For the third time in franchise history, the Philadelphia Union have made the playoffs in the race for MLS Cup. This historic season unfortunately came to a stifling end at the hands of Atlanta United FC, but for the Union supporters, this season was certainly something to cheer about. Now, most Philadelphians don’t really know about the Union. This team has been in play for 10 seasons, entering as an expansion team in 2010. Their name may be Philadelphia, but their home is located in Chester, Pa. within Talen Energy Stadium, formerly known as PPL Park for older fans. This past season, however, was their greatest.
The Union pushed for the playoffs, ending as a third seed and found themselves facing rival New York Red Bulls. On Oct. 20, the Red Bulls came to town as Talen Energy Stadium roared with the Philadelphia fans, especially with their most supportive group, the Sons of Ben. Standing out by the Delaware River, they are their most rambunctious supporters, and that’s where the game begins.
New York opened up the game quickly, with midfielder Josh Sims scoring a goal within six minutes of play. The two teams battled back and forth across the pitch, before the Red Bulls continued their assault, as defender Tim Parker’s header found the bottom corner, putting the Red Bulls up two to nothing.
After a New York substitution in the 29th minute, the Union got on the board, firing up the quiet stadium as Midfielder Alejandro Bedoya hit one into the goal. New York quickly fired back, as striker Tim Barlow put the Red Bulls up two, making the lead three to one right before halftime. However, that was the last goal the Red Bulls would score that night, as the Union added three consecutive tallies, scored by Jack Elliott, Fafà Picault and a game winner which was kicked in by Marco Fabián within five minutes of extra time.
The Union advanced to Atlanta, where this past Thursday the two squared off. The Union were in hostile territory this time around within the Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Atlanta came out of the gate red-hot, as striker Julian Gressel knocked one in past Union Goalie Andre Blake, as the Union were stunned only 10 minutes in. The Union put up a good fight, matching Atlanta’s 12 shots on goal, but unfortunately, they just couldn’t hit the back of the net.
The Union continued to try to fight back against Atlanta’s defenders, but ultimately it led to yet another Atlanta goal, as Josef Martínez put one through the Union’s defense in the 80th minute, essentially sealing the Philadelphia Union’s fate.
No matter what, this season was a testament to true passion, grit and toughness among other teams in the Philadelphia area. The Union tend to be overlooked in the city of Philadelphia among the mainstream media and following, but ultimately it seems that this year, their fighting spirit and on-field quality displayed from the overlooked soccer team who will continue to make waves in the MLS come the future.
Jeffrey Babcock is a third-year student majoring in communications and minoring in journalism. JB884128@wcupa.edu