The Union just put their 5th home opener in the ledger. They have won 3 of their 5 home openers or really 4 out of 6, because you could count the first Union match at Lincoln Financial Field as the home opener OR the first match at PPL, against the Seattle Sounders that the Union also won, scoring 3 goals in the process. No matter how you look at it, the home opener has a certain magic about it. In very typical Philadelphia fashion the home opener almost isn't as much about the match itself as it is about the return of soccer.
The Son's of Ben have used the home opener as a charity tailgate opportunity dubbed the Stache Bash, which invites newcomers to sample the SoB experience while helping charity. The club sets up Toyota Plaza for the kids and allows commercial partners to hawk their wares or sell the parents things at the same time. Merchandise and food are sold in mass quantities, with the store opening early and there is a general feel somewhere between Saturnalia and Infomercial.
The home opener is many things to many people. It's the promise of spring or the reconvening of the soccer diaspora or even the first of many parent/child weekend outings. Whatever it is, it's also a very important page in the annuals of Union history. So lets see what the 2014 home opener may be able to tell us about the coming season.
The Union's inaugural season in 2010 began away from home in Seattle with a loss that saw Seattle win 2-0 and then opened the modern history of soccer at Lincoln Financial Field with a 3-2 win over DC United. The Union finished 7th in the East and 14th overall amassing 31 points with a 8-15-7 record. The brand new Union had 35 goals, letting in 49 for a goal difference of -14. Sebastien LeToux was the leading goalscorer with 14 goals
The 2011 home opener had the Union returning from Houston with three points to register another win against the Vancouver Whitecaps.That season the Union finished 3rd in the East and 8th overall amassing 47 points with a record of 11-8-15, posting 44 goals for and 36 against for a goal differential of +8. The Union made the playoffs for the first and only time in their short history. Sebastien LeToux was again the leading goalscorer with 11 goals.
The 2012 season saw the Union return to Chester after a 3-1 shellacking in Portland, only to lose again to the Colorado Rapids 2-1. They finished 8th in the East and 14th overall amassing 36 points with a 10-18-6 record, scoring 37 goals and allowing 45 with a -8 goal differential. The young Jack McInerney was the Union's top scorer with 8 goals for the season.
Last season the Union hosted Sporting Kansas City on MLS opening weekend for a 3-1 loss. The Union finished 7th in the East and 14th overall amassing 46 points with a 12-12-10 record, scoring 42 goals and allowing 44 for a -2 goal difference. Jack McInerney just barely broke double digit goals with 12.
This season the Union once again returned from Portland, this time with a point, to host the New England Revolution for a 1-0 win.
Does looking back at home openers tell us anything about where this season may be going? Perhaps,perhaps not. The Union's best ever season in 2011 saw them start away from home, win and then win again in the home opener. Interestingly enough, it saw the Union record the most ties in franchise history, and was the only season with a positive goal differential.
You can analyse the above information in a variety of different ways but I will leave that to our resident statisticians and analysts. You can never predict the future, but if you can trust history to point the way, this could be a very promising season for the Union.