CHESTER PA - AUGUST 11: Philadelphia Union fans celebrate a goal during a game against Real Salt Lake at PPL Park on August 11 2010 in Chester Pennsylvania. The game ended in a 1-1 tie. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
As the July 15th River Cup gets closer, the Sons of Ben team is gaining confidence. A match versus the Philadelphia Union front office will be the first time the two sides face on another on the pitch.
The idea was innocuous enough; the Union front office team playing a friendly match versus the official supporters group team to raise money for the local youth soccer club, Chester City United Soccer Club.
"After the match," said Luigi Corrado, Sons of Ben Treasurer and member of the SoB team, "I hope they still want us as fans."
Because the Sons of Ben take soccer so seriously, and maybe the recent tensions around the league between supporters groups and front offices - along with the thrill of playing on an MLS pitch - the Sons of Ben team has declared "war" on the front office team.
"We will beat the Union so badly," Corrado said, " [that] Chester City United will make a donation to them."
The match will not be a full 90 minutes, but two 40 minute halves, as demanded by the Front Office team. The Sons of Ben weren't particularly happy with that arrangement.
"The FO was scared to play a full 90 because they know we are in the best shape of our lives!" said Sons of Ben member Andrew Heston.
When news of the shortened match circulated through the Sons of Ben side, some of the players went on the verbal offensive.
Dan Gontkof, of the Sons of Ben team, said, "The shortened game is just the FOs way to ensure we don't get too much time to run up the score on them."
Even when it comes to a match for charity, there is no such thing as a 'friendly' in the world of soccer. The Sons of Ben team is ready for war, and aren't afraid to express this in my time speaking with them about the River Cup. They want the River Cup in their possession. They want to celebrate a victory at PPL Park on July 15th.
The Sons of Ben team, which plays in the Philadelphia Casa league, will be the visiting side in this match. That fact doesn't intimidate the team.
"The fact that this match is for charity," said Mark Dunfee, "will not prevent us from completely humiliating the front office on their own field."
There is a second fold to this match: the turmoil of supporters. The Sons of Ben, like any supporters group in MLS, pledges undying love for their MLS side. Also, like any supporters group, the members of the Sons of Ben vow to always have each other's backs, through thick and thin, no matter what.
This 'civil war' has left some SoBs very torn. I had a chance to sit down with Justin Lee, Sons of Ben member, and one of the founders of the Bearfight Brigade, an ultra group that has formed within the Sons of Ben. When asked about his feelings about the River Cup, Justin was very candid.
"I think the River Cup is a great idea," said Lee. "But keep in mind, it's another match for me, so families beware. It'll give the supporters a chance to go at the FO in song. I support my club and my supporters group (SG), the FO just pays the bills. My loyalty lies with my SG. That being said, I stand by my statement that no other SG can write songs about [the Sons of Ben] that are any worse than what we write about each other, so expect a little stick to be thrown toward the SG players as well."
Another member of the Sons of Ben and Bearfight Brigade, who ask to be unidentified, and would only speak to me in sunglasses and bandana, had his own take on the River Cup.
"At the end of the day, it gives a chance for the SG to retaliate in physical pain and humiliation for the mental pain supporters feel that the Front Office causes them every home match by censoring their chants and filling supporters section with unneeded security guards." The anonymous source added, "I expect a good, clean match from both sides. If I feel liberties are being taken by the FO on our SG players, don't be surprised to see a pitch invasion."
It seems as if what started as a friendly charity match is being taken very seriously by the Sons of Ben team and the supporters.
Despite the FO roster remaining mystery, and the possibility of the opposition including some former MLS greats on the pitch, the Sons of Ben team remains confident.
Maybe the Sons of Ben don't have the big names on their squad. Maybe, at first glance, the may appear to be the weaker side. Perhaps you have never heard of Mark 'Bolton/Backheel' Dunfee, Dan 'DoooDooo' Gontkof, Corey 'Junior High Prom Date' Furlan, or Davey 'Flagerberry' Flagler, but don't think for one moment that these boys can't pull an upset in the Inaugural River Cup.
*The River Cup will be help at PPL Park on July 15th, 2011, at 6:30pm. All tickets are General Admission and cost $10 at the door. Proceeds go to Chester City United Soccer Club.