The year of the ZOLO.
It struck me today that 2010 was a special year. Not in that "oh I'm going to look back at this year with a giddy smile on my face" kind of special. Much more of a "I didn't appreciate how important this year was in shaping the future of my life" type of special. For Philadelphia soccer fans this season will always have a place in their hearts. The "birth" of the Philadelphia Union brought the city into the MLS family and furthered its history in soccer.
For them, and me, the dream was realized.
That dream, the one that soccer fans in the area had hoped for (including myself), the one that the Sons of Ben had pushed for, finally came together. A soccer team to call their own. 11 players to root on every game. Someone to compliment or criticize for tactics. Front office members to hate or love.
But the dream was not fully realized until the men of the blue and gold strode out onto the field. Thanks to the 2009 MLS Superdraft the Union had 10 drafted players and acquired another through a trade involving the draft itself. The Union would finish its roster by moving around in the 2010 Expansion Draft, taking three Generation Adidas players and a couple of others, along with bringing in Fred, a midfielder, from DC United in a trade that allowed the Union to select one of those three GA players (Jack McInerney).
Though it had yet to play a game, the Union would soon learn that the most important transaction in the team's short history was the selection of striker/midfielder Sebastien Le Toux.
Qwest Field was the first visit for the Union in the 2010 season, the first game of the newly minted franchise's lifetime. Despite a 3-0 loss in which the Union looked as much like an expansion team as they possibly could... it happened. That first tap of the ball, the first shot, the first save, the first everything - it was exhilarating. Not because it was soccer but because it was our soccer, it was Philly's soccer, it was the Union.
As the season progressed onward it became evident that Philadelphia had lucked upon a great talent in the expansion draft. Taken in the fourth round of the 2009 MLS Expansion Draft, Le Toux was able to reach his potential in his first season away from any incarnation of the Seattle Sounders. 14 goals, 11 assists and one giant smile later the Frenchman had won his way into the hearts of the Union faithful and gained national notoriety for himself and the Union. It would be another reason to mark the year of the ZOLO as one to remember.
For me there was more to this season.
Beginning towards the end of my Freshman year of college, the inauguration of the Union would usher in the beginning of my Sophomore year. It would usher it a lot of other things, as well, for me in terms of soccer and my writing.
- The first time I saw a professional soccer match on American soil (I saw the 2009 Peace Cup Final in Sevilla, Spain, between Aston Villa and Juventus).
- The first time I saw Manchester United.
- The first time I was able to gaze upon the blue and gold in person.
- The first time I met Sons of Ben.
- The first time I met the soccer community of Philadelphia.
- The first time I wrote a sports piece and posted it for the world to see.
- The first time I wrote a piece about the Union.
- The first time I became known for something outside my group of friends.
- The first time I tweeted.
- The first time I became part of something beyond society, religion and school.
- The first time I learned that pleasure can be derived from others enjoying your work (probably my favorite first).
The first time I could thank all of you for your readership, your patronage and your words of support, criticism and in general, your comments. Thank you all.
And with that I close out the year of ZOLO for the Brotherly Game.