TO THOSE frustrated fans who take the media to task when they are angered that a coach or executive they want fired is not, look in the mirror.

The person who has the true power to influence such a decision will stare back at you.

Yesterday, the Union announced it had parted ways with chief executive officer and operating partner Nick Sakiewicz, the person whose work was critical to founding the franchise six years ago.

"I appreciate everything Nick put in to this," Union chairman and majority owner Jay Sugarman said. "He put his heart and soul into this club. When his working agreement expired at the end of last season, we had to look at how we would build on the good stuff that took place.

"There were some issues that didn't seem like they would get resolved. We need to get some final pieces into place and execute on our plan to bring a winning team to Philadelphia and its fans."

This sacking was not solely because of a multiseason revolt by Union fans frustrated with Sakiewicz' leadership. But the demonstrative nature of their protests had more impact than any story or column from the media. Union fans did not let management sleep quietly.

"Our counsel was to try to ignore the uniformed rants or the flamethrowers," Sugarman said, "but when fans are telling you a message that is thoughtful, they've put in the work (and) are asking honest questions, you need to give them honest answers.

"The fan input is an important input. It is never good when your fans aren't happy, and I do take that as one of the signals that we've got to do better."

It probably is more of a case of different agendas as to why Sakiewicz was let go. Sugarman said the two did not see "eye to eye" on a number of things.

Still, the almost universal dislike and mistrust of Sakiewicz among an increasingly frustrated fan base cannot be ignored.

Managers were fired. Players were changed. The constant during this disappointing first half decade of existence was Sakiewicz pulling the strings.

While it can be debated how much of the Union's failure is actually attributable to Sakiewicz, the amount of blame he got from the fans was not.

Early this season, before a nationally televised match, the Union's most ardent supporters group - The Sons of Ben - organized a protest funeral march against the front office, complete with a casket exclaiming "We Deserve Better."

The lid of the coffin had a picture of Sakiewicz, labeling him a "Serial Franchise Killer."

When the Phillies fired general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. last month, team executives conceded that fans would not accept Amaro back, while, at the same time, being asked to believe the team was moving in a new and positive direction.

The same thing applied to the Union.

Until yesterday's removal, however, Sakiewicz gave the impression he was invincible to the criticism. At this time last year, he said that, as a part owner of the Union, he could not be fired.

He exaggerated.

Sugarman clarified that while Sakiewicz was entitled to some ownership stock, contingent on the franchise's value "increasing materially above how much capital" was invested, that threshold has not yet been met.

He said that even if it had, Sakiewicz would not have gained voting power.

Like the Phillies with Amaro, Sugarman knew Union fans would not take seriously talk of a culture change with Sakiewicz still running the soccer operations.

Although Sakiewicz constantly tried to downplay his role, Union fans knew who called the shots in soccer operations. Every disastrous move, for six seasons, was attributed to his decisions.

Last year, Sakiewicz talked of the franchise hiring a sporting director, which would remove him completely from influencing soccer operations.

It did not happen.

How much Sakiewicz balked at losing power remains an in-house discussion, but Sugarman said he will have a sporting director by January, when the next transfer window opens.

"It's just time for a change," Sugarman said.

He added that he expects manager Jim Curtin and technical director Chris Albright to return, but ultimately would let the sporting director make those calls.

"There are reasons for that . . . We need to do a better job going forward, thinking through the processes and methods of how we are going to establish the team.

"How do we move this team to the next level? How do we build a team that is identifiable on the field, attractive to top players, able to develop young players into their maximum potential? Really to have a successful long-term strategy, relative to any short-term profit."

Longtime Union fans might argue the franchise accomplished none of that under Sakiewicz.

Often thin-skinned, Sakiewicz occasionally got into heated debates on social media with fans. He became a Napoleon figure whom Union fans, through action and words, showed they would no longer tolerate.

"Winning has a way of solving a lot of issues," Sugarman said. "We need to win. I can't think of anything else to say. It doesn't take much thought to figure out how to ignite passion in Philadelphia fans. We need to deliver on that promise."

Columns: ph.ly/Smallwood