Sunday, June 27, 2010 marked a historic day for the Philadelphia Union and the entire Philadelphia region. Oh, what a day it was.
The club’s new soccer-specific stadium, PPL Park, officially opened in front of a packed house of 18,755 against the Seattle Sounders. Festivities started hours before arguably the most anticipated match in Philadelphia soccer history, and the incredible night was capped off with the Union avenging an early-season loss against Seattle by dominating the Sounders 3-1.
The win and, perhaps even more importantly, the type of win were just what Philadelphia needed.
“For us to come out after the break and have the performance that we did on Sunday was huge,” said Union keeper Chris Seitz, who stopped the potential game-tying penalty kick in the middle of the second half. “Not only huge for us and our confidence, but huge for the city and our fans.”
The excitement and energy surrounding the new stadium and the Philadelphia Union did not stop when the game ended. The buzz of opening night and many more home games to come this season was tangible. Rookie forward Danny Mwanga, who scored the third Union goal on Sunday, was just as excited as the fans to finally have a new home.
“Being able to play in our new stadium, in front of our fans, against a team we lost to in the beginning of the season due to a couple of mistakes, and being able to beat them here, at our new stadium, kind of gave us motivation to prove that we’re going in the right direction,” Mwanga said after the match.
With the opening of PPL Park less than a week removed, fans and players are looking forward to the next home game against San Jose on July 10. However, as excited as they are about the victory and their new home, the Union must now focus 100 perfect of their energy on the task immediately ahead: beating Chivas USA on the road. The Union have struggled away from home so far this season, so you can bet they won’t be complacent after beating Seattle.
But having exerted so much energy and emotion six days ago, it won't be easy for the Union to travel across the country and play a team that is in last place in the Western Conference. With that said, if the Union play the way they’re capable of playing, they should have no trouble getting three points against a below-average side.
“I think we can take the momentum that we have now from the home game and the three points that we got,” said Seitz. “There’s really no reason why we can’t go and take three points in LA.”
“We definitely are correcting the mistakes that we (made) at the beginning,” added Mwanga. “We are just hoping to keep following in the same direction and getting better and better and hopefully make it to the playoffs this season."
A win at the Home Depot Center on Saturday would go a long way towards achieving that very attainable goal.