Is Earnie Stewart Keyser Söze?

First of all, hands up who knew that’s how you spell Keyser Söze? Well done to you! If you haven’t seen the 1995 movie The Usual Suspects welcome from whatever culturally barren rock you have been living under, now kindly go to some other corner of the internet, you are not welcome here. Alright, down to business. To whit, the tricky business of a one Mr. Earnest Stewart, Jr.

By the way, why don’t we have a nickname for him? Everyone in Philly gets a nickname. Alright, let’s try some on for size. Stewie ? Nah…Family Guy. Stewbiedoo ? A little too cute and cuddly. Earn? No, that’s more like your uncomfortably racist septuagenarian uncle. The Flying Dutchman? No way, he was too solid and stocky, reliably churning up the midfield so he is no flyer, but… hang on… we might be onto something very close to that. Hmmm… how about The Lying Dutchman?

First of all I do want to say that I, like many of you perhaps, have met Earnie and found him to be just what you would expect from seeing him on TV and on the pitch. Don’t forget this is a guy who earned (see what I did there?) over 100 caps for the USMNT. He seems like a really decent fella, he is unpretentious, reliable, clearly hardworking, and well… sensible. I don’t think he’s the kind of guy you want to take back to your apartment after a night out but he is totally the kind of guy you’d take home after a few months to meet mom… or is he?

We all like to think that Earnie is like a beloved golden retriever who is always going to go and fetch that ball and drop it benignly at your side, in Earnie we trust, but be careful. That labrador has plenty of wolf DNA in it’s system – the question is whether Earnie is a labrador in wolf’s clothing or if (stay with me here) he is more a ‘Verbal’ in Keyser Söze’s Italian suit and ponytail. Kevin Spacey’s Roger “Verbal” Kint said that the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was making people believe that he didn’t exist, but I am not so sure. A superior sleight of hand might just be the wool (from that wolf in sheep’s clothing) that Earnie is pulling over Sugarman’s eyes.

No doubt The Lying Dutchman speaks to Jay in terms he can understand, with projections, and statistical models, systems and analytics, etcetera and so on. Remember that Sugarman made his money in real estate which is a numbers business, not an emotional business and he employed Stewart to be the brains behind the football. Sugarman is obviously a football fan but Earnie is a football man.

The more I hear from Earnie the more I am starting to feel as if he is conning all of us. The veneer of good-guy everyman is starting to tarnish and he is drifting a little closer to one of those business executive MBA-hole types who always thinks himself the smartest guy in the room. Apparently professional footballers are too dumb to be able to adjust to more than one system and style of play, so what chance do real estate speculators have in understanding why it is all going so wrong on the field? Sugarman recruited Stewart, so if he fires him he has to admit that he got this culture-defining hire (that was going to launch Union 2.0 into the higher reaches of MLS 3.0) all wrong. What then with the five year plan?

Under the weight of huge criticism from fans, journalists, bloggers, and well… everybody, Stewart has remained steadfast in his “my way is the only way” approach, despite the empirical evidence of the non-lying table in front of his eyes. Only a mad coach could ignore the facts and blindly soldier on because that’s the way that the boss says we should do it and Curtin might be a lot of things (inexperienced, out of his depth, naïve, reactionary, inflexible, unimaginative, myopic… we could all go on and on with this list) but he is no madman. When writing to a fan, Edgar Allan Poe said that the drinking he was doing to cope with the loss of his wife made him “Insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity.” I am starting to think that Stewart has been providing the Kool-Aid and Jay has been lapping it up for so long that he is holding on to sanity in smaller and smaller doses.

Earnie has been lying to the Union brass and tricking them so much that they have all fallen under his spell and they are too afraid to say anything lest they be ridiculed for being the first one to shout that the emperor is naked. Much like the mythic super-villain of Keyser Söze – a bedtime story told to scare the children of gangsters into doing what their parents tell them to do – Earnie’s legend seems to have grown so much that it has outstripped reality (how else to explain not changing anything after that losing streak?) and taken on a frightening power of its own. Curtin is not too far removed from being a player himself to know that when a system isn’t working the players need to try something different if only to break out of the routine of “do this, get this result” muscle memory. But is it already too late?

Quick! Somebody stop that little guy limping out of the station while I get this fax.

5 thoughts on “Is Earnie Stewart Keyser Söze?

  1. Win, draw or lose my last game was NYCFC. I’m not attending anymore games until I see what happens during the summer transfer. If Earnie Stewart does nothing about bringing in proven DP’s at #10 #9 and a quality MLS LB, that’s it. If he brings in more “process reclamation projects” that’s it. The disconnect between the direction of MLS and the Union is polar opposite. I try not to get political on here but the layers of BS coming from the Union at times is like listening to Trump surrogates. Of all MLS teams why do we have to be the ones dealing with this crap? This fan base deserves better!


    1. Your shopping list might be a little long – don’t think we can hope for that level of investment and commitment from this ownership group. Their investment has already gone up by 100% so why change?

      I think the best we can hope for is a half million dollar no. 10 when in reality the quality versions of those guys just don’t come that cheap.


  2. Great article. I guess the only thing I would question would be the motive for ES to con us all? Is it just that he can’t do the job so he has to fake it till he makes it? The value of the franchise will increase regardless, due to the growth and success of the single-entity MLS as a whole – meaning Sugarman will make money and a lot of it no matter when he sells. I admit I was extremely willing to give ES a long leash after the Nick Sak era, but more and more I find myself questioning just exactly what is going on with the club. Someone can’t be telling the truth, since ES has said that Jay has never said no to him (regarding money). So either, that’s a lie and Jay has, or ES just has no desire (or the skill required) to sign that big name. Plus wasn’t Albright put in place to help ES adjust to MLS salary cap and rules? Sorry if I rambled. I am willing to give ES one more season – and then I am done. I say this because they will have serious cap space to spend next year (assuming they don’t resign Edu, Ilsinho, Pontius) and if ES blows it again… then I am done


    1. I think ES is lying to us and Jay to cover his rather ample ass. If he admits to Sugarman he doesn’t really know what he is doing (especially when what he is doing isn’t working) he is never going to get another job after this one.


      1. I am trying not to sound like a hardcore ES supporter, but the guy does have a track record of success… albeit, in Europe under a much differently structured leagues. I will concede that this team should have had a true #10 purchased, as a #10 is vital to the 4-2-3-1 they profess to be the be all end all formation this team will use forever and ever, amen. That is a failure on ES’s part. What chaps my ass mainly about this season, other than the losing, is that you are coming off a (back-door) playoff appearance last year – your first in FOREVER – with several players returning and now we are being told this is a ” process” and we are building? WTF. I despise what the Sixers did/are doing, but I respect the hell out of them for telling the fan base the truth. Why are we rebuilding at the cost of (what started out as a historically) bad season when last year we were in 1st place in June?!?! That’s what I f’n hate right now. I am on the ES train for one more year and if we are 0-4-4 after March and April next year… hell if we are close to last regardless of record… I’m done.

        Liked by 1 person

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