Philadelphia Union Strike Gold in Inaugural Home Opener
The Philadelphia Union kicked off their second season in MLS with a 1-0 road win at the Houston Dynamo. The lone goal was scored by defender Danny Califf and goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon recorded three saves to earn the shutout victory. The Union played their second game on the season on Saturday afternoon in front of a sold out crowd at PPL Park in their inaugural home opener. Last season, PPL was not ready for the beginning of the MLS season so the Union played many of their home games at Lincoln Financial Field before moving to PPL Park.
Their opponent, the expansion Vancouver Whitecaps FC, were also off to a 1-0 start after beating Toronto FC by a score of 4-2 at Empire Field in Canada.
Fans flocked to PPL park well before the 4pm start time of the game to take part in tailgating, soccer themed activities, and to buy jerseys, scarfs, hats, flags, and other Union branded gear. As they did last year, the Sons of Ben, the rowdy fans who occupy the River End of the stadium wasted little time in bursting into profanity-laced club songs and chants. The Union truly has their own unique soccer hooligans (many of whom make Eagles and Flyers fans look like church-goers). It’s something you should experience live for yourself at least once this season. PPL Park is also a gorgeous venue and a wonderful place to watch a game.
The Union added several players in the off-season including starting goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon, Carlos Valdez, and Carlos Ruiz. During player introductions it was Mondragon, along with Danny Califf, Danny Mwanga, and Sebastian Le Toux that got the loudest cheers. There was also quite a roar from the crowd in the second half when Roger Torres entered the game as a sub.
As the shadows stretched across the field at PPL Park, the game got under way. The Union looked out-matched in the first half of action. The Whitecaps had six shots (including three on goal) to just two shots for the Union (one on goal). However, at the mid-way point of the game both teams left the field tied 0-0.
In the second half, the Union came out looking more aggressive. They fought harder for balls and pressed the action on offense. The energy increased even more once coach Peter Nowak substituted Roger Torres and Jack McInerney into the game as Danny Mwanga had been largely ineffective.
Well into the second half, Le Toux fought for a ball along the goal-line, made a move to the goal, and looked like he was going to shoot. At the last second he passed the ball off to Carlos Ruiz who booted the ball past Whitecap goalkeeper Joe Cannon to score the game’s first goal. The crowd went crazy. The Doop was on.
The Whitecaps then went on the offensive, trying anything they could to even the score before time expired. With over three minutes of stoppage time added on, they forced the ball into the Union end and earned a corner kick. The attempt went wide and the game ended with the Union earning their second straight 1-0 victory. Again the crowd went crazy. It was a beautiful thing to see.
The game was littered with yellow card violations (for both teams) but the only red card ejection was given to Vancouver’s Eric Hassli in the second half.
The Union now play two more road games (at Los Angeles April 2nd, and at DC on April 6th) before returning home to take on the New York Red Bulls at PPL Park on April 9th. That game will begin at 7pm and will be featured on ESPN2.
To view the rest of our photos from the game