League's elite enjoy City of Brotherly Love prior to match vs. Chelsea FC
Every single player on the 2012 MLS All-Star roster has played at PPL Park.
Most have played league games in Chester. Others have played with the United States National Team.
But following Tuesday’s training session, the opinions seemed to be the same – PPL Park is a fun place to play.
“Beautiful stadium. You couldn’t ask for a better backdrop with the river right there,” said DC United forward Chris Pontius, who played at PPL Park just last month. “It’s perfect for the United States, and for this league. It suits soccer and this league really well. With the fans here, it gets very loud. DC came to play at a packed house and it was really loud. It’s always a really good environment, even as an opposing team, to come and play in.”
Chivas USA goalkeeper Dan Kennedy played at PPL Park in June, 2011.
“I have a couple of good friends that come from Philly and have been involved in the soccer community, and everybody raves about [PPL Park],” said Kennedy. “The fan support when I played here last year was just fantastic. So I expect Wednesday is just going to have overwhelming support for the game. It’s a bit of a celebration of the game. You know there will be Chelsea fans, but I think there will be a lot of MLS fans here too.”
Most of this year’s All-Stars have been to Philadelphia before, but only for short amounts of time.
Despite training sessions, appearances, and media duties, the players are trying to spend some time in Center City, Philadelphia this week.
“We walked around a little bit, it’s a beautiful city,” said Sporting Kansas City midfielder Graham Zusi. “Obviously the historic aspect of it is pretty cool as well, seeing some of those old buildings, and the Liberty Bell. We’ve just been walking around and trying to soak it in as much as possible.”
“I live in a small beach town in Southern California, so I don’t get that big city vibe,” explained Kennedy. “It’s definitely a ‘vibe’. When you walk outside, you feel the rush, you go get a cup of coffee or an iced tea and you walk around, and there’s just a good energy to it. Great food, really nice people, it has all the makings for a really nice All-Star week.”
Pontius explained that most of the D.C. guys haven’t gotten a chance to see downtown Philadelphia.
“Whenever we come here we always stay a little bit outside of the city, so it’s nice to be downtown and see what it’s like,” Pontius said. “I’ve gotten out to dinner, and walked around. We went to Rittenhouse Square and just sat in the park to take it all in. It’s a nice city.”
And the players are well aware of the Sons of Ben as well. They’ve experienced the Union’s rowdy supporters and they’re hoping to be on their good side on Wednesday.
“I hope they don’t boo me or anything,” joked Pontius. “I think this might be the only game where they don’t boo me.”
“Hopefully I can gain some supporters here,” laughed Zusi, who has played at PPL Park twice in recent weeks. “It hasn’t been too welcoming in the past for me, but hopefully it’s different this time.”
Kennedy says the River End creates a great atmosphere for both teams.
“Usually you come here and you get heckled, and I actually really enjoy that part of the game,” said the Chivas USA goalkeeper. “That helps me get up for games. To have them support us will be something special too.”