Team

10 September 3:40 pm

Special Olympics launched a partnership with Major League Soccer (MLS) last fall and the cornerstone of its relationship with them includes a Unified Sports® soccer exchange program.  Unified Sports® is an inclusive sports program that puts athletes with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team.  Through the soccer exchange, Unified soccer teams receive training from MLS players and coaches in preparation for exhibition matches with their Special Olympics counterparts. Each game, scheduled in conjunction with MLS club matches, features Unified Teams from local Special Olympics chapters and takes place immediately following the professional game on the field.

On Saturday, Sept. 27, Special Olympics Pa. (Philadelphia Union team) will take on Special Olympics D.C. (D.C. United team) immediately following the Philadelphia Union vs. D.C. United match at the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium in Washington, D.C.

Unified matches provide MLS fans with an opportunity to witness first-hand, the talents and abilities of Special Olympics soccer players. The partnership between Major League Soccer and Special Olympics North America promote awareness, respect, inclusion and acceptance of Special Olympics athletes amongst MLS players, clubs, supporters and partners, creating new participants, coaches, and fans needed to grow the sport of soccer within Special Olympics North America programs. 

The Special Olympics Pennsylvania (SOPA) Unified Team is comprised of athletes from Chester Upland School District and the School District of Philadelphia. 

Join Special Olympics for a fun filled day of soccer on Sept. 27 as the Philadelphia Union takes on D.C. United in two great matches.

What: D.C. United vs. Philadelphia Union / Special Olympics (Pa.) vs. Special Olympics (D.C.) Unified Match

When: Sept. 27th. Starting immediately upon conclusion of the MLS match between the Union and rival D.C. United.

Where: RFK Stadium (http://www.dcunited.com/matchday/stadium/directions-to-rfk-stadium

Tickets: https://oss.ticketmaster.com/html/go.htmI?l=EN&t=dcunited&o=189&g=2856, use promo code: SODCU14

22 August 3:50 pm

The club was back in training on Friday as preparations for Sunday’s match against San Jose continued – this time with an anticipated face returning to the fray.

New Union goalkeeper Rais Mbolhi participated in the full hour long session Friday morning at PPL Park, joining Zac MacMath and rookie Andre Blake in a session of instruction with goalkeeper coach BJ Callaghan before integrating with the rest of the club for a series of drills.

When asked how it felt to be back, Mbolhi smiled and told philadelphiaunion.com:

“It’s good to be back, nice to be with my teammates and get going with my new club.”

While yet unknown, given the week he's had it seems unlikely Mbolhi will feature Sunday. On Wednesday, Union manager Jim Curtin told reporters that it was important the two-time FIFA World Cup veteran felt 100 percent both mentally and physically before heading back out on the pitch. Curtin also mentioned before that happened that he would have a “good sit down” with Mbolhi to see where he’s at.

Both Mbolhi and Blake remained to train with Callaghan for close to an hour post practice, so right off the bat it was impressive to see the Algerian eagerly putting in the work.

The team will have a short walk through Saturday to prepare for Sunday. Friday was more of getting the players back out on the pitch after a much needed day of rest Thursday. Also out on the pitch with the players this morning was the inspirational story of eight-year-old super fan Harry Kane Jr. who got a chance not only watch but participate in training exercises this morning.

Harry’s father, Harry Kane Sr. praised the generosity, in awe that Harry was able to hang and get so involved with the "big boys" for a day.

What was also special is that Harry got a chance meet and chat with his favorite player, forward Conor Casey.

“This is something he won’t forget for the rest of his life,” said Kane Sr. “I know my son and this is a memory that will stick with him. Everyone was so great with him and it really speaks to the volume of just how great of an organization this is.”

Mr. Kane, on behalf of all of us here at the Philadelphia Union, it was our pleasure…

Moving on…

If you missed it, defender Ray Gaddis had a one-hour “ask me anything” session Friday afternoon on Reddit. Ray was asked a variety of questions, all of which he graciously answered. To check out the full transcript of Gaddis’ AMA, click this link.  

And if you wondered whether or not Gaddis had fun with it, just look at that smile...

Odds and endlines…

Season ticket holders, you have until Sunday to order your tickets to the Sept. 16 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup final if you would like to sit in your seats. If you have additional questions, contact our Fan Services department at 877-21-UNION, press (1) for tickets followed by (3) for Fan Services. You can do the same if you have any questions pertaining to the revised parking setup for Lots B and C, with the ongoing construction of what will be a multi-field practice facility for the club...Be sure to check out the Match Preview and Match Preview video ahead of Sunday’s match with San Jose...Still have yet to reserve your seat to see FIFA World Cup (2014) veteran Chris Wondolowski get after FIFA World Cup (2010) veteran Maurice Edu? One click right here will solve that problem.  

And finally…

The #ALSIceBucketChallenge has been going on for a while now to the tune of over $41 million dollars in charitable donations raised to the cause. Last week, the Union front office did it and on Friday, Union technical director Chris Albright was next up to get dunked on...with the help of players Andrew Wenger and Carlos Valdes, who were eager to have the chance to dump mostly crushed ice on the former MLS and U.S. national team stalwart.

A birdie tells us that Union CEO and operating partner Nick Sakiewicz is up next...Check Monday's Daily #DOOP for that one including reactions and much more from Sunday’s match.

Contact Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel at kgabriel@philadelphiaunion.com

21 August 10:12 am

For the second day in a row, major Union news was made public.

On Tuesday, it was the confirmation that a minor car accident in France had less of an impact of goalkeeper Rais Mbolhi returning to the States and rejoining his Philadelphia Union teammates more over the current State Department glitch that is affecting the thousands that are trying to obtain passports and work visas.

However, Union manager Jim Curtin shed light that Mbolhi’s flight was schedule to arrive Wednesday and that he is slated to return to training on Friday. The club is off Thursday, but will train Friday and Saturday before Sunday night’s match against San Jose at PPL Park (8 p.m., purchase tickets).

“As soon as we get him, we’ll be happy,” Curtin said during his weekly press conference Wednesday. “He has passport in hand, he’s is on flight and officially ready to go. He’ll do something on his own (Thursday) we have something set up for him to work with our goalkeeping coach B.J. Callaghan, but with the quick turnaround he’s a guy that said he needs to be 100 percent before he debuts and debuts are special…he wants to be 100 percent sharp and I totally get that.”

But the big news of Wednesday was the announcement of a multi-year contract renewal with baking giant Bimbo Bakeries USA. News of the deal was first reported by Philadelphia Business Journal writer John George Wednesday morning with the Union confirming the report later in that day on philadelphiaunion.com.

“Bimbo Bakeries USA has had a tremendous four year relationship with the Philadelphia Union,” said Vince Melchiorre, senior vice president of marketing at Bimbo Bakeries USA.  “Everyone at the Union – from Nick Sakiewicz, to the front office, to the coaches and players--support our efforts and value our partnership.  That high level of support and trust made it an easy decision for us to continue our jersey sponsorship with the Union. During the coming years, the Union will work with us to strengthen the connection for consumers between Bimbo and several of our great brands.” 

The beauty of this revamped deal with Bimbo is that the proceeds of this longer term deal directly benefits the Union as best explained via this interview from Philly.com soccer writer Jonathan Tannenwald that featured both comments from Union and Bimbo officials.

Back to the team side…

If he is feeling any effects of a hamstring injury you wouldn’t know it as Union midfielder Cristian Maidana had a really strong training session Wednesday morning. The crafty playmaker even ended practice on the final drill. In a short-sided, short field drill, Maidana took a pass, used a great move to elude his defender and hit a ball as he was falling down that curled around the goalkeeper and into the far post.

It was world class…in practice.

“He looked great today,” said Curtin. “He looked like the Chaco Maidana we all know. We need to get him back if this team wants to make the playoffs, not just the playoffs but to go far in the playoffs. He is a guy that is a big piece, whether it is centrally or wide left. He sees the game differently and guys like that are few and far between in our league and in the world right now.”

Odds and endlines…

Join Union defender Ray Gaddis for a one hour chat this Friday at noon as he does an “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit. For our fans on Reddit, you can click here to chat with Gaddis or follow along on http://www.reddit.com/r/mls

If you haven’t seen it yet, our video team sat down for this feature with Union midfielder Danny Cruz, who coaches a youth club in his spare time.

Again, the team is off Thursday, so all is quiet, but be sure to visit philadelphiaunion.com Friday as we get you ready for Sunday’s showdown with San Jose with match previews, scouting reports and of course another edition of the Daily #DOOP.

Contact Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel at kgabriel@philadelphiaunion.com

23 July 4:42 pm

As a coach I have heard all of the excuses as to why people can’t commit to a training program. I understand that everyone is overbooked and has very hectic lives but when it comes to our health we need to find the time.  Here are some of the more common responses I hear from people as to why they are unable to start a program and improve their health and fitness.

  • I don’t belong to a gym.
  • At the end of the day the last thing I feel like doing is exercising.
  • It costs too much to eat healthy.
  • I use to be in good shape back in high school but now I don’t really have any reason to exercise.
  • I have kids and I just can’t find the time to exercise.
  • I am too old.
  • I don’t want to get big and bulky so why should I lift weights.

Blah, blah, blah!!!! Now that you are done making these excuses I am going to share with you TEN ways that you can improve your health in less than TEN minutes a day by implementing some of these ideas into your routine. Now, these tips are not going to get you in shape to do an Ironman, however, they will get you headed down the path towards feeling better and hopefully convince you that you do not need to spend hours upon hours exercising to see gains in your overall health.

Are you ready? Here we go.

1. Have a morning ritual

When you pop out of bed tomorrow instead of reaching for your cell phone to “update your status” take ten minutes for yourself. By simply talking ten minutes it can have a big impact on how your day goes.  Instead of reaching for your phone that will most likely stress you out and raise your cortisol levels, here is what you can do:

Get a big glass of water with lemon (good for digestion)

Walk outside barefoot and get some sunlight (it helps set your circadian rhythm which is critical to your sleep cycle)

Meditate for 5 minutes and take some deep diaphragmatic breaths.

2. Go for a walk without your cell phone

Walking is so good for you. It can improve your mobility, posture as well as strengthen your heart. However, when I see someone walking with their cell phone I can’t help but think that they are not moving efficiently. Unless it’s an emergency put the phone down and WALK. Move your arms with a purpose. Don’t just “simply fall forward”. Pick up your feet, move your arms and clear your head for 10 minutes and watch what happens to your attitude as well as your energy.

3. Do ten (10) minutes of pull ups

Pull-ups are so good for you. They can improve your posture as well as your grip strength. They can develop a strong back and improve your speed when you run. Here is how you can do it: Find a pull-up bar and set a timer. Do as many as you can in ten minutes. If you can’t do any than use a resistance band (buy them here with this link: https://rbt.infusionsoft.com/go/bd/kevinm).  Rest whenever you need  to rest. Record your number and do this for eight (8) weeks and see how much you improve from week to week.

4. Run hill sprints

Hill sprints are great way to build strength and endurance. Plus, it’s a safe way to run when it comes to hamstring pulls and other soft tissue injuries. Find a hill that takes anywhere from 10-30 seconds to run up. Walk back down and repeat.

5. Bear Crawl

If you want one exercise that can improve mobility, stability, flexibility, strength, gait as well as your endurance than head out to a park or field and do some bear crawls. Simply get down on all fours and crawl. I would recommend that you crawl for 30 seconds and then rest for 30 seconds. Do this 10 for a great workout.

6. Resistance Band Training

If you don’t belong to a gym resistance band training is the perfect option for you. Simply purchase a set of bands (red, black or purple) and head to a park or your own backyard. Set the timer and try these 3 exercises.

  • Band chest press: 10 reps
  • Band rows: 10 reps
  • Band resistance runs: 15 seconds

Rest for 30 seconds and repeat.

7. Yoga

I have only done yoga a handful of times, however, I always feel better at the end of the session than I did at the beginning.  A great way to add this to your routine is to take a class with an instructor and implement some of the movements into your own routine. Yoga can be a great way to relive stress as well as improve mobility.  Men, especially, can really benefit from adding yoga to their routine.

8.  Walk barefoot on the grass

Over the past couple of years the topic of “earthing” has become more and more popular. A simple way to “ground” yourself is to walk barefoot on the grass either first thing in the morning (wet grass is best) or any time of day. It can help with jetlag, sleep disturbances, recovery as well as muscle aches and pains. Give it a shot.  All of you have to do is walk or sit on the grass or sand (the beach is a great place to do this. Think about it, don’t you always feel better on the beach?)

9. Play with your dog

When it comes to having a dog there are so many benefits. One of the best things that you can do for both your dog and yourself is to play in the backyard or park. Dogs love to run short sprints and then relax (sounds like the perfect interval to me). Get outside, run with the dog and then relax. Do this for 10 minutes and you will have worked on your speed, mobility, and agility.

10. Walk with a loved one

I don’t think I need to explain this but I will. All of us are so busy (myself included) and we need to stop and spend time with our loved ones. A simple 10 minute walk can have tremendous health benefits for you. Put the cell phone away, hold hands (you will get some great hormone benefits by holding hands by releasing Oxytocin) and walk and talk.

Well, there you have it. Ten ways in ten minutes to improve your health. Nowhere on this list do you see anything about a gym membership or boot camp instructors screaming at you. Get outside today and implement these tips and watch your health improve.

Good luck!

Follow Union fitness coach Kevin Miller on Twitter: @kmillertraining and on Instagram: kevinmillertraining. Also, Miller is a featured panelist on Philly.com's Sports Doc blog: http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/sportsdoc). For best practices along with additional health and fitness tips, check out: Philly.com/Health

22 May 3:20 pm

Life wasn’t always easy for Raymon Gaddis and Andre Blake. 

Professional soccer has always been a dream but getting here was half the battle.

Gaddis and Blake were born worlds apart, one hails from a small town in Jamaica while the other calls the American Midwest home.  From the outside these may seem like opposite ends of the residential spectrum but dreams manifest themselves no matter the circumstances. But for these two being a professional soccer player was the only occupation they believed in.

As both players find themselves productive members of an American professional soccer team it would be understandable for them to think their jobs were done but this could not be further from the truth.

This sense of responsibility led both players to the Boys and Girls Club of Delaware on an overcast Wednesday evening to share their stories with a group of young Wilmington, Delaware children whose circumstances bear a striking resemblance to the player’s upbringing.

“Everyday that I play for the Philadelphia Union I don’t take it for granted and I feel a sense of responsibility to the community because I made it out of my circumstances,” Gaddis said during a recent interview

Most of the children in the crowd were members of Mike’s TEAM a mentoring program where volunteers from the surrounding area come once a week for an hour session where the volunteer helps a child with homework, academic practices, and life-skills. Many of the children come from low-income families and Mike’s TEAM provides them with a positive environment where they can focus on achieving their goals.

The organization has a three-fold mission statement that promotes the self-worth of youth, enables youths to make positive life choices, and finally strives to improve their lives, and communities.

A place like this oozes positivity, but reinforcement from those that have lived that life is what can make all the difference for these aspiring young minds.

Enter Raymon Gaddis and Andre Blake. 

When Gaddis and Blake arrived at the event many of the children had a vague idea of who the Philadelphia Union were and what the club stands for. Like most young people the minute they heard professional athlete their ears perked up and they became fully invested in what the players had to say.

Andre Blake and the kids of the Wilmington Boys & Girls Club share a laugh during a meet and greet Wednesday

“To see successful, professional athletes and hear stories about the adversity they encountered as young people was very powerful for the Club’s youth.  It was moving to see the kids understand that these players faced challenges similar to their own,” said Mike’s TEAM Executive Director Megan Kneisl-Faulkner.

Looking around the at the young, impressionable faces, many sat wide-eyed listening to the two players speak, for the kids it was a moment they won’t soon forget, but the same goes for both players.

“I feel like I can relate so much to these kids, and I hope that my message can stick with them whenever they are going through tough times or facing adversity. They can think back to today and what I have gone through to get here,” said Blake.

The key word from the entire day was adversity, and not simply how to deal with it, but how to overcome it. Both Ray and Andre used the word extensively in their discussions with the kids, because they understand the importance of succeeding through the hard times.

For them success isn’t necessarily all about becoming a professional athlete, it’s also about becoming a good person. Both players made sure to remind the kids that while it may have been their dream to be professional athletes, it’s not only about what you want to be, but the journey you take to get there.

The players stressed that this journey is going to be full of adversity, and sacrifices are going to have to be made. Ray described keeping his “eye on the prize” while some of his closest friends were making the wrong choices he had to remain stalwart in his mission.

Both players admitted it can be hard because often what others are doing around you is more “fun” then extra time in the weight room or a weekend study session, but these are what make you successful.

Success isn’t measured by the car you drive or the house you live in, true success is defined by the person you are, both players know that events like this are where they can truly articulate this message, and why they are so inclined to come to places like the Boys and Girls Club.

Ray and Andre were once the kids they spoke to, they grew up facing challenges on a daily basis that required them to make tough choices, but the right choices.

“My senior year of high school a group of guys that I hung with decided to rob a store, I told them it wasn’t right, and I literally walked the other way,” Gaddis recalled. “A couple of them got caught and I was grateful I chose to turn the other way. That’s a prime example of choices, and I always had ambitions of doing more.”

This type of experience has a profound impact on a human being, you look back in life and value the right choices you made because they are what make you into the person you are today. It’s also experiences like this that make Ray and Andre want to give back to the community.

They have seen people close to them make the wrong choices and let adversity define their lives.
It’s the mission of both players to communicate to all young people they come in contact with how to take that adversity and use it as motivation to do well in life.

A significant California trip where points are vital and a recent Jamaican national team call-up remain the focus of both players but these professional responsibilities don’t take away from the profounder parts of the job description.

“These guys are great! I think the Union is my new favorite team,” said Jaseem, a young Mike’s TEAM participant.

The children of the Boys and Girls Club of Delaware and Mike’s TEAM are the real teammates on this day.

- Written by Philadelphia Union digital media intern Doug Ammon

04 October 4:36 pm

In this edition of my blog, I am going to look back on the regular season and the best highlights of my team -- and some of my own.

I am going to talk also of the playoffs push for our last for games of the regular season.

It has been a long season and we are now in the last two months of it and it is all very close in the standings.

But let’s start from the beginning. First home opener at PPL Park and my comeback in this beautiful stadium playing in my favorite jersey. I could not have dreamed of a better scenario than scoring the opening goal in my first game. This moment will be always in my memory because it was a beautiful feeling that I missed the previous year.

We started the season with a loss at home but got back on track right away with our first win in Colorado. Nobody was betting on us to have a great season and make the playoffs this year after losing our home opener against Sporting Kansas City but I think after winning this away game, lots of people were probably surprised and it gave us lots of positve energy to continue playing this way. In my experience, the way your team kicks off the new season always points to how well you do during the course of it, and after three games we had two wins and just one loss.

During the whole season , we always stayed in the top five of MLS' Eastern Conference standings, which as you know are the spots for the playoffs. And what helped us doing this was to be consistent. We had our best result of the year in the month of June. We were undefeated; in four matches we amassed two wins and two ties. One of those wins was against our big rival the New York Red Bulls.

It was a long time since the Union had beaten New York. It was a great game and we beat them, 3-0. I was very happy after this game, of course because of the win but also because I provided the assist on the last goal by Antoine Hoppenot. Antoine sits next to me in the locker room and is a personal friend of mine.  

To see him score his first home goal and be able to give him the assist was fantastic.

This season did not always go the way we wanted, and between the middle of August to the middle of September our results were not the best and we didn't get lots of points. For the first time we lost two games in a row, first in San Jose and the following weekend at home against Houston. Those unfortunate results put us in a bad position and out of the playoffs position.

After the Houston game, the team had a weekend off to recharge our batteries and start the push to finish strong in these last games of the regular season.

And the first of those five games was away in Kansas City. Since our last two bad performances, nobody pictured us winning this game. But all of us in the team knew that we were capable of beating Kansas City on their home field. If we wanted to be a part of the playoffs we needed a positive result here. And that's what we did. We won 1-0. This result put us in the playoff but it is not over yet. There is still a long way to go.

This next home game against Toronto is huge. And after that we are going to D.C. United and Montreal and then the rubber match as it's called at PPL Park on Oct. 26 against Kansas City -- again.

We are going all your support for this final sprint to the playoffs. I know I want to make it and say I helped the Philadelphia Union qualify for the second time.

Talk to you all soon...hopefully at playoff time.

Merci Beaucoup

Sebastien Le Toux, No. 11