Philadelphia Union

03 March 10:50 am
Jeff Benjamin
Partner/Chief Operating Officer
 
Jeff Benjamin serves as Partner and Chief Operating Officer for the Vetri Family of Restaurants. In addition to being an integral component of the company’s day-to-day work, Jeff also serves as co-founder of the Vetri Foundation for Children, a non-profit, charitable organization whose mission is to help kids experience the connection between healthy eating and healthy living. 
 
Jeff was bitten by the hospitality industry bug in his junior year of high school when he worked weekends as a busboy at a kosher catering hall in New Hyde Park, NY. The energy and pace of the working in the dining room, coupled with meeting and serving all kinds of interesting guests truly lit a fire. In 1987, he enrolled in UMass-Amherst, majoring in Hospitality Business. Throughout college, Jeff held various front-of-the-house positions, experiences that solidified his chosen career path.
 
Following his college graduation, Jeff landed in New York City with foodservice industry giant, Aramark. He spent the better part of the next decade managing high-level corporate employee and executive dining operations. During his time in the Big Apple, Jeff met and became friends with Chef Marc Vetri, who was also working in the city at the time. When Marc decided to return to his native Philadelphia to open his own restaurant, he tapped Jeff to be his general manager.  
 
In 1998, Marc and Jeff opened Vetri, a small, intimate, fine dining restaurant in Philadelphia’s Center City neighborhood. Vetri was an instant hit, with Marc’s bold, contemporary Italian cuisine and Jeff’s thoughtful service style and finely curated beverage program earning universal acclaim. Within two years of the restaurant’s debut, it received the Philadelphia Inquirer's highest restaurant rating, and Jeff was made a partner. This dynamic duo has been rolling along ever since.  
 
With Marc and Jeff at the helm, the Vetri Family has grown to a total of seven critically lauded restaurants—Vetri, Osteria (Philadelphia and Moorestown, NJ), Amis, Alla Spina, Pizzeria Vetri and the most recent, Lo Spiedo, which opened in fall of 2014. Throughout the years, Jeff’s thorough attention to detail demands all operations standards are met and remain intact. His vigilant eye ensures the signature Vetri Family philosophy and experience is always upheld for guests and employees alike.
 
In Spring 2015, Jeff will launch his first book, Front of House (Burgess Lea Press, 2015), which pulls back the curtain to show all that goes into an evening out, from staff training and systems to the proper way to deal with boorish overimbibers. 
 
Outside of the restaurants, Jeff is a committed philanthropist. In 2009, he and Marc created the Vetri Foundation for Children. The foundation’s signature initiative, “Eatiquette,” is a school lunch improvement program in which children experience the connection between healthy eating and healthy living. The program currently services 10 schools, and has served nearly 265,000 healthy meals. Additionally, the partners are the driving force behind the “Great Chefs Event,” which brings together scores of the country’s greatest chefs to raise money and awareness for the pediatric cancer charity, Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation. Jeff also serves as a member of the board of directors for Alex’s Lemonade Stand and the Community Partnership School. 
 
Jeff lives in Cherry Hill, NJ, with his wife, Melissa, and their two daughters. When he’s not working, he can be found rooting for his children’s sports team, and his beloved Union, Phillies and 76ers. 
 
24 February 5:19 pm

Just four days are left on the Philadelphia Union’s preseason schedule. Tuesday the club was back on the training ground after enjoying Monday off – the team’s second while in Florida.

But indeed it was a busy day -- aren't they all? The Union officially announced the signing of 22-year-old goalkeeper John McCarthy. A Philadelphia native -- and former La Salle and North Catholic High School standout -- McCarthy joins the Union after a stellar rookie season in USL Pro with Rochester Rhinos. He was the league’s Goalkeeper and Rookie of the Year after allowing a league-best 0.72 goals per game. McCarthy had been practicing with the team since the beginning of preseason.

The team also announced some more goalkeeping news, as Andre Blake officially settled for arthroscopic surgery after a nagging left knee injury suffered during the first phase of preseason in Florida. The move is precautionary in nature, and Blake should be back on the training grounds in four to six weeks.

Elsewhere, there was plenty going on. Maurice Edu quickly flew out to Tucson, Ariz., Sunday night to take part in a league-wide event with Continental Tire. The campaign, What Cha Got, features several MLS players racing a Lamborghini. The videos will be shown prior to MLS Games of the Week on Fox Sports. The player with the best time gets a nice prize… the car.

Elsewhere Cristian Maidana and Sebastien Le Toux spent the day on the golf course. No word on the winner.

 

another day of golf with my friend @touxi84

A photo posted by Cristian Chaco Maidana (@chacomaidana) on

Some guys decided to relax a little more at the comfort of their own home, the hotel. Courtesy of Ethan White’s Tumblr takeover, Sheanon Williams and Antoine Hoppenot relaxed in the pool. Fred, always trying to catch as much sun as possible, was on the beach.

But yes, they were back on the field Tuesday. Fernando Aristeguieta continues to get acclimated with his teammates, and there’s been plenty of two-striker looks alongside C.J. Sapong to take note of. Much of the workload Tuesday was during full-length intrasquad scrimmages that were eight minutes long.

On the injury front, Vincent Nogueira is back practicing with the team. He was held out of Saturday’s game as a precaution. Everyone else with the team is healthy and practicing. Second round draft pick Eric Bird is working through a groin injury.

In case you missed it, the Union held a team BBQ at Bright House Field, the Spring Training home of the Philadelphia Phillies (it’s also right across the street from the Union’s training facility). Before the game, Edu and Andrew Wenger had a chance to meet with Cliff Lee and the baseball Carlos Ruiz. You can see the Phillies video here, and Comcast SportsNet’s report here. Talk about Brotherly Love..

Lastly, Mo has taken over MLS SnapChat today, and in typical fashion, he’s killing it. For those of you who are perhaps a bit too old for that social media, here’s one of the highlights today with Mo, Ethan, C.J. and one unassuming Florida resident while grabbing lunch at Chipotle.

Contact Union press officer Chris Winkler at cwinkler@philadelphiaunion.com.

24 February 10:39 am

The Philadelphia Union hosted a free youth soccer clinic in Clearwater, Fla on Sunday, February 22nd. Brian Carroll, Sebastien Elney and Will Campbell helped out at the clinic! 

Photo Credits: Sideline Photos, LLC

19 February 2:54 pm

This afternoon, new striker Dzenan Catic participated in a Reddit AMA for /r/mls. For those who are not familiar with Reddit, AMA stands for Ask Me Anything. From 2-3 p.m., Dzenan answered questions ranging from being a rookie to if he likes onion rings or french fries. Click here for a total recap of his AMA! You might learn a thing or two about our new striker.

 

19 February 10:31 am

Photo credit: USA TODAY Sports Images, Jonathan Dyer

17 February 4:49 pm

It’s been a busy first 24 hours for the Union back under the Florida sun. The team practiced from 5-6:30 p.m. Monday night upon arrival in the sunshine state, then had their longest session of the preseason Tuesday morning. With a 2:30 game looming Wednesday in the IMG Suncoast Pro Classic, the team had the rest of the day off.

Tuesday, though, Jim Curtin and his staff turned the intensity up. After fitness and passing, the team broke into three groups for extensive 1on1 and 2on2 drills featuring keepers. There were goals around but it was Rais Mbolhi making plenty of good saves. Here’s a small sample as he stops Zach Pfeffer twice:

 

Brick wall doing the keeping today

A video posted by Philadelphia Union (@philaunion) on

 

Much of the last hour was given to multiple three-quarters field intra-squad scrimmages. Mbolhi’s solid play continued as he kept a clean sheet for the entire duration. C.J. Sapong got on the score sheet for the orange team.

Lineups
Orange (4-2-3-1): Mbolhi; Gaddis, Vitoria, White, Williams; Edu, Nogueira; Wenger, Maidana, Le Toux, Sapong.
Grey (4-2-3-1): McCarthy; Fabinho, Marquez, Will Campbell, Lee; Lahoud, Carroll; Pfeffer, Fred, Ayuk, Casey.

Also subbing for the gray squad was Dzenan Catic, Jimmy McLaughlin and Antoine Hoppenot. Danny Cruz was back on the practice field Tuesday, but sat out the scrimmages. Academy member Sebastian Elney (along with Will Campbell) have joined the team for this session. However, Elney sat out the scrimmages.

As mentioned earlier, the IMG Suncoast Pro Classic kicks off tomorrow. Cruz and assistant coach B.J. Callaghan were on hand for the tournament’s kick-off event last night in Lakewood Ranch. Both met with local media and signed some autographs for young fans.

 

 

From yesterday, @dannycruz5 signs autographs at IMG kickoff event.

A photo posted by Philadelphia Union (@philaunion) on

That event starts tomorrow at 12 p.m. with Columbus Crew taking on London United. The Union open at 2:30 against Costa Rica U-23s, the other half of the group. London United will be replacing TP Mazembe, who could not make the trip, and will be the Union’s second game of the tournament on Saturday night.

All games at the tournament will be streamed live at IMG’s website, and will also be available later if you can’t catch them live.

Of course, there was plenty of good news Monday. The U16s scored a dramatic late goal to defeat New York Red Bulls 1-0 and advance to the Generation Adidas Cup Final Group Stage. The late goal vaulted the team past the Red Bulls in the group, claiming the second and final spot in GA Cup from the East region. This reaction is just priceless:

They’ll pick back up over Easter weekend in Dallas, Texas for the championship.

Contact Philadelphia Union press officer Chris Winkler at cwinkler@philadelphiaunion.com.

 

13 February 4:59 pm

The Union wrapped up their second phase of training this preseason on Thursday as the team returned home to Philadelphia after 11 days in Clearwater, Fla. With Valentine’s Day weekend off, the team will return to Clearwater for the third and final phase of preseason on Monday.

Thursday’s morning session was light with the team in a hurry to catch a 2 p.m. flight out of Tampa International. The teams were split into four groups of six and played small-sided for about an hour. The green-pinnied team looked the best, comprised of Andrew Wenger, Conor Casey, Antoine Hoppenot, Brian Carroll, Sheanon Williams and Steven Vitoria.

Speaking of Vitoria, he was introduced to the media on Wednesday. You can find that transcript here. As he told all reporters in the call, he’s excited to join MLS, as Dave Zeitlin wrote about for MLSsoccer.com:

“It’s a very attractive league that’s getting more competitive, you can tell. I’m very happy to be here and part of the Union. It’s a very successful league, and it’s going to keep growing and growing.”

Elsewhere, there is a Philadelphia Union team still playing in Florida – that’s the U16s in Orlando. They opened their second leg of the Generation Adidas with a 1-0 victory over D.C. United on Friday in the event’s first match of the day.
 

The Union will play Toronto FC tomorrow at 3 p.m. and finish the tournament against New York Red Bulls on Monday. Those two teams sit atop the group with six points each after each won their first two games in the first leg of the tournament. They Union have yet to lose in the tournament, at 1-0-2. You can check out the entire run-down of the tournament here.

Yes, it is Valentine’s Day weekend and the players have the weekend off to be with their loved ones. If you’re looking for some last minute advice (and haven’t seen it yet), check out Jimmy McLaughlin and Antoine Hoppenot’s take on the holiday.

And there’s too many to share, but if you haven’t tried #SoccerGrams yet, get into them. Maurice Edu has been a favorite (there's a lot you can -- cough -- edu with his name), including two here, one submitted by a fan:

 

#SoccerGrams

A photo posted by Philadelphia Union (@philaunion) on

 

And Andrew Wenger:

Alright, enough with the love. The weekend off will be a nice break, but it will be much appreciated. The Union will play four games in 11 days starting with the Costa Rica U-23 National Team on Wednesday, Feb. 18. They'll finish it up with either a consolation or championship game in the IMG Tournament on Feb. 28. The team flies back in Clearwater Monday afternoon and we won’t be returning to Philly until March 1. Then, it’ll be less than a week until Opening Day. Hope you're ready.

Finally if you haven’t seen it, check out this cool timelapse from Bill Strobel chalking up  his new design in the Union club:

 

Bill Strobel chalking up a new design in the Union club. #PureTalent

A video posted by Philadelphia Union (@philaunion) on

 

Contact Philadelphia Union press officer Chris Winkler at cwinkler@philadelphiaunion.com.

Have a question or a comment? Leave it below.

 

 

13 February 9:46 am
Want to win a date to the home opener for you and your Valentine? Send us a picture on Twitter or Instagram (@philaunion) and use #UnionWinADate for a chance to win!
 
 

Along those lines, remember last year's #SoccerGrams? Well, they are back for Valentine's Day. Celebrate with us by sharing your best soccer-related Valentine's Day Cards. Some of our awesome fans have already started sending in theirs. We will be sending out ours as well, so be on the look out! Head over here for more information.
 
12 February 3:33 pm

Philadelphia Union will recgonize two season ticket members every Friday as we continue to countdown to the home opener. If you are interested in being involved in our #STMSpotlight please email: contests@philadelphiaunion.com.

This week we have two wonderful and dedicated season ticket members, the Klemmer and Jarrett family! 

The Klemmer Family 

 

What are you most excited about for the 2015 season?

  • Watching the team develop under the leadership of Coach Curtin.

What made you want to Re-Doop?

  • I can't imagine not Re-dooping! I started counting the days to First Kick after the last game.

Who is your favorite player and why?

  • My son Paul and I are big Nogueira fans, while my youngest wears #29 - Hoppenot. I think we love those two players for their energy on the pitch.

What is your favorite memory at PPL Park?

  • My favorite memories are watching my boys walk the players out - especially when James walked with Henry at the All-Star game and Paul with Torres in 2011.

The Jarrett Family

What are you most excited about for the 2015 season?

  • Just getting the season started, winning

What made you want to Re-Doop?

  • The vibe during the games, and our family tradition since opening day.

Who is your favorite player and why?

  • Maurice Edu - he brought something special to the Union.

What is your favorite memory at PPL Park?

  • The opening day of PPL.