Now I’m not usually one of the Union writers. In fact, the only Union match I was able to make it to last season was their Open Cup match where they defeated the Harrisburg City Islanders 3-1 on a warm Wednesday night in June. That wasn’t my first Union match, but as far as the gameday experience went, it was the best I’ve had at Talen Energy Stadium. So it puzzled me that so many people view the Open Cup match as something to be ignored or even avoided.
Now let me just say, this is not going to be one of those articles about the history of the Open Cup or the honor of competing for such an old and distinguished trophy. Other people have written about that sort of thing, and I’ll leave them to it. I just wanted so share my thoughts on major sporting events and why the Open Cup match experience stood out so much.
You see, I come from Mifflin County, Pennsylvania, where there’s not a whole lot going on. Both in terms of sporting events and just in general. That’s probably why it is such a big deal when around 100,000 people would clog up the roads as they made their way to Beaver Stadium for Penn State Football. That quantity of people on the mostly rural roadways completely disrupts traveling for almost an entire weekend.
So from a very early age I came to associate sporting events with extra traffic, terrible parking, and large groups of people that made it difficult to buy food or even go to the restroom. And that’s assuming you were able to get tickets in the first place. These complaints were at the top of the list whenever my family went to one of these games.
Compared to many of those issues, coming to Talen Energy Stadium for an Open Cup match was downright pleasant. Coming from Harrisburg, driving was basically the only option last year. So the usual Philly traffic came into play while driving in, but that’s par for the course.
Once I arrived at the stadium, I quickly found my favorite thing about the match. Not only was parking free, but it was also ample. Since I was used to parking out on a hilly field at Penn State or paying $4 just to park on City Island in Harrisburg, this was a huge plus for me. Plus it left room for people to easily meet and park together for various tailgating activities.
The ticket purchasing had been handled by someone else in the group, but I had also checked out what was available myself. When I’d bought Union tickets in the past, I’d mostly been stuck in one of the corners. But for the Open Cup, the tickets were more evenly distributed around the stadium, so getting down close or at midfield was a possibility. Of course, we ended up in the corner anyway. That’s just how it goes sometimes.
But on the plus side, we weren’t squeezed in or bumping elbows with anyone. Movement through the stands was way easier than usual.
Another issue that seems to come up with any large gathering of people is that the lines for the food and bathrooms get out of hand really fast. This was one of my least favorite parts of Talen when I attended a particularly crowded match in 2015. Fortunately these issues pretty much resolve themselves during an Open Cup match. The bathroom lines stay reasonable (outside of right at halftime) and the food queues stay wide open too. It meant a lot to me that I didn’t need to wait ten minutes for my crab fries.
Oh, were you wondering about the soccer that was played? Because that was pretty good too. It was a bummer to see Harrisburg lose, but it gave me a good chance to see some of the younger Union players getting starts and making the most of them. Derrick Jones and Marcus Epps both scored during this match, as you’ll recall. They made the most of their opportunities and it made for some exciting soccer.
Now, I know my wants and needs for attending a major sporting event aren’t going to match up with absolutely everyone, and that’s fine. But I just wanted to get my recommendation out there because last year I learned you can get a lot of the same game-day experiences in a much less stressful environment than usual. I can’t make it down for tonight’s Open Cup, but if you’re a Union fan and you haven’t been to a game in a while, it’s a good time to get reacquainted with the team.