The euphoric atmosphere began well before the 5:00 p.m. scheduled start time.
In the parking lots outside the beautiful $122 million PPL Park, the chants of
Sons of Ben supporters could be heard loud and clear. Other Union fans were
donning scarves, jerseys and hats and chanting along with the SOBs.
Keep in mind that this was around 1:00.
Yes, this fan base has been waiting a long, long, long time for Major League Soccer.
Well, they got it on Sunday and boy did the Union deliver with a scintillating 3-1 victory before an overflow crowd of 18,755.
Fred scored what wound up being the game-winning goal in the 79th minute while Sebastien Le Toux and rookie Danny Mwanga each added a goal in the landmark victory.
“To win that game for them for the first time in our new stadium, it was just the best feeling ever,” said Mwanga, who scored his fourth goal this season. “The fans were excited from the start, and we could feel it on the field.”
Confetti came pouring down during the player introductions. Fireworks went off.
And the Union kept pace by playing their best half of the season after falling behind 1-0 at intermission.
It was a true party in the postgame celebration.
A number of Union players could be seen high-fiving the fans who had waited so patiently for this moment.
“Of course, we wanted to win this game for them,” said defender Danny Califf. “They have been behind us from the start and kept supporting us. I’m so happy we were able to give them such a great effort in the second half to get the three points. We want to keep it going and build on this for the rest of the season. I think we have a very good team. I go into every game thinking we should win.”
So does team manager Peter Nowak.
To see this type of performance was especially pleasing in the debut of the new stadium.
“It was a historical moment for all of us,” Nowak said. “The place was just amazing.”
Midfielder Stefani Miglioranzi has played in a number of big games through the years in MLS. At 32, he’s the elder statesman on the club.
Seeing this type of electricity at their home stadium was thrilling.
“It was an incredible setup, and the fans were so great,” Miglioranzi said. “We thank them for all they did today. They helped to really make it a big home advantage for us. We could feel it on the field. I felt it. At times, I had goosebumps from the reaction of the fans.”
The loudest cheer may have come on Seitz’s clutch diving save on Pat Noonan’s penalty kick attempt in the 60th minute.
From there, it was all Union all the time with the decibel level rising by the minute.
“The fans were amazing,” Seitz said. “They were loud the entire game. This is going to be a great, great place for us to play. I think we have been all looking forward to this. I could feel the chants of the crowd. It was something special to be a part of this.”
This was step one.
So many more special moments are sure to be made at PPL Park.
The next chance will come July 10 against the San Jose Earthquakes.
“The stadium is fantastic, and I think we’ll be energized all season playing here,” Califf said. “It was the perfect start and we need to keep it going. I think the excitement leading up to this debut of the stadium was right on. It was a great place. Most importantly, we got the first win. I think we’ll have a whole lot more down the road.”
If tonight was any indication, he’s right.