Philadelphia’s new Major League Soccer team, the Union, played its first home game ever last night – and won!
Philadelphia’s new Major League Soccer team, the Union, played its first home game ever last night. Soccer fans came out of the woodwork to watch the Union win 3-to-2.[audio: 100410SBSOCCER.mp3]
The Union won’t play in their new stadium in Chester until late June, so their first home game was played at Lincoln Financial Field. That gave fans an opportunity to make their way to the game in uniquely Philadelphia fashion: by taking the Broad Street subway.
That’s where Tim Weglicki recounted his days as a player decades ago. He played pro briefly in 1982. Weglicki says it can be hard for Americans to appreciate soccer because most don’t play it.
Weglicki: If you haven’t played the sport, you can’t appreciate a sixty yard pass that a guy brings down to his feet and it’s right at his feet. You know, if you’ve played the game you can appreciate that, but if you’ve never played the game and you look at that, it looks like it’s nothing. They make it look so easy.
Tailgating in the parking lot outside the game included the usual revelry. Fans even broke out into an impromptu scrimmage. Inside, the boisterous crowd of 35,000 did it’s best not to get dwarfed by the Linc.
“Ole, ole ole ole…”
And like any Philadelphia fans, there was the obligatory jab at the other team.
“DC sucks! DC sucks!”
Most fans wore the team colors: blue and gold. But Patrick Wilenter went a step further. With his shaved head painted powder blue, he appeared a sports-fan version of the Blue Man Group.
Wilenter: To have a home match here for the Philadelphia Union, to have a Philadelphia soccer team to support, it’s amazing. It’s a once-in a lifetime experience to be here for the first home match ever.
The fan presence was enhanced by the so-called Sons of Ben – the booster group that, by Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber’s own admission, was the reason Philadelphia has a team at all.
Garber: Those are the folks that are going to be here through thick or thin, when it’s not just your inaugural year, when the team might not be doing well, and we as a league need to have more groups like the Sons of Ben.
The home team didn’t disappoint. The Union came away with the club’s first ever win: a 3-2 drubbing of D.C. United that was not as close as the score suggests. Unbelievably, each of the Union’s goals was scored by the same player: forward Sebastian Le Toux.
It will be more than a month before the Union play another home game… and June before their own stadium in Chester will be ready.
“Let’s go union! Let’s go union!”