Well Philadelphia Union fans, here we go again! Time for some redemption!
Let me paint the picture for you folks at home. Last year in the MLS Cup Playoffs the Philadelphia Union were riding high. Jakob Glesnes scored probably the best goal in Philadelphia Union history to beat New York Red Bulls in the first round. His game-winning screamer from outside the box in the 123rd minute legitimately had Subaru Park rumbling, and it was the loudest I’ve ever heard a stadium in person since the Phillies won the World Series back in ‘08.
Building on the storybook feeling of the season, the most successful campaign to date, the Union then defeated Nashville SC in penalties. Words can’t even begin to describe the feeling in that stadium, the pure joy in the crowd who truly believed that this was the year. The Union faithful have packed Subaru Park since the beginning, and it was all coming together.
Then everything came crashing down.
Hosting the Eastern Conference Finals against New York City FC should have felt like the biggest occasion in Philadelphia soccer history, and in some ways it did. There still was the momentous gravity of the situation, everyone knew just what the game meant. However, the reports all week of players missing training was completely deflating. The news that multiple key starters would be unavailable for the game due to Covid protocols felt like a gut punch.
The Union were missing so many stars for that matchup including: Andre Blake, the star center back trio of Glesnes and Jack Elliott, as well as captain Alejandro Bedoya. I can give a first hand account of just how deflating the entire situation felt from the inside as an intern for the club during that playoff run.
That morning before the game, as we prepared the finishing touches to give the stadium an extra special feeling, it was a different vibe than the other two playoff matches. We were trying to build up hope that we could overcome the odds, adding yet another chapter to a fairy tale season. It was more than just the nerves you have before a big game for the team you love, and to everyone’s credit, we all did believe. I think that the entire stadium did, especially as the game progressed and the Union fought tooth and nail to score the first goal.
The last two goals though… Man, I haven’t felt a wave of sadness wash over me during a sports event since Patrick Kane scored that game winner in Game Six of the Stanley Cup Finals in the Wells Fargo Center.
I think everyone felt cheated by the whole thing. It wasn’t like a normal playoff loss where you just say “they were the better team, we’ll get them next year!” It went a step further than the typical fan whining about the ref, or the bitter feeling that the other team just got lucky.
Who knows if the Union would’ve won that night against NYCFC, or if they would’ve gone on to beat Portland in the Cup final. They never had a fair chance, and that’s what stung the most. What if?
Few teams get a chance to redeem themselves. On Sunday, October 30, the Union have the rare opportunity to make everything right. In front of a packed house of rabid supporters in Subaru Park, the Union will finally get the fighting chance they weren’t afforded last season against New York City.
I hope you’re ready Union fans! It does not get much bigger than this!