Every time Darius Madison returns to PPL Park, it feels like he’s getting a little closer to his dream.
Madison, a Philadelphia native who spent time in the Union’s youth academy and played for the club’s Youth Developmental Affiliate (YDA) Continental FC (formerly FC DELCO) will make another stop to the Chester waterfront for this weekend’s NCAA College Cup.
Madison, a sophomore at the University of Virginia helped the Cavaliers secure their first trip to the semifinal weekend since 2009. Virginia will face ACC rival Maryland in the nightcap of Friday’s NCAA College Cup kickoff at 7:30. Notre Dame will face New Mexico in the earlier game at 5 p.m.
This will be one of a handful of times in which Madison has had the opportunity to play at PPL Park, competing in a few showcase and academy matches, but each time it reminds him of what has been a long term goal.
“When my dad told me [in 2009] that Philadelphia was getting a soccer team, he told me that ‘one day, I hope I see you playing there [at PPL Park] for them,'" Madison said in a phone interview with philadelphiaunion.com. “I’d be ecstatic the day I get the chance to enter the MLS SuperDraft and hopefully get picked up by the Union. It’s always been a dream of mine and I’m just trying to do all that I can to make that dream possible.”
Thus far in his young soccer career, Madison has put forth quite the resume. Specifically at Virginia, Madison is second on the team on points (15) with six goals and three assists. Perhaps his biggest helper was the one that fueled Virginia’s 2-1 victory over Connecticut in NCAA quarterfinal play, when Madison found teammate Ryan Zinkhan in just the 12th minute of play. He is considered one of the best young sophomores in the nation at the forward position and is a major catalyst behind Virginia’s 11th trip in program history to the College Cup.
“Winning any championship let alone a national championship for your school is a big deal and for me to have the chance to do it so close to home in front of friends and family is really special,” Madison said. “It’s a great opportunity and hopefully I am a part of history here in a few days.”
To do so, Madison and the Cavaliers will have to bypass a surging Maryland squad complete with a few more Union academy alums in goalkeeper Zack Steffen and midfielder Alex Shinsky. Madison said though all three are friends, specifically his relationship with Steffen, it’ll be all business come Friday when the two look to end their programs national title drought.
Coincidentally, it was Maryland behind current Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath and technical director Rob Vartughian that hoisted the cup in 2008.
The following year, it was Virginia who captured the NCAA men's soccer title.
“They are no different than any other team and no different than any other players,” Madison said of his Terrapin counterparts. “Those guys are my friends but they are also enemies come Friday. Bottom line, they are the other team and they are looking to get the win so we have to stop that.”
That’s the immediate for Madison but long term, the goal is to one day wear the signal blue and gold of the club that saw great potential and invited him to hone his skills in the Academy.
It’s something he hasn’t forgotten and is itching at the chance to repay by making PPL Park his permanent home.
“When I found out that the College Cup was going to be at PPL Park, I was really excited,” said Madison. “My [personal] goal this season was to get back there and to represent the Union and play in front of everyone I grew up playing soccer with. Philly is my home and I’ve always felt at home playing at PPL Park.
Contact Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel at firstname.lastname@example.org