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.
Interestingly enough, we enter the top three of our Top 10 in 2010 countdown with a match that meant nothing in the standings. Playoff hopes were long since extinguished when the Union topped the Eastern Conference leading New York Red Bulls 2-1 in the club’s home finale, but try convincing any fan in attendance that a victory wasn’t important.
There were a few factors in play that made the match feel more significant than it really was in the grand scheme of the MLS season. With roughly five months until the Union would play at PPL Park again, nobody wanted to taste defeat for that long - especially not to a division rival, the club’s closest in proximity and arguably the fiercest. Then there was the visiting supporters influence, with the largest contingent in PPL Park’s short history in attendance. Mix in a sold out crowd and pre-arranged post-game fireworks, not to mention players dedicating the match to the fans, and it’s understandable that some were deeming it the Union’s MLS Cup.
[inline_node:288037]The Red Bulls were without Thierry Henry, but they hadn’t loss in five matches -- four of which came against playoff-bound squads -- and they dominated the LA Galaxy at the Home Depot Center without their superstar Designated Player a few weeks prior. Rafa Márquez headlined a dangerous squad that also featured Juan Pablo Ángel, Joel Lindpere, Rookie of the Year finalist Tim Ream, and an in-form Dane Richards.
The anticipation was there, but the match itself needed to live up to its billing. And did it ever.
Philadelphia came out and dominated New York in the first half, with first half goals from Fred and Michael Orozco Fiscal punctuating one of the finest halves of the season for Peter Nowak’s side. It was shaping up to be the perfect ending - until it almost fell apart.
New York were rejuvenated after the interval, cutting the deficit in half in the 48th minute on a goal from Danleigh Borman. The remainder of the match proved to be a back-and-forth affair, before the evening was nearly spoiled in the dying moments of stoppage time.
With seconds remaining, Lindpere placed a well-taken corner onto the head of Juan Agudelo, which the 17-year-old proceeded to direct on goal with sufficient pace. Goalkeeper Brad Knighton was a step out of position to make the save, but an unlikely hero emerged to save the day. Fred’s goal line clearance preserved all three points for the Union, and the perfect ending was complete – in fact, it was better for all the drama and tension.
[inline_node:288038]Fireworks ensued and they felt more than justified. Nowak and the players thanked the fans for their unwavering support as excitement for 2011 brimmed. 2010 wasn’t yet complete with the season finale in Columbus looming eight days later, but optimism for the future was at an all-time high. The Union weren’t playoff bound, but they had proven against New York -- and in a 1-0 loss to LA the match before -- that they could play with anyone.
Beating the Red Bulls and preventing them from clinching the Eastern Conference crown at PPL Park was without question an ideal way to cap the home portion of the season. But this night was about more. A season’s worth of memories were created together and a tight-knit relationship was formed between the players and fans. And then there was the underlying theme of the evening: The long and promising road ahead.
October 16 was a perfect ending, but in reality it was only the end of a new beginning. And that, more than anything else, is what made the moment.
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Top 10 in 2010: