Tim Hanley knows just about everyone there is to know in Major League Soccer, having worked in the league for all but two of its 23 seasons to date.
“I’ve been around a little bit too long,” he said with a laugh. “I think I know every single referee and coach in the game. Just last weekend in Colorado, the fourth [official] came over to our bench just to say ‘Hi’ to me.”
But there’s one team that the Union’s new goalkeeper coach knows better than any other: the San Jose Earthquakes, which the Union host Saturday night (7 p.m., PHL17).
Hanley worked for the Earthquakes (1-2-0, 3 points) from 1997 (when they were known as the Clash) to 2005, and again from 2015 to 2017. The Palo Alto native also played for the old NASL-era Earthquakes in 1981, and the indoor soccer Earthquakes a few years later.
Now he is living in the northeast for the first time. The wind, rain and occasional snow that have battered the Union’s practice fields in recent weeks are a far cry from the sunny Bay Area, but Hanley is enjoying his new home.
“I’m still at the point where I think snow is really cool, and I go outside and kind of kick it around and play in it,” he said. “This has been great, the group’s been great, everyone’s been really kind, and the team has been very professional.”
No matter the weather, any goalkeeper coach would love to have a pupil as talented as Andre Blake. The 27-year-old Jamaican is at the top of his game, and earlier this year agreed to a multi-year contract extension with the Union (1-1-1, 4 points). Hanley and Blake first crossed paths at the 2016 All-Star Game, when Blake played for the MLS squad that Hanley helped from the bench.
“He’s one of those coaches who’s going to tell it like it is,” Blake said. “When you’re a goalkeeper, it comes down to a lot of mental [things]… You get on the pitch, [and] whether you have a great game or a bad game, you’re going to need someone to talk to who can share their experience with you.”
Hanley has enjoyed working with Blake, and said his mission is simple: “My job is to not mess him up.”
There has also been time to work with the Union’s academy prospects, and the team has some good ones in the pipeline. Kris Shakes, 16, has gotten U.S. youth national team callups, including one this year. Tomas Romero, 17, has earned attention from El Salvador, as the Cherry Hill native has family roots there. Romero has also played some for Bethlehem Steel.
“I’ve always said that I’m more of a teacher than a coach, so it’s been really fun to teach,” Hanley said. “And the number of goalkeepers that they have at this club, and the quality, is great.”
He appreciates the Union’s emphasis on developing domestic talent from within its ranks.
“I one hundred percent fit that kind of mold,” he said. “I think it’s really important for MLS, and I think it’s important for the national team. It’s a great philosophy. It’s not that easy, but it’s a great one.”
This weekend, Hanley and Blake will be focused on another domestic talent whom Hanley knows well: Earthquakes striker Chris Wondolowski. He’s still most famous for his epic miss in the U.S.’ 2014 World Cup game against Belgium, but he’s got 135 regular season goals in his 15-year MLS career. Landon Donovan’s all-time record of 145 is in sight, and Wondolowski could break it this year.
“He’s one of my favorites,” Hanley said. “He’s one of the most humble athletes I’ve ever met in my life. … He comes into every single day and is so competitive. The further away we can keep him from our goal, the better.”
Union vs. San Jose Earthquakes
Saturday, 7 p.m. at Talen Energy Stadium
TV: PHL17. There is no online streaming option in the Philadelphia region because of a change in the Union’s rights deal. Online streaming outside of the area is available free of charge at MLSSoccer.com.
Union chief business officer told the Inquirer and Daily News that the team is talking to “a variety of different platforms and companies” about a new online streaming deal for the local market. He hopes to have one in place soon.
This is the last week when out-of-market streaming will be on MLSSoccer.com. Games are moving to ESPN+, the new ESPN subscription streaming platform that launches April 12. It will cost $4.99 a month or $49.99 a year. All MLS games not on national or local TV will be available, there, as well as a wide range of other pro and college sports. Other soccer offerings on ESPN+ will include USL games, England’s lower leagues, and the forthcoming UEFA Nations League for European national teams.
Union’s record: 1-1-1, 4 points (7th in the East); 1-0-1 at home
San Jose’s record: 1-2-0, 3 points (10th in the West); 0-1-0 on the road
Series history: Earthquakes 4 wins, Union 3 wins, 3 ties
At Talen Energy Stadium: Union 2 wins, Earthquakes 2 wins, 1 tie
Earthquakes players to watch (in addition to Wondolowski)
F Danny Hoesen: He has led the line for all three games so far this year under new manager Mikael Stahre, and scored twice in the season opener.
M Valeri “Vako” Qazaishvili: The Georgian playmaker has registered two goals, two assists and 10 shots this season.
M Tommy Thompson: Once a great hope for young domestic attacking talent in MLS, the now-22-year-old was stuck on the bench for much of his early career. He broke through last year with 32 games played, including 16 starts. But this year, he’s only made one appearance so far.