Now, this may sound silly, but bear with us…
Forget the final score. While winning hardware for the first time in the club’s five year history would have made for the perfect night, it is gut wrenching to put that into context of what this piece is trying to get at.
For those in attendance, think we are all in agreement that Tuesday night’s U.S Open Cup final was perhaps the most memorable moment in Philadelphia Union history thus far at PPL Park.
Not a slight to those of you that watched this one from home, The Comcast Network did an outstanding job with its simulcast presentation of the match (in full HD, mind you) but it's hard to deny the unmistakable feeling of euphoria watching a horde of ardent Philadelphia fans getting behind the home team.
While we can’t speak for the entire organization, for those of us at curate content for philadelphiaunion.com, this game is nestled as a close second to forward Sebastien Le Toux’ three goal performance in the club’s first ever home opener against D.C. United in 2010. The events that transpired on that day were nothing short of amazing and ultimately kick started a rivalry with United that has had quite the history in its short span.
That’s another story entirely. But hey, if you want to relive that moment, here you go:
But this story is about Tuesday.
A Tuesday that saw the Union forced to deal with the agony of what it’s like to be a Philly team at the pinnacle of a major competition and come up just short.
Just like the Sixers did in 2001.
Just like the Eagles did in 2004.
Just like the Flyers did in 2010.
Just like the Phillies in 2009 -- after sending the city into rapture winning the World Series the year before.
It’s unfortunate, but gut wrenching losses have been a part of this city’s long, storied sports landscape. Only difference is that in this installment, the end result is not what matters as much as the effort exhibited by the players clad in black and white that went toe-to-toe with the League’s best team in America’s oldest soccer classic.
What both soccer aficionados and those who still feel the need to disavow the raw athleticism of soccer in the United States saw last night was soccer at its finest between two of MLS' hottest teams right now.
“I’ve never been proud anything in my life that ended in a loss before; this is the first time,” said Union interim manager I thought our guys put a ton into it, very good first half…Seattle is a great team. Seattle is the best team in our league. I thought we went toe to toe with them. We could’ve got a win there but I was proud of our group. The fan support was unbelievable. We had a packed house, which was the loudest I heard it. The stadium created a great environment for our guys.”
It was the loudest WE had ever heard it.
This reporter has covered soccer in this city for almost a decade and the atmosphere of Tuesday night’s game was one of the best. Personally, it wasn’t the pomp of pregame pyrotechnics or having this be a night match on the banks of the mighty Delaware – although both played their individual roles expertly – but more the raucous crowd of 15,256 that sang, cheered and implored the Union to continue its explosive brand of soccer that made this match unforgettable.
The love from fans across social media went deep into the night after the match and even spilled into Wednesday, showing their support for a revamped and focused collective under Curtin’s tutelage.
I wanna say thank you to all the @PhilaUnion players for a great game last night. The passion and intensity from all the players was unreal— Ben Tenaglia (@BenTangles) September 17, 2014
Just need to say..@PhilaUnion and all the awesome players, WHAT A GAME last nite!!! Place was rockin, not a favorable end, but great time— Kathie Saulr (@nursekassie) September 17, 2014
Thank you @PhilaUnion warriors for fighting last night! The Union fans are proud of their team!!— Jorge Pina (@JorgePina21) September 17, 2014
From the reverberating cry of “PHILADELPHIA...UNION” on set pieces to the electricity that followed after Maurice Edu opened the scoring with this goal, PPL Park was another poke at soccer naysayers obnoxiously reminding them that there is something significant going on at the foot of the Commodore Barry that they need to check out.
It was this rowdy collection of various walks of Philly's melting pot that inspired the Union to put forth an incredible effort, pushing the game to the maximum and ensuring that if Seattle was going to take it, it would take extra time. It was those people that came out on a schoolnight and to those that stayed up to watch 120 minutes of soccer at home to whom Curtin, a Philadelphia native himself, was most sympathetic towards postgame.
“Apologizes for letting them down; I’ll take that blame,” Curtin continued. “We deserve a trophy; we came up a bit short this time. Our guys will remember that feeling though with how close we were. They’re crushed obviously. It’s difficult but again I’ve never been a guy that’s proud of a loss. I’m the most competitive guy in the room. On the other side as a coach for the first time going through something like this, I at least understand what coaches say when they are proud of their team after a loss. Every guy left it on the field. That was a man’s game.”
In the end, yes the Union lost a chance to capture the club’s first silverware in a major tournament, but what it gained was a cemented place in Philadelphia’s sports landscape.
Which in many ways, is a win in among itself.
Where you at Tuesday’s match? What did you think? Leave a comment below.
Contact Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel at firstname.lastname@example.org