Soccer is a game of ultra-fine margins. A thunderous header from a footballing legend. A slip from a steady, poised MVP candidate. A pair of miraculous penalty saves from an unlikely hero. These brief moments over the course of a 120-minute battle were the only difference between Jim Curtin and the Philadelphia Union hoisting the MLS Cup trophy while singing “Campeones,” and watching their opponents do it.
It’s completely natural to watch Spanish LAFC midfielder Ilie Sánchez slot home the final penalty that nailed the 2022 Philadelphia Union’s coffin and have a feeling of despair, pain, even anger. Perhaps you slugged the rest of your beer and teared up as you watched the LAFC players and staff run around the pitch celebrating with their supporters. Maybe you thought “We always choke in the playoffs,” or “We never spend like the other big teams,” or “Why can’t we sign a Gareth Bale?”
If you thought any of those last three thoughts, I would retort with this:
- The Union’s 13-0 aggregate victory in two matches played against rivals D.C. United was the largest goal difference between two MLS opponents in a single season ever.
- The Union’s four wins by six or more goals are the most ever in a single MLS season.
- The Union’s 49 home goals tied the MLS record for most home goals ever scored in a single season.
- The Union’s 26 goals allowed over a complete 34-game MLS season was the fewest goals ever conceded in a single season.
- The Union’s 72 goals scored was the most goals ever scored by the club in a single season.
- Kai Wagner was the first defender to ever record 15 assists in an MLS regular season.
- Andre Blake’s 15 clean sheets led the MLS.
- Daniel Gazdag’s 22 goals broke the Union’s single season goalscoring record previously held by Sebastien Le Toux.
- Jim Curtin won his second Sigi Schmid MLS Coach of the Year award, becoming only the fifth coach to ever win the award multiple times.
- Jakob Glesnes won the 2022 MLS Defender of the Year award, becoming the first Union defender to ever win the award. Kai Wagner was the runner-up for the award.
- Andre Blake won his third Allstate MLS Goalkeeper of the Year award, becoming the first goalkeeper to ever win the award three times. Blake was also third in MLS MVP voting.
- Glesnes, Blake, Wagner, and Gazdag all made the 2022 MLS Best XI Team.
- Alejandro Bedoya won the 2022 MLS WORKS Humanitarian Award for his work combating gun violence.
This team wasn’t just great, they were historically great. This team didn’t just rewrite their own record books, they rewrote MLS record books. This team scored goals in bunches en route to becoming one of the greatest offensive units in MLS history. This team stifled nearly every opposition’s attack en route to becoming one of the greatest defensive units in MLS history. This team won playing scrappy, ugly soccer. This team won playing beautiful, scintillating soccer. This team had young, homegrown talent surprising supporters on a nightly basis with their skill, maturity, and class. This team had seasoned veterans from all over the world giving supporters stability and peace of mind night in and night out.
This team gave a city dominated by football, basketball and baseball a reason to watch soccer. This team gave a city a reason to jump and cheer. This team gave a city a reason to scream at their TV and complain. This team a city a reason to high five their neighbor. This team gave a city a reason to laugh at the lady in the grocery store wearing an NYCFC hat. This team gave a city a reason to watch a 26-year old Hungarian man pretend to be James Harden.
But more than anything, this team gave a city a reason to believe – and they’ll keep doing it. Thank you, 2022 Philadelphia Union. From all of us.