Some may think this an exaggeration, but the Philadelphia Union took a step forward Friday night.
Tracking back a year, the launch of last year’s new secondary jersey — also held at The Wharf building in Chester — was centered around the fresh news of new designated player signing Marco Fabian. The move had been completed earlier in the day and was the type of high-profile name signing common around MLS but not previously part of the Union’s makeup.
Instead of celebrating a marquee player whose stay ended up being for only one disjointed and disappointing season, the focus Friday night was on the emotion and passion of the Union fanbase, which made this edition much better.
With more than 300 people packed into The Wharf, emcee Sean Brace reveled in facets of last season.
“The most points in Union History, the first ever playoff win...” he yelled, later adding “heck, last season went so well a new scoreboard had to be built. We [the Union] scored so many goals we broke the old one!”
Talk like this only started the stir; you could sense the fans were ready for a show.
The tipping point came with the arrival of new signings Matej Oravec and Jose “El Brujo” Martinez to the stage. Getting a strong chant from several of the supporter, El Brujo reached his spot on stage smiling.
So what took the event over the edge... autographs, free season tickets? Well yeah, all these things would happen, and obviously excited the fans in attendance. They weren’t what got everyone going though. It was the inclusion of Union mascot Phang’s cousins… live, actual snakes.
These snakes were brought onto stage in a Fear Factor-esque contest that generated plenty of quality content for the Union’s social media channels.
Throughout it, the contestants had to show their knowledge of the Union and how “fearless” they were. Beating out veteran defender Aurelien Collin in first round trivia (while literally wearing a snake) was a thrill I’m sure, but getting 2020 Season Tickets — the grand prize for the winner — had to make it all worth it.
Once the contest ended, fans were allowed to get autographs and photos with the players present, buy the new kit, and play 3-v-3 soccer. At the end of the night it would have been impossible to leave without a great sense of hope and excitement for the upcoming season, which you could sense was top of mind for everyone there without even having to ask.