CHESTER, Pa. – Nick Sakiewicz isn’t interested in bringing in world-renowned, multimillion-dollar players like David Beckham. But when the time comes to keep rising stars like Jack McInerney or Amobi Okugo in town, the Philadelphia Union CEO has no problem forking over loads of money.
“My core belief,” Sakiewicz told MLSsoccer.com in an interview from his office on Tuesday afternoon, “is we should never sell our best-performing player.”
After all, it’s the progression of guys like Okugo and McInerney that has Sakiewicz most excited these days. Both players came to Philly as teenagers during the franchise’s inaugural season in 2010 and are now “blossoming in front of our eyes,” the Union CEO said.
And it’s not a coincidence both are doing so following his decision to fire Peter Nowak last June in favor of John Hackworth, who Sakiewicz said “over-delivers on his job responsibilities” and values the team’s youth movement far more than his predecessor.
“I believe John and his group are absolutely the right guys that will bring out the best in these young players,” Sakiewicz said. “We have a young, core group that’s going to be with us for a while and that’s going to blossom more and more until we get that trophy.”
Sakiewicz also pointed to the team’s ever-growing youth academy as a reason for optimism. Since the inaugural season, the Union CEO said he’s been able to pour much more resources into the system, which he hopes will lead the franchise to discover the next star among the 35,000 or so registered soccer players, ages 8 to 18, in the Philadelphia area.
“It’s all aimed at generating the next Jack McInerney or Zach Pfeffer from our roots here locally,” he said. “That’s what the Union brand is all about. The Union brand is not about going out and signing David Beckham. We’re not building our long-term future on that strategy. That doesn’t mean there might not be a big star player here someday; there might be. But that’s just not our foundation.”
Sakiewiecz noted that having the youngest team in the league will likely lead to many more ups and downs this season. But that's not going to change his focus. When asked what his team’s most pressing need is right now, the Union CEO didn’t hesitate with his answer: Time.
“Just young guys need time to develop,” Sakiewicz said. “Fans have lots of time but they don’t have patience. And I know our fans would love nothing better than to see some hardware in our trophy cabinet. But we’re getting there.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.