Over the next two weeks, philadelphiaunion.com will be 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.
The only factor keeping #6 in our Top 10 in 2010 countdown from moving into the top three is the 2-0 scoreline in favor of the opposition. Making the top five required a true celebratory moment, perhaps the only ingredient lacked by the Union’s first match in franchise history.
mistake: This was a moment of historic proportions. MLS had gone 14 years
without a team in Philadelphia, one of the largest markets in the country. It
wasn’t for lack of effort, but there simply wasn’t a suitable combination of
ownership group and public financing for a soccer-specific stadium until 2007, when CEO & Operating Partner Nick Sakiewicz took the reins aiming to accomplish what no one else could before.
[inline_node:287927]Major League Soccer announced that Philadelphia had been awarded a franchise on February 28, 2008, with thousands of eager soccer fans instantaneously plunking down season ticket deposits. Over a year later, another press conference held outside of Philadelphia City Hall revealed the club’s name, colors and crest. Little by little, the pieces were coming together.
Two weeks after the team identity press conference came news that Peter Nowak would be at the helm of the expansion Union. Known for his no-nonsense approach and success as both a player and head coach in MLS, Nowak appeared to be the perfect fit for a Philadelphia-based team, or any MLS side for that matter. Later joined by John Hackworth, who had been heading up U.S. Soccer’s youth development program, and Rob Vartughian, who had helped lead the University of Maryland to two NCAA national championships, all the club needed for their first match was players. A small detail.
The MLS Expansion Draft came and went. The Union had walked away with a nice overhaul, but little did anyone know that they had struck gold in the form of an underused Frenchman, Sebastien Le Toux, as well as a number of other key contributors.
[inline_node:287928]Next up was
the MLS SuperDraft, and Philadelphia stole the show. With three
of the first seven picks, six in total, and number one overall selection
Danny Mwanga, the Union were well stocked for the future.
Mix in a few signings and trades -- Chris Seitz, Danny Califf, Fred, Roger Torres, Michael Orozco Fiscal -- and voilà! After a grueling first preseason that took a young squad from snowy North Carolina to Florida to Mexico, suddenly it was March 25, 2010. The Union hadn’t had long to come together, but ready or not, the 2010 season was here. The wait was finally over.
More than anything, the club’s first-ever match at Qwest Field against the Seattle Sounders felt surreal. Had this day really come? Sure, a win on the road would have made for a fairy tale story, but this day was more about the hard work put in by so many, the years of Philadelphia soccer fans longing for a team to call their own.
On a rain-soaked evening in front of 36,300 fans and a national television audience on ESPN2, the Union were no longer an endless countdown. They were a team that tried to control possession, find passing lanes, and hold their line in the back. They, like every other professional soccer team around the world, had one goal in mind: earn three points. For one night, almost 3,000 miles from Philadelphia, simply being on the field was enough.
[inline_node:287924]The Union showed promising signs in the first half, but an early goal from Brad Evans followed by a red card shown to Toni Stahl left the Union facing an uphill battle. Steve Zakuani doubled Seattle’s lead before the break, and suddenly Philadelphia needed a miracle.
An improbable comeback wasn’t to be, but the Union showed an abundance of heart after the interval, refusing to let Seattle extend their lead despite the man advantage. It was the first sign that Nowak’s men would never quit. A group of devoted Sons of Ben members who made the cross-country trip couldn’t celebrate three points, but they had witnessed history.
Ben Franklin once said, "He that can have patience can have what he will."
Philadelphia fans had shown patience for 14 long years. Now, at last, they had their team.
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Top 10 in 2010: