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.
Choosing the very top moment of Philadelphia Union’s historic inaugural season was no easy task, but it really only came down to two options: The first win in franchise history in the club’s Home Opener or the opening of PPL Park. Arguments for both milestones can be made with merit, but if you’ve been following our Top 10 in 2010 countdown you know that Sebastien Le Toux’s hat trick at Lincoln Financial Field already took the silver medal. So why does the first-ever match along the Chester Waterfront reign supreme?
Three words: Home, sweet home.
The Union’s first home game on April 10 may have officially marked the club’s arrival in Philadelphia, but the Sports Complex never really felt like home. June 27, 2010 was the day Philadelphia soccer fans arrived in their new digs for the very first time and pronounced themselves home at last -- and to stay. As the ninth soccer-specific stadium in Major League Soccer, PPL Park signified the league’s continued momentum, yet another physical reminder of soccer’s increasing importance amidst the crowded professional sports landscape in the U.S. For Union fans, though, the significance was more personal -- many had waited as long as 15 years since the inception of MLS for a team in Philadelphia.
[inline_node:288223]While the Union were already two matches into their home schedule, there’s nothing quite like a packed house at a venue built for soccer. And PPL Park wasn’t just built for soccer -- it was custom-tailored for the Union and their adoring fan base. Nestled into a corner formed by the Commodore Barry Bridge and Delaware River, the region’s spanking new soccer palace is a spectacle to behold, featuring beautiful river views, pristine sight lines, and The River End, a 2,000 seat area in the south end designed specifically for the always-standing, never-silent Sons of Ben.
With six weeks between home games and years of build-up, the stage was set. Individual tickets for the nationally televised rematch with Seattle Sounders FC were snapped up within five hours and the building was electric despite a stifling heat wave. The only way the historic moment could’ve been spoiled was by a disappointing result.
PHOTOS: PPL Park Opener
In the 44th minute, that distinct possibility was forced into the minds of every fan in attendance when Pat Noonan found himself in perfect position to finish a redirected ball off the foot of Fredy Montero. Seattle had struck first, but glory was just around the corner for the home side.
After the break, Alejandro Moreno drew a critical foul in the area to set up a penalty kick for Philadelphia’s leading scorer, Le Toux. The club’s Best XI honoree didn’t miss from the spot all season, and he couldn’t have placed a more perfect ball to equalize in the 55th minute.
[inline_node:288221]The definitive turning point of the affair came five minutes later, however, with goalkeeper Chris Seitz playing the role of hero. Noonan had a chance for a brace after Seattle drew a PK of their own, but Seitz guessed right and smothered a poorly-taken penalty. A tremendous surge of relief and elation emanated throughout the stadium as captain Danny Califf jumped on Seitz. The score was still deadlocked at one goal apiece, but the match was now Philadelphia’s to win.
Keller did his best to stand in the way of a storybook opening with a number of stellar denials, but the Union applied too much second half pressure and were rewarded again in the 79th minute when Le Toux’s cross from the right somehow navigated its way through a sea of bodies in the area to Fred at the far post. The Brazilian playmaker calmly slotted home the go-ahead tally before promptly flipping his jersey over his head in celebration.
Rookie Danny Mwanga would provide an exclamation mark goal minutes later off another assist from Le Toux, and suddenly the rout was on. The final score only read 3-1, but the victory was decisive and the performance inspiring. Revenge from the club’s first loss had been exacted, and more importantly PPL Park had been properly unveiled -- with a win. The expansion Union were still undefeated at home.
June 27 is a day no Philadelphia soccer fan will forget. Extraordinary patience was rewarded in the form of a tangible symbol of Philadelphia Union’s existence. Peter Nowak’s side were no longer wanderers, instead able to proudly call PPL Park home.
And what a home it'll be for many years to come.
WATCH: FULL MATCH HIGHLIGHTS
Top 10 in 2010: