Murphy and Sheanon

An avid Philadelphia Union fan and soccer supporter, 6abc meteorologist David Murphy has made a point to get involved.
This season, Murphy began writing a blog for 6abc focusing on the team – which thus far has only helped bring more attention to the franchise.  Recently, philadelphiaunion.com caught up with Murphy to get his take on reasons for wanting to write a blog that’s all things Union and his knowledge of both the club and the game of soccer as whole.
Editor’s note: Murphy is scheduled to attend Saturday’s match against Seattle Sounders FC (4 p.m., Purchase tickets here)
philadelphiaunion.com: Why did you start writing a blog on the Union?
David Murphy: The station has been a partner with the Union since the beginning. I had already been into soccer because of previous FIFA World Cups. I had become gradually a fan of the sport and I was excited when I found out we were getting a team. So over the years we have tried to figure out different ways we could become more involved and before this season started, management [at 6abc] asked me if I would be interested, and I was all in. I was a reporter before I was the weather guy and the thing I used to like about the job the best was the writing; what better than to be writing every week about something I really enjoy? So it was kind of natural for me and I am having a lot of fun doing it.
PU.com: Have you been a fan of the team since the beginning?
DM: Absolutely, I think I was there for the first or second game and I try to get down [to PPL Park] as often as I can. I usually make about two or three games a year and I watch most of them on television. Every now and then job or family gets in the way. I do try to follow just about every game and for the ones I do miss, I go back and watch replays or highlights on MLSSoccer.com. I was a fan right from the start and it was easy to be a fan too.
PU.com: Give us your thoughts on the club from Day 1 until right now.
DM: The first year, as you would expect, was a little bit of a struggle, but we had Le Toux and it was a lot of fun. Then the second year, lo and behold we’re in the playoffs. Last year was tough with some changes on the roster, but this year I don’t think it took us as long to get going. The new players they brought in like Jeff Parke and Conor Casey have really gelled fast. We are only seven games into the season and already showing some real signs of improvement on offense, which was a big problem last year. It has been kind of dramatic following the different ups and downs of the team and I like where we are this year.
PU.com: In your opinion, what makes the Union a team to follow?
DM: I think if people pay more attention to the MLS, they will be surprised by the number of international players choosing to call the MLS home; also by the quality of play. I know I have been at PPL Park on days when representatives of the English Premier League have been there and they’ve watched the product and say that you could take that team, or most any MLS team, and put them over in Europe and they would do pretty well against some of the teams over there. The soccer purist is going to tell you, wait a minute, the best players in the world are over in the English Premier League or they are playing for Brazil or they are in Spain. I am not going to argue that, but I think people who like European soccer would be pleasantly surprised if they were to give the Union and the MLS a consistent chance because I think the quality of play is really good. I ‘ll agree that in years’ past, MLS was sort of a training league in a way for guys who wanted to try and go elsewhere, but I think you are seeing the majority of the players now very happy to call MLS home and I think they have developed a really good product.
PU.com: Do you have a favorite Union moment?
DM: My thoughts immediately go to this year. My favorite moment, this year, was the first goal Jack McInerney scored against DC United a few weeks ago. He totally faked out two defenders by kicking the ball behind them, breaking into the open and banging that shot in. That was one of the prettiest goals you will ever see in the game of soccer in any league and that one in particular was fantastic. Other than that I would say the [2011 Eastern Conference quarterfinal against Houston]. I know it didn’t work out as well as the Union would have liked, but experiencing a playoff atmosphere in just the second year of being in existence, for me, that was a proud day and a lot of fun. The atmosphere was every bit as good as it would be in a playoff game with any other of our local sports teams.
PU.com: What’s is your background in the game? Have you played the sport?
DM: When I was a kid I played a little bit, but it wasn’t organized so I didn’t really understand the rules or anything like that. Of course, nowadays every kid plays soccer. It is one of the best sports a kid can play because, unlike a lot of the others, you don’t have to dress up in a whole lot of real heavy gear and overheat, and you don’t have to sit around waiting nine innings to get an at bat like you do in Little League. Every kid goes out there because you all get involved, you run and it is good exercise. As my kids got older I actually was an assistant coach in their soccer league with a couple of their teams. So I had that experience for about four or five years. It’s interesting because a lot of the dads who were also coaching didn’t have a major soccer background, but they had these manuals where they told you how to teach foot skills to the kids, per year, per their age group. It was really satisfying watching these kids get better and better and after about five years of helping the other guy coach, these kids were actually pretty good and were learning the skills you taught them. My involvement was through my kids and learning the rules that way.
PU.com: Okay, so tell us when did you really become a soccer superfan?
DM: I would say where it really happened for me professionally was two World Cups ago. I really got into the World Cup. I gave it a couple of chances early on then found out that some of my relatives were watching it too. It wound up being a great conversation over the holidays, talking about all the day different teams and what they have done. The last World Cup, in South Africa, I just thought was amazing. I watched most of the final matches – maybe the final six or seven matches. What a great stage. Then the Summer Olympics, I really enjoy watching national teams play. I am not as into the European League. I’ve got a family and a job that takes a lot from me and a lot of times getting up on Sunday mornings, plus turning on soccer is just not for me. But the next time I get overseas, I am definitely planning on seeing a soccer game in Europe. One of my bucket list things is now to attend a week or two of the World Cup.
PU.com: Where do you hope this season goes for the Union?
DM: It’s a hard thing to predict in MLS because there is so much parity. In this league, more than others, it is so hard to get goals. The defense tends to be real solid; we have good goalies in this league. You may only get four or five really decent chances a game. I think you see that a lot in a team like Columbus, which got off to a bad start after being dominant in the Eastern Conference last year. In the case of the Union, I think their offense is definitely better than last year and that was a big area [the coaching staff] needed to address. I think it comes down to Zac MacMath and the back line with John Hackworth’s style of pushing the ball forward more. Those guys are going to be on the spot a lot more this year than I think we have seen in season’s past. I think the Union probably gives up a few more goals this year than usual because we are pressing the ball forward and trying to make that offense click. From what I have seen, I think they are doing pretty well and I think that combination of McInerney and Casey up front and Le Toux coming in, if that ends up being his role for the rest of the year, is a combination that can work for them. I just wrote a blog that I finished about an hour ago on Sheanon Williams’ ability to throw the ball in and how that almost provides you with three or four more corner kicks a game. I really like the offense and I think Hoppenot is another guy, who comes in off the bench, super sub, one of the best in the league. To me, their offense is good enough to make the playoffs and do some damage. It is going to be a question of whether the defense can adjust to Hackworth’s style of really pushing the ball and maybe exposing the back line a little more than in years past.
PU.com: So…you predicting playoffs, Dave?
DM: I think they are definitely good enough. Whether they will, it is up to the soccer gods and whether they get the breaks and whether they can adjust to the style. I think they are much more exciting to watch this year than past years and based on what I have seen so far, they do deserve to make the playoffs and hopefully they can.
To check out David Murphy’s Union blog for 6abc, click here.
Contact Union writer Howard Hutchinson at hhutchinson@philadelphiaunion.com