopefully, the Union pick properly but if due diligence is done it'll be alright.