Fans' View

Fans’ View: The Open Cup Final experience

Photo: Earl Gardner

What an incredible Tuesday night down in Chester.

I’m still feeling a wide range of feelings and emotions today – disappointment, excitement, some left over nervous tension, sadness, and stress. But most of all, I feel an overwhelming sense of pride when it comes to this team, and am hopeful for what lies ahead.

Game Night

I hadn’t been this excited for a Philadelphia Union game since our home opener back in 2010, the inaugural season. PPL Park had the energy and fanfare that you find at an Eagles playoff game or one of those Phillies’ playoff games I was fortunate enough to attend back in 2008 and 2009, but this was even more special. There’s a special connection with this team. Many of us have had season tickets for five years, while some were active in bringing a MLS team to Philly in the first place. We’ve grown up alongside the Union. We’ve experienced the growing pains. We’ve seen favorites come, go, and come back again. We’ve seen roster mismanagement and some unceremonious coaching changes.

Being through the ups and downs of these early years, it was such a thrill to see us out there on the big stage, going toe-to-toe with the best MLS has to offer.

My family had the opportunity to attend a pre-game chalk talk with Coach Sorber and Gary Stephenson, of EPYSA. Watching the game from our familiar seats in Section 109, many of the key strategy points were unfolding in front of us, and in our favor. Lamar Neagle was largely a non-factor. The spine of our midfield, Edu, Nogueira, and Maidana outplayed Seattle’s midfield much of the night. Sure, Seattle enjoyed possession of the ball, but the Union certainly seemed more organized, and created more dangerous chances. This felt like a game under Union control, and we could smell the cup. The players left it all on the field, and the crowd at PPL Park was the most electric I’ve ever seen.

We could smell the cup.

A lucky bounce our way landed on the foot of Pedro Ribeiro with at least half the goal unattended, but not enough power or placement on the ensuing shot to whip the crowd into a cup winning frenzy. Then a soccer play of sheer beauty between what may be the two most technically skilled players we’ve ever had, resulting in a beautiful first touch by Nogueira and a volleyed shot tantalizingly dropping past Frei towards goal. My son cried as soon as it hit the post.

We were inches away from the most important goal and victory in our team’s young history.

The Silver Lining            

The US Open Cup final was exhausting. The Union played an overtime game against a team with enough firepower to bring Obafemi Martins off the bench in the second half. And exhausting for fans who stood frequently, chanted enthusiastically, and had their emotions on full display. Clearly, overtime didn’t go our way.

I saw in Jim Curtin’s post-game press conference that he mentioned this was the first time he ever felt really proud after a loss. I couldn’t agree more. The game plan was tight. Players left every ounce of themselves on the field.

This team made a big leap last night.

We put what may arguably be our best starting 11 ever on the field in the final, which included young stars who grew up with the team, strong international talent, designated players, and World Cup veterans. On a big stage, under the bright lights, against the best in the league, we gave them everything they could handle.

I’ll stop short of saying we’ve “arrived” – I think a trophy in the trophy case signals that. But I’ve never been more proud of this team than I was on Tuesday night.

We’re not the new kid on the block, lacking direction, or hesitant to spend and do what it takes to really be successful. We made a statement that we’re for real now, and I can’t wait to see what comes next.

As we walked down the steps to exit, my son turned to me and said, “Dad, we’ll win the cup next year”.


  1. I am jealous of everyone who got to go to the game Tuesday. My Open Cup experience was sitting in a hotel lobby in Norfolk watching barely-discernible green and black blobs moving around my laptop screen (Klowd TV really, really blew it, by the way). So can everyone do me a favor and recreate that level of excitement at the Houston game Saturday, when I’ll be back in town?

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