philadelphiaunion.com is counting down the top 10 moments of the Union’s inaugural season as part of our Top 10 in 2010 series. It wasn’t easy narrowing down a historic season filled with countless memories, but here’s our best attempt. Feel free to leave your reactions or personal memories in the comments section below.
As we approach the top three in our Top 10 in 2010 countdown, there’s one more moment that didn’t involve a full three points for the Union. It might as well have, though.
Three elements in particular made Philadelphia’s 1-1 draw vs. FC Dallas at Lincoln Financial Field so memorable: A thrilling ending, the emergence of a young star, and the apparent refusal to lose at home, at least for the time being.
The Union were only 1-5-0 overall, but they were still undefeated at home following a 3-2 victory against D.C. United in the club’s Home Opener more than a month prior. Peter Nowak’s side thoroughly outplayed FC Dallas -- a team that only lost four regular season matches all season -- registering a whopping 16 shots on goal compared to only six for FCD. But Goalkeeper of the Year finalist Kevin Hartman was in stellar form, making save after save, many acrobatic and improbable. The Union just couldn’t break through, yet they needed to after Brek Shea netted a stunning goal from distance in the 13th minute.
[inline_node:287980]There’s a certain amount of pride associated with avoiding defeat at home. Real Salt Lake are the gold standard, shattering the MLS home unbeaten record this season and ending the season with a streak of 25 matches still in tact. Life was obviously tougher for a young franchise like the Union, but in a way that made it even more important to establish the distinct advantage of playing on home soil. The Union didn’t yet have the luxury of playing in their permanent home, PPL Park, but fans are what really define “home.”
Philadelphia were on the verge of dropping their home invincibility on May 15 when an 18-year-old striker from Oregon State University entered the match in the 81st minute. Danny Mwanga, the number one overall pick in the 2010 SuperDraft, was no ordinary rookie, but he had been playing like one to start the season. That all changed with alacrity.
With the final seconds of stoppage time ticking away, Shea Salinas lofted a desperation ball with all but several players from each side converging in the area. Deflecting away from the cluster, there was Mwanga, and he didn’t hesitate. Taking one step forward, the Congolese striker one-timed a rocket past Hartman, sending over 25,000 fans into a frenzy.
Mwanga ran to the sideline and embraced Nowak, the man who had identified him and put his faith in the sophomore sensation. It was a touching gesture - the moment that launched Mwanga’s career intersecting with the man who afforded him the opportunity. The Rookie of the Year finalist would go on to tally in stoppage time in the next two matches, finishing with seven goals and four assists on the season.
[inline_node:287979]One well struck equalizer had a profound impact, boosting the confidence of an emerging superstar, handing the Union a point against top competition with a long season ahead, and extending the magic that had pervaded Lincoln Financial Field in the club’s first home game. This wasn’t a lucky goal against the run of play, either. Philadelphia had earned a result, with tension mounting after each Hartman denial.
Then, of course, there was the home factor. The Union faithful would have to wait a seemingly endless month and a half before the next home match, which would mark the historic opening of PPL Park. Now, thanks to the golden right foot of Mwanga, MLS’ newest franchise would christen their new soccer palace still undefeated at home.
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Top 10 in 2010: