On the same day that the Philadelphia Phillies lost the World Series, another Philadelphia team lost their championship. But this seemed to be lost to many people as it didn’t get as much coverage. This team was the Philadelphia Union.
It was a shock to me that I didn’t have many friends that were fans of the Union. They were in the championship game and I had no idea until after the fact. I know that soccer is the most popular sport in the world outside of the United States, but it still came as a shock to me as to how little recognition that they received in the Philadelphia area.
The team seemed to want to try their hardest to gain the recognition of the Philadelphia public with their play this season that culminated in a championship game appearance.
The one friend that I had who was a fan of the Union, Kate Kurkewicz, informed me that the Union “were in the final round of the playoffs last year and they were the number one seed for both seasons.”
I knew that they were the one seed this year but I had no idea that the Union were even good last year. I thought that this was their first above average season basically ever. But from what I learned, this was their revenge season and they were expected to finally get over the hump and make the championship.
Going into the season they had multiple important front office departures and even traded their leading scorer in Kacper Przybylko for money. Getting rid of him though paved the way for Danish Superliga Golden Boot winner Mikael Uhre.
These additions and the players already on the roster helped the team compile the least amount of losses in the league with five. This wasn’t even really close as the next closest was nine losses. They also had a league best goal differential which was +46. The second best figure was Los Angeles with +28.
The returning players who contributed most to this success were fan favorites Kai Wagner and Daniel Gazdag who led the team in assists and goals, respectively. Kurkewicz described Wagner as “a veteran and a huge key player” and Gazdag was voted the team’s Golden Boot winner and Offensive Player of the Year.
Manager Jim Curtin was adamant after they were eliminated, saying how hard it was to lose in such heartbreaking fashion. And heartbreaking it was. They came as close as they possibly could. Philadelphia sports and their fans are all too familiar with this feeling.
They clawed back to tie the game at 3-–3 after regulation and extra time against Los Angeles FC. Los Angeles FC’s starting goalkeeper even got hurt, and this allowed John McCarthy to replace him and stop two penalty kicks to give them the win. This was especially painful for Union fans because McCarthy used to be their goalkeeper. Having their current goalkeeper, Andre Blake, softens the blow a little since he’s won numerous awards including the MLS Goalkeeper of the Year three times.
But to see McCarthy holding the MLS Cup MVP trophy was like a shot through the heart for fans.
This heartbreak didn’t take away from the journey to get to the championship in the first place though. It’s always a privilege to experience your team perform well. All of the fans rallying around a common goal creates an atmosphere like none other. Hopefully this championship game appearance and the fact that they were a few penalty kicks away from hoisting a trophy motivates more Philadelphia natives to tune in to the team.
Colin Bradley is a third-year English major with a minor in journalism. CB953277@wcupa.edu