Some 221 days after the Philadelphia Union were supposed to be welcoming fans to the newly renamed Subaru Park for the first time, about 2,800 fans were finally able to cheer on the boys in blue in person last Sunday.
For longtime fan Joe Benzon, the return was clearly special, though muted with the low attendance.
“Between the limited supply of tickets, it being a Sunday night opposed to a Saturday game and the rain all throughout the game, it definitely felt like mostly diehards in the stands,” he said. “Still, with well under 3,000 people, the energy can only go so far.”
“Some of the chants were pretty faint, but you could tell there were times where the crowd created a real home field advantage,” Benzon continued.
Sons of Ben President Matt Gandaszek said those in attendance were clearly excited, though the return was slightly disappointed by COVID protocols.
“The River End was a homecoming for most. Although it might have been tough to recognize some faces with the masks on but it felt great to be back home,” he said.
Benzon found all the protocols put in place to be reassuring, even with more than two thousand people in attendance.
“I felt very, very safe the entire time. All of the protocols and policies that were in place were great,” he said.
Looking forward, Gandaszek is excited for future home games that he and the SoBs can attend in person.
“We are excited for more home games… Sunday night felt like pre-season for us cheering and chanting in the River End. We are gearing up to finish up this season strong,” he said.
Benzon noticed that even the players, along with Head Coach Jim Curtin, were excited to have fans back in the stands.
“You could tell Andre Blake was pumped to have the crowd behind him when he minded the net in front of me in the second half. He applauded the crowd several times and turned around and made a heart gesture with his hands,” he said. “Curtin did an extended walk around, and you could tell that he was really moved and happy to see fans back in the stands.”
Brandon Engle is used to racking up miles on his car’s odometer traveling to Union games from Lancaster as a season ticket holder for many seasons now.
“Everyone was so excited to be back that you could feel the energy around the stadium throughout the match,” Engle said. “I knew we were in for something special when Kevin Casey started his pregame announcements. He said something along the lines of ‘Welcome Home’ or ‘Welcome back to Subaru Park’ and the crowd erupted with cheers and applause. It was really cool to be there for that.”
After Monday’s game at Foxborough Stadium, the Union will be back at Subaru Park for three of their final four regular season matches and depending on how the final run of matches goes could be hosting the rest of the way in the postseason.
“Pending me being able to get tickets each time, I plan to attend all games for the rest of the year, hopefully including quite a few playoff matches,” Benzon said.