Fans' View

Fans’ View: 71 and sunny

Photo: Courtesy of Philadelphia Union

In a winter that has been pretty dismal, both weather wise and in waiting around for the Philadelphia Union to make some moves, traveling to Florida for the preseason fan weekend made life a little sunnier.

This was not the first time I have left the frozen north to travel to see the Union in preseason. Each time seems to bring a different experience and this one did not disappoint. It also didn’t hurt that my family was shoveling 5 inches of snow, while I was relaxing poolside with my new friends.

My friend Wendy and I planned this trip months ago. After enduring a slightly chilly train ride to the airport (no, I didn’t expect the trains to be running 20 minutes late; yes, single digits even under a heat lamp still feel like single digits and, most importantly, nobody told me the Market East station is not heated!) and cramming ourselves into a very full flight, we were ready for adventure.

And that we got!

Friday
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Photo: Danny Cruz, via Twitter

Friday night features a reception. You get a chance to eat a little, drink a little, and chat with a few players in a more intimate setting — meaning, we just kind of hung out with Danny Cruz, CJ Sapong and John McCarthy. They were funny, gracious, and willing to answer lots of questions, both serious and not so serious questions. And there were lots of selfies.

Saturday

One my favorite parts of any Union event are the people I meet. Saturday morning, we were off to breakfast with our new friends, Julian and Karyn and our old  friend Dan.

Breakfast turned into a wild ride in a convertible Camaro with more new friends Illia and Mike. Who could pass up the opportunity for a Union snake balloon that doubled as a hat? Not Julian! After a fabulous meal (go to Lenny’s in Clearwater, it’s amazing!), we were off to Cigar City Brewery for an afternoon of good beer and great company.

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Photo: Staci Klemmer

Side note – one of the things that never ceases to amaze me is how far Union fans will drive to see the team play at PPL Park, and I mean that literally. Illia and Mike drive down from the Lehigh Valley, while Steve and Jason come from Harrisburg. Another guy (he and his dad were the only two to brave the preseason trip last year) drives up from Baltimore.

Saturday night we all piled in the bus to the game against London United. I sat in front of the bus with Anthony and Beth, two soon-to-be tailgaters with us in Lot A. We both have kids playing youth soccer and are on the boards of our local soccer clubs. We had a great discussion about the ups and downs of youth soccer, Scott Pugh’s articles here on PSP, and the joys of ordering travel uniforms.

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Photo: Staci Klemmer

I’ll leave the analysis of the game to the rest of the PSP staff, but it was fun to DOOP six times and get the opportunity to watch Fernando, Steven, Dzenan, and John for the first time. The bus ride home was long. Somehow, Bend it Like Beckham got outvoted by Ladybugs (a really bad Rodney Dangerfield movie), which is about my only complaint about the weekend.

Sunday

On Sunday, we trolleyed to the field where the Union train, which is right across the street from where the Phillies do the same. Coach Curtin spent some time chatting about what we were seeing in a day after game workout, and answered a few questions.

In one drill, the team was split into three groups. Each group linked hands and formed a circle. The objective was to move down the field as quickly as possible, keeping the ball in the air. Once they pass a point, they broke out of the circle and began trying to kick the ball into a trashcan. I’m not sure who won, but I did see Sheanon trying to help the ball into the trashcan in a “not really legal” fashion.

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Photo: Dan Gorman

After the practice, we moved to Bright House Field, where the Phillies play, for BBQ and the best baked beans I’ve ever had! Oh, and did I mention all the players joined us for lunch? Good food and good company. Again I am thankful that our players are so gracious and approachable — and that the French speakers didn’t laugh at my pitiful attempt to converse in their language.

Just in case you’re thinking every team must do this, think again. We are the only team — yes, only team — in the MLS that has a fan trip to preseason with this much access to the players. Thanks to the Philadelphia Union and especially Lauren for coordinating this trip.

Photo: Marci Wilkinson

Photo: Marci Wilkinson

I’ll leave you with one last story.

I’m not one to bypass an opportunity to have a chat with Mr. Sakiewicz. I had heard rumors that he brought up the topic of paving Lot A at the reception Friday night, so I wandered over to clarify and ask for something very near and dear to my heart.

He said no paving the parking lot at this time, but he did say he would take care of getting a portajohn down near the entrance to Lot A. All of you guys at our end of the lot can thank me later.

It was very difficult to climb back into a packed plane and travel back to the frozen north, but at least my family had everything shoveled for my return!

Is it March yet?

4 Comments

  1. I always wanted to go to the preseason event but never had the chance. Thanks for the run-down on the weekend. Maybe next year I’ll go (fingers crossed).

  2. Thanks for sharing!

  3. OneManWolfpack says:

    Lot A representin!!! Haha. Sounds like a blast. I will definitely make it down there for a preseason. Hopefully sooner than later.

  4. Awesome, Staci! I’m excited for March for you now!

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