Blog

25 August 5:04 pm

It’s Monday after a great Sunday night victory.

With the bye week, the players get a few days off to rest and recharge as a Wednesday-Saturday home and home is next against Toronto FC beginning Sept. 3 at PPL Park (7:30 p.m., purchase tickets).

In office, staff is working overtime to get ready for the month of September as six matches mark the schedule including a pair of back-to-back weeks that feature games in close succession. Four of those are home, highlighted by the Sept. 16 match against Seattle in the U.S. Open Cup final. Speaking of the Open Cup, did you know there are five players on the Union payroll that have hoisted the trophy before? And of those five, four guys played each other at one point in time en route to either victory or defeat.

Amazing what you’ll find once you start digging.

You can find that story here.

Union forward Andrew Wenger is up for Major League Soccer’s Goal of the Week for his first of two goals on the night. It was Wenger’s first brace of his MLS career, but we are kind of partial to his second goal, one that we took the time to show U.S. Open Cup foe Seattle Sounders FC earlier Monday morning:

It was a great night for the former No. 1 draft pick and following his performance, Union interim manager Jim Curtin had the following to say:

When he gets a head of steam going at a defender, he’s that combination of speed and power that you don’t see often. When he bangs it with an outside back, he doesn’t lose any speed. He’s strong as can be. He’s a special player who just needs confidence. And I think a night like tonight gives a guy confidence. He’s really learned how to play the position. It’s been a little unique out wide for him. But he’s starting to grasp his abilities and it’s leading to his goals…he checks every box. He’s big, he’s strong. He’s fast. He can smack the ball with his right and left foot as you saw tonight. He’s a guy with an incredibly high ceiling. I think you’re seeing the start of something.”

We certainly hope so…

Moving on…

Looks like at least two of the three amigos are doing their few days of rest right as it appears midfielders Amobi Okugo and Maurice Edu will be spending their time in under the Miami sun.

The pair exchanged cryptic tweets featuring sunshine and airplanes, with Edu's ending with "305" the area code for Miami-Dade County.

ESPN analyst and SportsCenter anchor Max Bretos followed up shortly after Edu's tweet with: 

Usually this group also includes defender Ethan White, but no word on what his plans are.

Given the time off, the Union’s weekly radio show “The 90th Minute” will take a hiatus this week but will return Sept. 2. The show presented by Farmers Insurance will feature members of the Sons of Ben and the Union Foundation to discuss the upcoming River Cup match between the Union front office and the club’s supporters group.

That show will be held at Chickies and Pete’s in South Philadelphia beginning from 6:30-8:00 p.m.

And finally…

The fallout of having Sixers center Joel Embiid serve as honorary captain in Sunday’s match has been tremendous. The volume of retweets and favorites from this picture on Twitter is insane:

And it looks like the effect rubbed off on Embiid, who according to this Union fan  was spotted Monday afternoon in the same Union jersey we presented him Sunday night.

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

25 August 4:59 pm

It’s Monday after a great Sunday night victory.

With the bye week, the players get a few days off to rest and recharge as a Wednesday-Saturday home and home is next against Toronto FC beginning Sept. 3 at PPL Park (7:30 p.m., purchase tickets).

In office, staff is working overtime to get ready for the month of September as six matches mark the schedule including a pair of back-to-back weeks that feature games in close succession. Four of those are home, highlighted by the Sept. 16 match against Seattle in the U.S. Open Cup final. Speaking of the Open Cup, did you know there are five players on the Union payroll that have hoisted the trophy before? And of those five, four guys played each other at one point in time en route to either victory or defeat.

Amazing what you’ll find once you start digging.

You can find that story here.

Union forward Andrew Wenger is up for Major League Soccer’s Goal of the Week for his first of two goals on the night. It was Wenger’s first brace of his MLS career, but we are kind of partial to his second goal, one that we took the time to show U.S. Open Cup foe Seattle Sounders FC earlier Monday morning:

It was a great night for the former No. 1 draft pick and following his performance, Union interim manager Jim Curtin had the following to say:

When he gets a head of steam going at a defender, he’s that combination of speed and power that you don’t see often. When he bangs it with an outside back, he doesn’t lose any speed. He’s strong as can be. He’s a special player who just needs confidence. And I think a night like tonight gives a guy confidence. He’s really learned how to play the position. It’s been a little unique out wide for him. But he’s starting to grasp his abilities and it’s leading to his goals…he checks every box. He’s big, he’s strong. He’s fast. He can smack the ball with his right and left foot as you saw tonight. He’s a guy with an incredibly high ceiling. I think you’re seeing the start of something.”

We certainly hope so…

Moving on…

Looks like at least two of the three amigos are doing their few days of rest right as it appears midfielders Amobi Okugo and Maurice Edu will be spending their time in under the Miami sun.

Earlier Monday morning, Okugo sent out this tweet:

✈️✈️

25 August 4:57 pm

It’s Monday after a great Sunday night victory.

With the bye week, the players get a few days off to rest and recharge as a Wednesday-Saturday home and home is next against Toronto FC beginning Sept. 3 at PPL Park (7:30 p.m., purchase tickets).

In office, staff is working overtime to get ready for the month of September as six matches mark the schedule including a pair of back-to-back weeks that feature games in close succession. Four of those are home, highlighted by the Sept. 16 match against Seattle in the U.S. Open Cup final. Speaking of the Open Cup, did you know there are five players on the Union payroll that have hoisted the trophy before? And of those five, four guys played each other at one point in time en route to either victory or defeat.

Amazing what you’ll find once you start digging.

You can find that story here.

Union forward Andrew Wenger is up for Major League Soccer’s Goal of the Week for his first of two goals on the night. It was Wenger’s first brace of his MLS career, but we are kind of partial to his second goal, one that we took the time to show U.S. Open Cup foe Seattle Sounders FC earlier Monday morning:

It was a great night for the former No. 1 draft pick and following his performance, Union interim manager Jim Curtin had the following to say:

When he gets a head of steam going at a defender, he’s that combination of speed and power that you don’t see often. When he bangs it with an outside back, he doesn’t lose any speed. He’s strong as can be. He’s a special player who just needs confidence. And I think a night like tonight gives a guy confidence. He’s really learned how to play the position. It’s been a little unique out wide for him. But he’s starting to grasp his abilities and it’s leading to his goals…he checks every box. He’s big, he’s strong. He’s fast. He can smack the ball with his right and left foot as you saw tonight. He’s a guy with an incredibly high ceiling. I think you’re seeing the start of something.”

We certainly hope so…

Moving on…

Looks like at least two of the three amigos are doing their few days of rest right as it appears midfielders Amobi Okugo and Maurice Edu will be spending their time in under the Miami sun.

Earlier Monday morning, Okugo sent out this tweet:

25 August 4:55 pm

It’s Monday after a great Sunday night victory.

With the bye week, the players get a few days off to rest and recharge as a Wednesday-Saturday home and home is next against Toronto FC beginning Sept. 3 at PPL Park (7:30 p.m., purchase tickets).

In office, staff is working overtime to get ready for the month of September as six matches mark the schedule including a pair of back-to-back weeks that feature games in close succession. Four of those are home, highlighted by the Sept. 16 match against Seattle in the U.S. Open Cup final. Speaking of the Open Cup, did you know there are five players on the Union payroll that have hoisted the trophy before? And of those five, four guys played each other at one point in time en route to either victory or defeat.

Amazing what you’ll find once you start digging.

You can find that story here.

Union forward Andrew Wenger is up for Major League Soccer’s Goal of the Week for his first of two goals on the night. It was Wenger’s first brace of his MLS career, but we are kind of partial to his second goal, one that we took the time to show U.S. Open Cup foe Seattle Sounders FC earlier Monday morning:

It was a great night for the former No. 1 draft pick and following his performance, Union interim manager Jim Curtin had the following to say:

When he gets a head of steam going at a defender, he’s that combination of speed and power that you don’t see often. When he bangs it with an outside back, he doesn’t lose any speed. He’s strong as can be. He’s a special player who just needs confidence. And I think a night like tonight gives a guy confidence. He’s really learned how to play the position. It’s been a little unique out wide for him. But he’s starting to grasp his abilities and it’s leading to his goals…he checks every box. He’s big, he’s strong. He’s fast. He can smack the ball with his right and left foot as you saw tonight. He’s a guy with an incredibly high ceiling. I think you’re seeing the start of something.”

We certainly hope so…

Moving on…

Looks like at least two of the three amigos are doing their few days of rest right as it appears midfielders Amobi Okugo and Maurice Edu will be spending their time in under the Miami sun.

Earlier Monday morning, Okugo sent out this tweet:

22 August 2:50 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 10:31 am

“I don’t have a gym membership...”

“My gym doesn’t have kettlebells...”

“I can’t do a pull-up, I am so weak...”

“I do 200 crunches a night but I don’t have any abs...” (FYI, stop wasting your time with crunches)

“I don’t want to lock into a six month membership so I am not going to lift weights...”

Over the years, I have heard so many excuses from people when it comes to training. I understand exactly how hard it can be to find both the TIME and the MONEY to train. I have good news for those of you who want to maybe learn some new exercises without having to join a gym.

My solution to those of you who are on a budget and who are unable to afford a gym membership is to train outside at a park.

Here are five (5) reasons I love to train outside.

1. It’s free.

2. Most people don’t get enough sun so training outside is a great way to increase your Vitamin D levels.  Believe it or not, most people are deficient in Vitamin D.

3. It’s fun. It makes you feel like a kid again.

4. Fresh air. How many times have you gone into a gym and the first thing you smell is something nasty coming off of the person on the elliptical? It looks like they have been on it for 2 hours cranking away with sweat pouring down their face. Don’t get me wrong I love to train hard and work up a sweat but if you have ever belonged to a gym you know exactly what I am talking about.

5. I sleep better at night. If I get fresh air and sunlight early in the day it helps with my sleep cycle.

Now, I still love to train at a gym 1-2 days a week but I think training outside is a great way to mix up your routine. The good news is what I am about to show you involves a small investment on your part. I have included five videos for you to watch. In each video I show a short clip of four exercises that you can include in your routine. The good news is that all you need is the following:

Kettlebells

I would recommend that you go to a fitness equipment store or go online and purchase a kettlebell. Your best bet is to find a local store so you can save on shipping. However, the equipment from Perform Better (performbetter.com) is high quality. I would recommend that you start with two kettlebells. One light one (15-20 lbs.)  and one heavier one (40-60 lbs.). Over time if you can afford it add higher weights to your “at home gym”.

Resistance bands

Here is a link to buy bands. Bands should be a part of everyone’s training program.  I have been using these bands for years. Link: https://rbt.infusionsoft.com/go/bd/kevinm/

Abdominal wheel

I made my own for $15-$20 from Home Depot material. You can purchase a good one on line or at a local sporting goods store. Cost is approximately $15-$20.

Click the video below to watch a demonstration as well as some cues for doing each exercise. As always, start slow and if you have any pain than you need to stop. For the Turkish Get Up I would recommend that you start with body weight and keep the reps low. Finally, when it comes to kettlebells it’s worth it for you to work with a person who is certified in how to use kettlebells properly.

Here is a sample circuit that you can implement into your workouts.

Warm up (Always warm up properly before training)

A1) Kettlebell deadlift: four (4) sets of six (6) reps

A2) Band pull-ups: four (4) sets of AMGRAP (as many good reps as possible)

A3) Ab wheel rollout: 4 sets of 8 reps

Note: In the video I go very close to the ground. Beginners only need to go half way down. If you have ANY back pain or hip pain in this movement stop right away.

A4) Turkish get up: 4 sets of 3 reps per side.

Cool down

I hope you enjoyed the videos and make it a priority to get outside and do some training.

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

21 August 9:12 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

19 August 2:58 pm

Rest assured…all is well with new Union net minder Rais Mbolhi.

Following practice Tuesday, Union interim manager Jim Curtin confirmed rumors that Mbolhi, 28, the club’s latest signing was involved in a minor car accident during a return trip to France to button up personal affairs.

The accident, was minor in nature and found Mbolhi suffering no injuries.

The two-time FIFA World Cup veteran is scheduled to board a flight to return to Philadelphia, where he will train for the first time alongside his Union teammates later this week. According the Curtin, there are no issues remaining with any of Mbolhi’s paperwork that includes a work visa and international transfer certificate (ITC).

“Seems like everything is okay with him and he’ll be in, we expect, by tomorrow (Wednesday),” said Union interim manager Jim Curtin.  He’s on a flight now; [his initial flight] got rescheduled and missed because of a car accident.  It's the kind of the news we got at 4:30 in the morning [from our team coordinator]. Unfortunate for [Rais], obviously safety is first and we’ll get him back as soon as he gets in. But he’s okay and there was no injury or anything like that.”

It’s unknown whether Mbolhi will get his Major League Soccer debut this Sunday when the Union return to PPL Park to take on the San Jose Earthquakes (8 p.m., purchase tickets) as Curtin mentioned that they want to be both cautious and methodically calculated with his first MLS start.

“We’ll see where Rais is at and we’ll talk with him – have a good honest talk,” said Curtin. “ If I had to guess from the last time when he came back and trained for four days, he was coming off of a pretty long layoff and he still kind of has been, He wants to be 100 percent before he goes out there and I as a coach can appreciate that. I will not speculate, but I’ll tell you that we’re preparing now as if Zac [MacMath] is going to start.”

Right now, both Union goalkeepers in camp are riding high with MacMath helping the Union capture its first trip ever to the U.S. Open Cup final while rookie goalkeeper Andre Blake is an MLS Save of the Week candidate following this acrobatic save to deny Houston's Will Bruin during the club’s primetime matchup last Friday.

Cristian Maidana: Feeling better

It’s a “wait and see” on midfielder Cristian Maidana, who again aggravated a hamstring injury and was forced to fly home following the team’s U.S. Open Cup semifinal victory. But after a minor procedure, Maidana has returned to training with his teammates and participated in full training Tuesday.

“The medical staff determined that he was not up to where they wanted him to be physically [following the Open Cup semifinal], so they sent him home,” said Curtin.  He had a [platelet rich plasma] injection in the hamstring and that’s settled down now.  He feels very good today. We have to be cautious with him because we know what it took to get him fully going and acclimated and fit and we don’t want to have any more setbacks.”

Curtin his hopeful that he’ll have Maidana back soon, which is a plus considering he is currently among the League leaders in assists with eight.

PPL “Park-ing” updates and practice stuff

Located on the Union website is a detailed rundown of the rearranged parking lot structure  given construction for the club’s brand new practice facility is currently underway. Keep an eye on philadelphiaunion.com in the coming days ahead for a detailed feature on the practice facility complete with images and renderings of the finished product. If you have yet to read it, a good informational piece regarding the facility was featured on Philly Soccer Page last week.

Each week, we’ll send out a video of how construction is moving along as this project is scheduled to be completed in October. Here's the first:

The possibilities of the finished product are endless.

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

15 August 2:28 pm

It’s not everyday that soccer can change lives, but this is exactly what happened Thursday night in Chester.

Anyone that has ever been to a Union game understands the city that the team calls home. PPL Park may be a grandiose architectural marvel but it looks down on a small, urban town that has seen its share of trouble.

Times were hard for Chester in the past, crime was rampant and tension within the community was being reported nationwide, something had to change.

At the same time that Chester was taking a turn for the worse the Philadelphia Union chose Chester as the place where they wanted to start to their soccer journey. This was a monumental decision for the city of Chester because it meant that not only would thousands of people flood their city on weekends, but more importantly there were going to be thousands of jobs now open community members in desperate need of a fresh start.

The “Union” between soccer and Chester was born.

Five years later Chester has proven to be a perfect home for a professional soccer team, and many of Chester’s own work in various positions throughout PPL Park. Since the city has been such a gracious host it was time for the Union to give back to the community it calls home.

This came to fruition on Thursday night when the Philadelphia Union, the Philadelphia Union Foundation, and the Chester-Upland School District partnered to launch the Safe Playground at Showalter School in the heart of Chester.

Basking in the late summer evening air Chester residents and Union staff came together under the necessity to create a safer Chester. The Mayor of Chester John Linder and Union CEO Nick Sakiewicz were on hand to offer words of appreciation for what the soccer team is trying to do for the community.

But the night was truly about the kids.

In places like Chester soccer is rarely the sport of choice, in fact many residents don’t know anything about it because of its lack of exposure to the national market. The Union is looking to change all this for the young people of Chester and starts with things like the Safe Playground initiative. If you ever visit Showalter School the first thing you will see is a field, but this not your typical grade school back yard.

This field has two nets, freshly cut grass, and is enclosed with signs similar to what you would see around the field at PPL, it looks like a youth training ground for a European soccer team.

A field that on Thursday night was teeming with youngsters kicking and chasing soccer balls, a sight that five years ago would have been impossible to see, which makes it all the more beautiful. The residents of Chester looked on with smiles from ear to ear, the air smelled of hot dogs and happiness, it was a moment in the city’s history that may prove to be truly special.

For right now it’s a start, the Safe Playground is a representation of everyone in the city saying no to violence and yes to progression, in the words of Mayor Linder “it’s the perfect representation of unity in the community.”

It’s fitting that the name of the professional soccer team that calls Chester home is the Union because that is just what was on display on Thursday.

A Union that steps outside of the realm of soccer and understands giving back is always a good way to move forward. 

 

Contact Union writer Doug Ammon at dammon@philadelphiaunion.com