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Fans gather for Philadelphia Union send-off in Chester

The small organized gathering was the largest for Union fans since the season was suspended in March

Photo by Matt Ralph

About 80 people showed up at Subaru Park on Thursday for an organized send-off for the Philadelphia Union as they were leaving together on a bus to their charter flight to Orlando.

Wearing masks and distancing from each other, fans waved Union, Doop and Phang flags, chanted “Phila-delphia” as two black Delaware Express buses with players and staff exited the stadium. Union mascot Phang (also equipped with a rather large masked) led the way on the back of a utility vehicle waving a flag of his own to cheers from the crowd.

Blue and yellow smoke released from a Sons of Ben contingent added to the visuals on a sunny and warm day with the Commodore Barry Bridge above. A couple signs could be seen, one saying “Doop to Disney” and another with a simple “Stay Safe” message with a Union logo and a couple “If Ray Gaddis Scores We Riot” shirts could be spotted. A drum also gave the small gathering a festive atmosphere in what counts as the largest in-person gathering of Union fans since the MLS season was suspended in March.

“We just wanted to be here today to send them off,” said Marcos Leon, a college student who drove up from Wilmington with his younger brother Gabriel. “We miss being able to come to games here and can’t wait to have an actual game to talk about again next week.”

Sue Nolek came out with her sons John and Nick to their “home away from home” they’ve missed being able to go to during the shutdown.

“I wanted to see the players before they went down to Orlando,” John Nolek said. “It’s been really rough not getting to see them play because I’m such a huge fan and I’ve been coming to games here since I was little.”

The Noleks, from nearby Aston, Pa., have been watching a lot of replays of past games and highlights but are anxiously awaiting live soccer and optimistic the Union can make a deep run in the tournament.

“They have good depth and I think they’re all hungry and want to win this,” John Nolek said. “I’m excited to see what they’re able to bring.”

The Union are slated to open up against NYCFC on July 9 at 9 a.m., play Nashville SC at 8 p.m. five days later and finish group A play against Inter Miami at 10:30 p.m. on July 19.