Community

26 September 12:58 pm

“The opportunity of a lifetime.”

That’s how Philadelphia School District special education teacher Nastassja Falterbauer described Saturday’s Special Olympics Unified Soccer match at RFK Stadium for students at Martin Luther King High School.

Thanks to a partnership between Philadelphia Union, D.C. United and the Special Olympics organization, a 5v5 soccer match between Special Olympics Pennsylvania and Special Olympics District of Columbia will take place immediately following the Union-United match. The two teams will be honored at halftime and then are scheduled to kickoff around 6:15 p.m.

In total, 11 players will make the early-morning road trip to Washington, D.C. The 5v5 match consists of two 15-minute halves. Falterbauer said she hopes the two teams can play again next year at PPL Park, allowing the D.C. players to also have the opportunity to play at another stadium outside of their home city.

“It’s a really great experience for the players,” said Falterbauer, who also serves as team coach. “Opportunities like this don’t present themselves often. It’s great to be able to go to another city and play against other players.”

Falterbauer and her players received the opportunity by winning the Philadelphia Regional district championship. The team was honored at PPL Park at halftime when the Union hosted the Houston Dynamo, Saturday, Sept. 20. But for many of them, all aged 17 or 18, taking in the action was their first MLS experience.

“The kids were elated,” she said. “They had never experienced anything like that – to be able watch them play, be down on the field… they were just in awe of everything.

But now, for a chance to share the same pitch as Union players?

“That excitement of [watching the Union play] is great,” she continued. “But to be able to play at the same stadium is even more incredible. It’s all they talk about.”

This is the first year of the Unified Soccer program within Special Olympics. So it’s a new experience for everyone, not just Falterbauer and the players.  And that experience has been just as important for the Philadelphia Union.

“The relationship that has been developed these past six months between MLS Works, Special Olympics DC, Special Olympics PA, DC United and Philadelphia Union has truly been a lesson in camaraderie and single mindedness of purpose,” Rick Jacobs, executive director of the Philadelphia Union Foundation, said.

“That purpose has been to provide an opportunity for young people to share in a common goal while using the game of soccer as a conduit to reinforce all that is good about sport,” Jacobs continued.  “We are proud to participate in this inaugural unified match. We are excited because the authentic experience coupled with the inclusive nature of the participants, speaks to who we strive to be each and every day at Philadelphia Union.”

Added Falterbauer:

“The Union and MLS have gone above and beyond what we expected them to do. From supplying uniforms and equipment, they’ve really given these players an unbelievable experience. We hope we can make the partnership grow from year to year.”

For more information about Special Olympics Pennsylvania, visit: http://www.specialolympicspa.org/

- Article written by Chris Winkler, Philadelphia Union Communications 

23 September 9:33 am

The Philadelphia Union Foundation will hold its annual “Cocktails & Cleats” gala on Wednesday, March 11 at Vie in Philadelphia. 

The Philadelphia Union Foundation is dedicated to the young people of Chester and the Greater Philadelphia Region.  Character development, enhanced academic performance and nutritional education remain the focal point of the Foundation’s programming initiatives.  Using soccer as a conduit for change, the Foundation reinforces character values of integrity, effort, accountability and pride.

Please check back soon for more information on this event. 

 

  

19 September 3:12 pm

When it comes to the River Cup, everyone is a winner.

The Philadelphia Union front office came through in penalty kicks over the Sons of the Ben to capture the recently-held fourth annual River Cup. All proceeds from the event will benefit the Philadelphia Union foundation, which supports programming in Chester and the Greater Philadelphia Region.

According to Rick Jacobs, Executive Director of the Philadelphia Union Foundation, proceeds from the River Cup were in excess of $30,000.

“Each year, it has evolved with different things working within the partnership and stadium and global side,” Jacobs said. “We’re very excited about it and what it’s about. It was an idea and we’ve taken it as an opportunity to raise money for a very worthy cause. … It’s a process and our feeling is we’ll go back and look at everything involved in the presentation to drive interest and see where we can increase money raised and interest raised for the foundation.”

When the River Cup was complete, guests were invited to stay and participate in the inaugural “Delaware River Craft Brewfest” held on Toyota Plaza.

The Delaware River Craft Brewfest included live music and entertainment, gourmet food options and a variety of vendors, including over 100 breweries. The event featured a sampling of the best crafts, imports and ciders from the United States and around the world. Samples of limited-release beers such as Goose Island Bourbon County and Scratch Series from Troegs were also available.  Breweries on site include Victory, Troegs, Anchor, Rogue, Full Sail, Evolution, Starr Hill, Long Trail, Goose Island, Old Dominion, Lancaster and Magic Hat.

"In addition to the on the field rivalry the Sons of Ben have with the front office we also rival on which one can be the most charitable," said Sons of Ben president Kenny Hanson. "This gives us another chance to help out the Philadelphia Foundation...Chester is really like our second home a lot of the members of our organization spend a lot of time in Chester. We think it's important to 'pay where you play' a lot of what we do in and around Chester we try to use local businesses, when we want to give back to a community we feel as though it's important to first give back to the city of Chester and as we continue to grow [as a supporters group] we hope that with that we are big in helping our community grow and the proceeds raised from this game go a long way into doing that."

Every dollar raised from the River Cup will go to good use. It’s an event which has grown so much in four years.

“We’ll look at what we’ve done in the four years,” Jacobs said. “We know who we are and what we ultimately what the event to be. It’s a process which we’ll get together and talk about more and see what it might take us in the future.”

Contact Union writer Andy Jasner at andy.jasner@yahoo.com

10 September 6:03 pm

The first team was off, so philadelphiaunion.com spent the day with the kids at YSC Academy.

With classes officially underway in addition to all three divisions preparing for the 2014-15 season, it was pretty good to see the YSC complex and state of the art school alive again with student athlete and (fingers crossed) future first team players.

Sad when a 14-year-old (this one being U-14 player Max Owens) can juggle better than you, isn't it?

In addition to our presence, the school had another special visitor today as New York based Bloomberg Sports sent a photojournalist to profile the school and the rise of soccer-specific academies in the United States. The reporter said that the story will be out towards the end of the month, so we’ll be on the lookout here and be sure to share once it’s up and running.

Also soon to be up and running are the rosters, schedules and the return of the monthly academy notebook. Check for all three on Monday next week.

Moving on…

Big news today as the club released that Union defender Ray Gaddis inked a multi-year contract extension that will keep “Gaddis Island” afloat through the 2016 season. In cementing this deal, interim manager Jim Curtin, called it a decision that makes him the “happiest [he’s been] during his short tenure as manager.”

"I get a smile on my face because this is one of the things I’m most happy about in my short tenure as the coach to get him rewarded for all his hard work,” said Curtin following Tuesday’s training session. “Off the field, this is a tribute to his parents. They’ve raised a kid who has as good of character as I’ve ever seen in a human being.”

Curtin also believes that if he stays on the path he’s on, Gaddis could receive a phone call from U.S. men’s national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann very soon.

“He’ll be a guy that if he stays on this pathway, he’ll be a U.S. Men’s National type player. He’ll be a January camp guy and I think he can break into that – he’s that good. One-on-one with the ball, Ray Gaddis is the best defender in our league right now. I will go out and say that – and I believe it.”

Does Gaddis’ newfound fortune mean he’s picking up the tab at the next team meal? His fellow teammates certainly think so...

So the pot was apparently stirred after word broke of Union CEO and operating partner Nick Sakiewicz’ European trip this week. Sakiewicz, overseas attending a soccer symposium in addition to a variety of meetings was also rumored to be conducting a coaching search as well.

Sakiewicz quickly debunked the rumor with this statement released to media this afternoon:

"The coaching search has been suspended for several weeks," said Philadelphia Union CEO & Operating Partner Nick Sakiewicz.  "No decisions have been made.  Our focus is on preparing the team to play the New York Red Bulls on Saturday and competing for the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Championship against the Seattle Sounders on Tuesday night.  The search will resume at a later date."

Some stuff you should read:

The guys at Philly Soccer Page continue to kill it looking at vintage Open Cup championship teams, their latest a look at the then Philly based Ukranian Nationals team  that captured the Open Cup in 1960. Written by historian Roger Allaway, it gives awesome insight into just how dominant these guys were… MLSSoccer.com and CSNPhilly.com writer Dave Zeitlin penned this piece chronicling the rise of Union soccer spearheaded by the truest form of a Philadelphian, Jim Curtin.

Both are good fireside reads if you have the time tonight.

Until tomorrow…

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

15 August 3:28 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

 

24 July 5:35 pm

In preparation for the Safe Playgrounds Launch on August 14th, the Philadelphia Union Foundation held a Neighborhood Meet and Greet at Showalter Middle School. In conjunction with the City of Chester and the Chester-Upland School District, the Meet and Greet gathered neighbors in Chester and talked about taking back playgrounds in the area and making them safe. The gathering was a huge success with many public figures in attendance:

  • Chester Mayor - John Linder
  • State Representative - Thaddeus Kirkland
  • Chester Community Liaisons - Nicole Cogdell & Jonathan “Rahim” King
  • Chester Councilwoman Portia West
  • Chester Councilwoman Elizabeth Williams
  • District Attorney for Delaware County – Jack Whelan
  • Philadelphia Union, VP of Community Affairs – Rick Jacobs
  • Philadelphia Union, Manager of Community Affairs – Leah Moore
  • Chester City United Founder - Pat Trippley
  • Showalter Community Partners 

The Foundation continues to make an impact on the places they visit. They were able to create a safety line painted on the streets adjacent to the playground and paint the no parking signs. There will be big changes around the playground in the near future with the installation of three new street lights shining on the park, a new park entrance, newly featured slow down signs and a regular landscaping schedule. 

Interested in attending our Safe Playgrounds Launch?

  • Date: August 14, 2014

  • Time: 6:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m.

  • Location: Showalter School- 1100 W. 10 Street, Chester, PA

 

15 July 11:48 am

Join the Philadelphia Union Foundation for the launch of Safe Playground on August 14th from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. The launch will be held at Showalter School (1100 W. 10th Street, Chester, PA).

The program is run by the Chester City Office of the Community Liaisons, Chester-Upland School District, Philadelphia Union and the Philadelphia Union Foundation.

The evening will include family activities, music and entertainment, a Q&A session and remarks by Mayor Linder and other community representatives.

DETAILS

  • Date: August 14, 2014

  • Time: 6:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m.

  • Location: Showalter School- 1100 W. 10 Street, Chester, PA

For more information on the Safe Playground initiative, check out Safe Corridors, the umbrella program for Safe Playground. 

11 July 6:28 pm

He doesn’t have to do it.

For Brent Jacquette, his time could be better served enjoying the moments of his day when he’s not trying to make the Widener men’s soccer team better through recruiting and working on drills. But in addition to doing all of that he’s in the Chester community and its surrounding suburbs working diligently on the Chester-Upland’s "Soccer for Success" program.

Soccer for Success is a program that was started just last year with Jacquette as director to inspire and empower Chester’s youth using soccer as a conduit.

Naturally kids learn how to pass and shoot, but Jacquette and his staff also preach what is called the “four pillars” of success:

  • Physical activity
  • Nutrition
  • Mentorship
  • Family Engagement

The great strides Soccer for Success has made since its inception has now been recognized by Major League Soccer.

On Friday, July 12 the League announced that Jacquette was selected as a finalist for its Community MVP award, given to a community leader that “uses the world’s game to make a difference on a local level,” according to MLS chief administrative officer JoAnn Neale.

In the Soccer for Success program, participants are encouraged to have 60 minutes of physical activity a day, followed by making the correct nutritional choices.

Coaches function as mentors to emphasize teamwork and dedication, while also providing a safe and fun setting. When the hour is up, it is almost impossible to get the kids to wind down and head inside.

Vote Soccer for Success director Brent Jacquette for MLSWORKS Community MVP: http://bit.ly/JacquetteVote

Now you have a chance to show your appreciation for Jacquette’s selfless act of civic responsibility.  Fan voting has opened for the MLS Community MVP. Vote now through July 25 using this link: http://bit.ly/JacquetteVoteYou can also show your vote of support by copy and pasting this post on Twitter:  “I vote for the @MLSWORKS @WellsFargo @PhilaUnion #CommunityMVP”

Voting ends on July 25 at noon. The grand prize winner will be announced on Friday, July 25 at 2pm ET via twitter by @MLSWORKS. 

Help us make sure that when the votes are tallied, the winner is Jacquette for all that he does each day in the Chester community. 

13 June 2:17 pm

Philadelphia Union and The Philadelphia Union Foundation will hold their fourth annual River Cup on September 6 at 11:30 a.m., the club announced today.  The one of a kind event features the Union front office and technical staff against the Union supporters group, the Sons of Ben, in a spirited match on the pitch at PPL Park. However, this year the fun doesn’t stop when the game ends.  Guests are invited to stay and check out the inaugural “Delaware River Craft Brewfest” that will be held on Toyota Plaza as well as cheer on Philadelphia Union as they take on Toronto FC live from Canada on the video board inside PPL Park.  

Combination River Cup and Brewfest tickets, as well as individual River Cup tickets, will be available for purchase via PhiladelphiaUnion.com  or at the PPL Park Box Office.  All proceeds from River Cup will benefit The Philadelphia Union Foundation.

“We are about tradition at Philadelphia Union and The Philadelphia Union Foundation,” said Rick Jacobs, Executive Director of the Philadelphia Union Foundation.  “That’s why we are so excited to continue the tradition of our River Cup, now in our fourth year. There’s no better way to raise money for our Foundation Building Blocks than partnering with Sons of Ben, the most committed and loyal supporters group in all of MLS.”

The Delaware River Craft Brewfest includes live music and entertainment, gourmet food options, and a variety of vendors, including over 100 breweries. The event will feature a sampling of the best crafts, imports and ciders from the United States and around the world. Samples of limited-release beers such as Goose Island Bourbon County and Scratch Series from Troegs will also be available.  Breweries on site include Victory, Troegs, Anchor, Rogue, Full Sail, Evolution, Starr Hill, Long Trail, Goose Island, Old Dominion, Lancaster and Magic Hat.

"The Sons of Ben are again excited to participate in the River Cup with the Philadelphia Union Foundation,” said Sons of Ben President Kenny Hanson.  “We are just as equally excited to be a part of raising money for such a great cause, the Philadelphia Union Foundation."

Tickets starting at $35 are available through PhiladelphiaUnion.com , by phone at 1-800-298-4200 or in person at the PPL Park box office. Designated Driver Tickets are available at $10. All ticket purchasers must be 21 or older to attend and must present a valid photo ID at the gate. Ticket purchasers during the first week of the on-sale will receive a free commemorative limited edition beer glass.

VIP Session tickets will kick off the festival from 2:00–3:00 p.m. with a special firkin tapping, VIP Parking, and the ability to talk to brewers and taste exclusive beers that will not be served in the general session. General Session will run from 3:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.  Both VIP and general session tickets will include a souvenir tasting glass.

 

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