From the moment Stefani Miglioranzi arrived in Philadelphia, his commitment to the Union was evident.
It has been a wild and enjoyable ride ever since, despite plenty of frustrating moments in the club's inaugural season.
Aside from cultivating a large crop of young talent, the obvious bond between the players and fans is one reason the year should be considered a success even with playoff hopes extinguishing by the match.
“To see the fans so excited even before the team ever played a game was something special,” said Miglioranzi, who celebrated his 33rd birthday Monday. “They have been incredibly supportive all season through all the ups and downs. I have been impressed with how knowledgeable the fans are, and having them behind us is amazing because we know we can count on them.”
Miglioranzi entered the season-opening match at Seattle in the 46th minute, and the veteran midfielder has been a steadying influence as a starter ever since. His experience has been valuable for the club, especially the younger players.
“I think we have made some big progress,” said Miglioranzi, who was acquired by the Union in the Expansion Draft. “Our club has really come together, and we easily could have some more points. We have had some tough breaks this season. We’re getting better and we want to finish strong.”
In the meantime, Miglioranzi is treating each game, each training session, the same – with a high level of intensity.
“Working hard is something that will help you get better,” Miglioranzi said. “If you train hard, you’ll be more prepared. I have always prepared this way with the next game being the most important one. This club here has been working so hard from the first day. That’s why when we had chances for more points, and some things didn’t go our way, we were a little frustrated. But we always bounced back and moved on to the next day, trying to improve.”
After being selected by the Chicago Fire with the last pick (36th overall) in the 1999 MLS SuperDraft, Miglioranzi turned down an offer from the MLS side in favor of a three-year contract from Portsmouth following a three-month trial with Everton. Miglioranzi played three seasons for the then-English Premier League side.
Miglioranzi signed with Swindon Town of the English Division Two in 2002 after appearing in 126 league games and scoring nine goals in four seasons.
After signing with the L.A. Galaxy in ’06, Miglioranzi was traded to the Columbus Crew, where he would win an MLS Cup in ’08. He started in 20 of 23 games last season.
Getting this opportunity to join the Union came at the right time.
“I was very excited because of the strength of the organization from Nick Sakiewicz to Manager Peter Nowak, and everyone involved,” Miglioranzi said. “This is a first-class organization all the way. The talent level is very impressive, and we will only get better. I have had an enjoyable season here. It has been all positive.”
With the future looking even brighter.
“The young players we have are already talented, and they have made huge strides,” Miglioranzi said. “I think the fans have a whole lot to look forward to in the coming years here.”