Philadelphia Union

01 February 12:17 pm

Week One of preseason is in the books as the Union wrapped up its first phase of training with the annual open practice on Friday at YSC Sports. After having the bitterly cold weekend off, the team departs for sunny Tampa, Fla. Monday morning so long as the snow holds off.

But what a week it was. Initial thoughts: this team is fit. Credit the dedication of some players who basically adopted YSC as a second home during the offseason. But the same can be said for those who left Philly during the offseason. As Jim Curtin noted in a recent interview with Delaware County Daily Times writer Matthew De George, a shorter offseason helps:

“It used to be when I played you’d be off for almost four months and, I’ll say, you’d have a lot more fun. It’s become much more of a year-round, full-time thing, and I can tell by the way (the players) came in that they’re really dialed in.”

Like everyone else, it was our first look at quite a few players, including second round pick Dzenan Catic. The NAIA Player of the Year has certainly looked the part so far, showing off his prowess in front of the net. Catic has caught the eye of just about everyone including Union beat writers Kevin Kinkead and De George.

Midweek, Catic joined Greg Orlandini and Eli Pearlman-Storch on the KYW Philly Soccer Show. If you haven’t heard it, you can listen here.

Moving on, Wednesday night included a Meet the Team event at Fado’s in Center City. All team members attended the renowned soccer bar, giving the top 150 Union Rewards Program winners a chance to meet their favorite players.

Thursday was Media Day, allowing all Union players and coaches to meet with local broadcast rights’ holders. It’s also a big day for the Union video department, which shoots pretty much everything that fans see on the big screen during the year. Maurice Edu and Antoine Hoppenot got in on the fun.

 

Ain't got no worries #DOOP

A photo posted by Philadelphia Union (@philaunion) on

 

Our new photographer. Thanks, @antoinehoppenot!

A photo posted by Philadelphia Union (@philaunion) on

The fun ramped up Friday with the annual open practice. A large crowd filled into YSC to catch the Union’s final session up north, and just about every fan in attendance got a hand shake from Curtin. Jim made the rounds after practice, but also gave a few young fans the memory of a lifetime beforehand. Yes, Union twitter, Jim Curtin is the man.

Oh, and Ray Gaddis is too.

And, yes today is the Super Bowl. The guys do have the day off and you better believe there’s some rooting interest out there. Diehard San Francisco 49ers fan Richie Marquez is, let’s just say, not rooting for the Seahawks. Boston native Sheanon Williams might just have a rooting interest, too. We made the rounds and got quite a few to go on record with their Super Bowl prediction. Final tally: a tie, 9-9.

Brian Carroll Patriots 27-23
Ethan White Seahawks 35-24
Maurice Edu Seahawks By at least 10
Antoine Hoppenot Patriots 28-17
Ray Gaddis Seahawks 27-10
Danny Cruz Patriots 24-21
Austin Berry Seahawks 3-0
Richie Marquez Patriots 52-0
Jimmy McLaughlin Patriots 24-21
Sheanon Williams Patriots 28-14
Brian Sylvestre Seahawks 28-21
Dzenan Catic Seahawks 27-24
Aaron Wheeler Patriots 31-28
Zach Pfeffer Patriots 21-7
Raymond Lee Patriots 24-21
Aaron Simmons Seahawks 28-24
John McCarthy Seahawks 28-27
C.J. Sapong Seahawks 35-28

There are a couple of other big games Sunday to note. Another chapter of the Old Firm rivalry was written Sunday morning, with Celtic beating Rangers 2-0. Maurice Edu, the former Rangers player, was on set with Fox Sports 1 to analyze the game. As usual, Mo killed it. Also coming up at 2:30 Eastern, Rais Mbolhi and Algeria take on Ivory Coast in the 2015 African Cup of Nations quarterfinals. The winner will play the Democratic Republic of Congo on Wednesday, Feb. 4.

Lastly, there’s just so much this week, but be sure to check out first week reactions from Edu, Catic, C.J. Sapong and Sebastien Le Toux. Also, a look at the first week of preseason Through Ben’s Bifocals.

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

 

27 January 3:54 pm

A little snow wasn’t going to get in the way for the Union on Tuesday, as the team hit the training facility at YSC for the fifth day in a row. While much of the northeast was under intense snow fall, only a few flurries hit the Philly area, allowing the Union to further prepare for the 2015 season.

But the sentiment amongst the players was simple: Monday can’t get here soon enough. The team is just six days away from flying down to Clearwater, Fla. for Spring Training, but who’s counting?

But until then, there’s plenty of work to be done. That continued Tuesday, the second day of an increased workload for Jim Curtin’s squad, which was again tested physically for the bulk of the 90-minute practice. It included 9v9 matches and a rotating group set aside for fitness with strength and conditioning coach Kevin Miller. Still, the players look as fit as can be despite being so early in the preseason, as highlighted by Union beat writer Matt De George.

Far away from the snow in Malabo, the capital city of Equatorial Guinea, Union goalkeeper Rais Mbolhi led Algeria to a 2-0 win over Senegal in Group C of the 2015 African Cup of Nations. The win gave Algeria six points in group stage, which advanced the Fennecs into the quarterfinals. They'll play the winner of a gridlocked Group D on Sunday, Feb. 1, which will be determined tomorrow.

As Curtin admitted after practice, it was a surprise to actually get into the facility Tuesday given the prior weather forecasts. The team took full advantage of it.

 

Snow is not stopping us today. #DOOP

A photo posted by Philadelphia Union (@philaunion) on

 

Also taking advantage of the practice was fourth round SuperDraft pick Raymond Lee, who showed some aerial prowess during this drill:

 

Draftee Raymond Lee shows off his aerial skills.

Um vídeo publicado por Philadelphia Union (@philaunion) em

 

Absent from practice Tuesday were academy members Sebastian Elney and Sean Wilson. Currently playing for the U18s, they were called up to the U.S. Men’s National Team by head coach Javier Perez and will miss the rest of the week. The team will play in the 2015 Copa Chivas Tournament in Guadalajara, Mexico from Jan. 30 to Feb. 7 if they can reach the final.

Also, in case you missed it yesterday, Sheanon Williams took some time after practice to talk with Union beat writer Dave Zeitlin. He wants to win, no questions asked.

 

One thing on Sheanon's mind: winning

A video posted by Philadelphia Union (@philaunion) on

 

With no further weather advisories this week, the team will go on as scheduled tomorrow and Thursday at YSC. Fans interested in dropping in on the action can attend Friday for the annual open practice, held from 12-2 p.m.

 

Contact Philadelphia Union writer Chris Winkler at cwinkler@philadelphiaunion.com

26 January 7:34 pm

There were a lot of new faces (and new hairstyles, but we’ll get into that) when the Union kicked off preseason Monday morning at YSC Sports in Wayne.

Actually, preseason started late last week with players reporting for physicals and strength training sessions, but ball work featuring short sided drills, mini 7v7 matches and more was on display.

This year’s preseason roster features 35 players, but three weren’t at today’s practice as goalkeeper Rais Mbolhi, midfielder Brian Carroll and defender Carlos Valdes were absent from today’s proceedings.

Mbolhi is the obvious one as he’s been with the Algerian national team for weeks helping that nation chase an Africa Cup of Nations title. Speaking of which, Mbolhi and the Fennecs (Foxes) sit on three points with one more group match against Senegal this Tuesday.

For Carroll, it was personal reasons but the elephant in the room was the whereabouts of Valdes given the swirling rumors of a desire to leave the club. Valdes did appear later in the day at training but in street clothes to meet with team officials, one of which was technical director Chris Albright.

Following those discussions, Albright did confirm that there is an “negotiation ongoing” for the FIFA World Cup veteran. MLSSoccer.com writer Dave Zeitlin explains the situation perfectly which you can check out here.

Moving on…

The other 32 players in attendance today looked sharp in ball work and what we think fans coming out to Friday’s open practice (12-2 p.m.) will see is that every player is extremely fit. No one came into camp sluggish which certainly will make things interesting as the thinning of the herd happens before Monday’s flight to warmer temperatures in Clearwater, Fla.

Union midfielder Danny Cruz said as much today in an interview with media members:

“Everyone has bought in [to what head coach Jim Curtin] wants from us,” Cruz said. “So everyone even the guys on trial came in really fit and ready. It’s going to be a big preseason for us, and things are hopefully going to go in the right direction; we know what we need to do and it’s obviously playoffs or bust for us this season.”

If you haven’t seen the complete list of players in camp, you can check that out here.

So earlier we mentioned hairstyles as we figured you may not recognize some of the players right now. So the rundown of new-do’s is as follows:

  • Union goalkeeper Andre Blake is working the low fade
  • Forward Antoine Hoppenot looks as though he’s taking tips from D.C. midfielder Chris Rolfe

But our personal favorite was captured by Delco Daily Times reporter Matt DeGeorge:

Last but not least…

Given the impending “Snowmageddon” set to befall the Greater Philadelphia Region, Tuesday’s training session could be canceled at YSC Sports…however the snow did bring about this pretty sweet offer for fans (click the graphic to learn more):

And if there is a cancellation of training for Tuesday, Union defender Ray Gaddis has the right idea of what to do given the long months or rigorous training ahead before the March 7 opener against Colorado at PPL Park (4 p.m. ticket link?)

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

20 January 1:26 pm

Celebrating "True Colors"

Philadelphia Union Foundation Presents the 3rd Annual Cocktails & Cleats presented by Cozen O’Connor

  • Date: March 11, 2015

  • Location: Vie, Philadelphia

  • Time: 6:00 P.M., 600 North Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA 19130

  • Attire:  Festive Cocktail Attire (Sport the Blue & Gold Colors)

Meet Philadelphia Union Players + Technical Staff | Complimentary Cocktail Hour | Top Shelf Bar | Plated Dinner | Silent & Live Auction | Valet Parking

The Foundation programming is empowering the youth of Chester & Greater Philadelphia Area.  Join us on our mission to bridge the gap and make connections for the kids we love.

TO PURCHASE TICKETS OR SPONSORSHIP CLICK HERE

For more information about Cocktails & Cleats contact foundation@philadelphiaunion.com or call event producer, Kathy Swanson, 973-796-4332

We look forward to seeing you on March 11, 2015! 

 

 

08 January 10:39 am

The Philadelphia Union Foundation will be heavily involved with the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Convention this year. The convention will be held at the Pennsylvania Convention Center on 1101 Arch Street, Philadelphia, PA.

Below is a look at some of the upcoming events on the Foundation calendar. To learn more or to get involved, contact the Philadelphia Union Foundation at foundation@philadelphiaunion.com

Or visit our website, philadelphiaunion.com/foundation.

Wednesday, January 14

The Philadelphia Union Foundation will team up with MLS WORKS and potential MLS Draftees at Philabundance in South Philly. Volunteers from each organization will pack and sort food for various homeless shelters and food banks in the area. MLS WORKS and the Philadelphia Union Foundation will present a combination donation to Philabundance.

Saturday, January 17

Six coaches from the region are being awarded full scholarships to this year’s NSCAA convention through a collaboration between NSCAA Foundation and the Philadelphia Union Foundation. These coaches will be recognized at the Philadelphia Union Foundation's presentation held by Rick Jacobs, Executive Director of the Foundation, at 2:15 p.m. in Convention Center Room 201 A. The presentation will be followed by a meet and greet with light refreshments.

More on the National Soccer Coaches Association of America: https://www.nscaa.com/convention

 

17 December 3:46 pm

So here we are.

After five weeks and well over 1k in total votes, we have our five finalists in the Philadelphia Union #UnionTop10. Thanks to everyone who voted for the five plays that will now be ranked in order to determine the best play – as voted by you – of the season.

Without further ado, here are the plays in order. Check them out and vote for your favorite. Voting ends this Friday, Dec. 19 where we’ll announce the winner via social media.

So will it be…

Week 1: Andrew Wenger’s first Union goal.

It was the finish from Wenger that we love, but don’t forget the pass from Vincent Nogueira to set the whole thing up.

Week 2: Zach Pfeffer’s first goal for the Union.

It was a goal five years in the making that came on the final day of the Union season. Perfectly timed run, met a perfectly timed past for the first League goal ever for the Union’s first ever homegrown player.

Week 3: Andrew Wenger’s goal against San Jose

The touch to create space and the rocket past Earthquakes goalkeeper Jon Busch shook up San Jose and made for a wild night and commanding 4-2 result for the Union at PPL Park.

Week 4: Zac MacMath PK saves in U.S. Open Cup semifinals

Arguably MacMath’s most memorable performance in a Union uniform making a pair of monster saves in a penalty kick shootout against FC Dallas to secure the Union’s first trip to a major final.

Week 5: Zac MacMath PK stops on Chicago’s Mike Magee

In back-to-back weeks, you picked a MacMath save and after watching the footage, we can see why. He got his hands on a pair of shots from the former MLS MVP to preserve a precious point on the road.

Which one reigns supreme in 2014? Tell us by casting your vote below.

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

17 December 8:55 am

This year, the Philadelphia Union Foundation partnered with Southeastern Pennsylvania Soccer Hall of Fame for the annual Coats for Chester Coat Drive. A grand total of 2,115 coats were donated to four separate locations in the Chester area: The Bernadine Center, City Team Ministries, Mount Pleasant Church, and St. Katharine Drexel.

On Friday, December 12th, the coats were distributed with the help of the Father Judge Men’s soccer team. At each stop, the crew was welcomed with much gratitude. At one of the final stops, the volunteers were greeted by Darla McCready, from City Team Ministries, whom spoke to the gratitude felt by those that use the coats. It was an extremely successful event that will help to keep members of the community warm this upcoming winter season.

15 December 11:03 am

With its roots deep in the community, the Philadelphia Union Foundation strives to serve as a helping hand to in not only the city of Chester, but in the Greater Philadelphia region. 

Below is a look at some of the recent and upcoming events on the Foundation calendar. To learn more or to get involved, contact the Philadelphia Union Foundation at foundation@philadelphiaunion.com

Or visit our website, philadelphiaunion.com/foundation.

 

Holiday Toy Drive and Boys & Girls Club Holiday Party

When: Nov. 1-Dec. 15

Union and Foundation collected toys for area Chester children. Thanks to donations, the Union surpassed its goal of 300 toys.

All toys will be distributed to the Boys & Girls Club of Chester for their Holiday Party: http://boysgirlsclubchester.com/index.php

Last year, this toy drive supplied all of “Santa’s Gifts” for the party.

SoB Help Kick Hunger

On Saturday, Dec. 13 the Union's vocal supporters group the Sons of Ben held its annual Help Kick Hunger event at Brauhaus Schmitz (8th and South Sts., Philadelphia).  This is the groups' big fundraising event that they do every year as they look to donate as much food and money to Chester's Bernadine Center ahead of the holiday season.  For more information of the Sons of Ben and how you can get involved, visit the Sons of Ben website.

Soccer 101

With the Soccer 101 initiative, the Philadelphia Union Foundation infiltrates Chester Charter School for the Arts’ physical education classes for two days.

Crew of coaches teach drills, skills and life-skills all through the game of soccer, working with kids ages 5-14.

City Team Ministries Food Sorting/Packing

Lead by food service corporation Ovations, the Union front office will once again take part in City Team ministries food drive by assisting with sorting and packing donated food items.

Location: City Team Ministries, 634 Sproul St, Chester, Pa. 19013

Date: TBD. For more information, http://www.cityteam.org/ or visit the Union Foundation website: philadelphiaunion.com/foundation.

Toyota Food Drive

On Dec. 12 from 8:30 a.m.-3:00 p.m., members from the Union Corporate Partnerships department and Technical team connected with the other Philly sports teams down at the Philabundance warehouse to help with a morning of loading and sorting donated foods. The food was then driven from the collection spot, by Toyota vehicles, to the warehouse. Along with a host of Union front office types, Union midfielders Danny Cruz and Sebastien Le Toux donated their time for this endeavor. 

SEPA Hall of Fame Coat Drive

South Eastern PA Soccer Hall of Fame has collected coats since mid-October with a goal of delivering 2,000 coats by the end of its campaign. The collection started at the pre-game festivities of two October Union home games. The coats were distributed on Dec. 12 to several locations in Chester including: Bernadine Center and St. Katherine’s of Drexel Church.

Philabundance Community Service around MLS SuperDraft

This year’s community project in association with the MLS Draft will take place at the Philabundance warehouse in South Philly. Community Relations Conference attendees along with MLS draftees will make their way to the location on Jan. 14 at 12 p.m. to assist in the massive food sorting and packing assembly line that Philabundance runs. MLS W.O.R.K.S. and Philadelphia Union Foundation will make a donation to Philabundance for the efforts in eliminating hunger in Philadelphia.

 

10 December 1:39 pm

It’s week five of the #UnionTop10, just one more week before you select the Final Five winners.

Last week in Week No. 4, it was this pairing between Zac MacMath’s heroic saves in the U.S. Open Cup semifinal against FC Dallas that was matched up against the atmosphere of the fans in attendance in September’s U.S. Open Cup final.

After the dust settled, it was MacMath and his pair of stops against Blas Perez and Victor Ulloa that moved on with nearly 62 percent of the vote. While many of you commented on Facebook regarding the unforgettable nature of the USOC finals atmosphere at PPL Park, MacMath and his efforts will move on.

Coincidentally enough, it’s a pair of saves that are looking to move in this final week of voting as a pair of memorable stops kept hope alive in both matches for the Philadelphia Union. First up, we offer these back-to-back clearances off the line from Carlos Valdes against D.C. United. If you can’t recall this one, so after saving an attempt from Conor Casey, United goalkeeper Bill Hamid quickly restarts play with a long service to Fabian Espindola.

Espindola gets in clean on goal and looks as if his well-placed shot by Zac MacMath was going in until...

So it’s a pair of beauties from Valdes against another huge MacMath moment when he secured the Union a point in the final moments of the club’s match against Chicago earlier this season. On a windy April day and with time winding down, MacMath came up huge against at the time the reigning MLS MVP in Fire midfielder Mike Magee.

Not once, but twice…

Last pairing before YOU select the “Final Five.” Will it be Valdes coming up clutch against United or MacMath coming up huge against Chicago to preserve a point on the road? Vote below and then for the last time when we place the five finalists in order for you to decide the definitive best play of 2014; as always thanks to those that have voted and tell us why you picked who you did in the comments below. Voting  this week is open until next Tuesday, Dec. 16.

Voting window for the Final Five pairings will open Wednesday, Dec. 17 and close with a champion moment crowned on Friday, Dec. 19.

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

04 December 12:38 pm
 

We’re now three weeks into the #UnionTop10 after Andrew Wenger won for the second time by beating Danny Cruz his no-angle blast with 76 percent of the vote to move into the Final Five.

Wenger now owns two spots in the Final Five, after edging Sebastien Le Toux in Week No. 1 with his first ever goal for the Union. Another first goal won Week No. 2 as Zach Pfeffer joined the party with his first career MLS goal that knocked off veteran Conor Casey.

Moving on to Week No. 4, we have a pair of moments from the team’s breathtaking run during the 2014 U.S. Open Cup. It’s the heroics of Zac MacMath in the semifinals against FC Dallas versus the atmosphere at PPL Park for the final against Seattle Sounders FC.

First up is MacMath. Of course if it wasn’t for his effort in the semifinals, the Union wouldn’t have had the opportunity to play in the championship one month later. MacMath made five saves as the Union forced penalties after 120 hard-fought minutes. But it was his performance there that stole the show. First it was against Blas Perez to give the Union the advantage. Next it was against Victor Ulloa to clinch it.

MacMath's penalty stopping abilities have been well-documented this year, highlighted by stopping each of the first three attempts he saw in MLS this season. By season's end, only Nick Rimando had stopped more penalties. So what makes this so special is the fact MacMath was already in his opponents' head as soon as the game was to be decided by penalties. After getting beat to each side on the first two attempts, MacMath was all over Perez's attempt with a diving stop to his right. His team didn't let him down, scoring on each of their four attempts at it was up Ulloa to score to keep the game going.

And it led to this...

The first finals appearance in team history. With a trophy on the line, the pre-game buzz surrounding the stadium was palpable. Then the players came out of the tunnel for what was arguably the best pre-game atmosphere in PPL Park history. And it never quit, as the Union pushed on deep into extra time. We managed to find video with no voice over so you can really hear the emotion that bellowed from every seat that night. The video is roughly 10 minutes in length, but we don't think you need to watch that much (unless of course you really want to) to get the feeling of just how loud PPL Park was and another reason what soccer is here to stay in the Greater Philadelphia region.

So now it's on you the fans. What did you like more? Was not one, but two penalty saves enough for you?

Or can you believe the scene at PPL Park for the club's first ever appearance in a championship? Vote now and tell us why in the comment section below.

And thanks for all of the votes and keep them coming. We're just two more weeks away from the Final Five.

Contact Union writer Chris Winkler at cwinkler@philadelphiaunion.com