PPL Park, home of the Philadelphia Union soccer team, roared as Sebastian LeToux netted his first goal of the season on opening day. The stadium, located in Chester PA, was nearly filled to its 18,500 person capacity for the Union’s first game of the season. Unfortunately, the goal would not be enough to hold off Sporting Kansas City. Now, into the first part of the season, the Union’s play has picked up since the 3-1 loss, but will it be enough to secure the ultimate prize, an MLS Cup?
The Philadelphia Union soccer team is part of a league called Major League Soccer, or MLS for short. Currently there are 19 teams in MLS spanning from Houston to Vancouver to Washington D.C., and the league hopes to add more soon in places like Orlando and potentially a second team in New York. Major League Soccer was started in 1996 after a previous league, the NASL (North American Soccer League) went bankrupt. MLS’ salary caps were designed to prevent that from happening again. The league is enjoying growing popularity, a high point in the last few years being a game between the Seattle Sounders and the Portland Timbers which was attended by 67,000 fans.
In 2010, the Philadelphia Union became the 16th team in MLS. In their second year, they made the play-offs only to be knocked out by the Houston Dynamo in the first round. The 2012 season brought unrest in the fan-base as manager Peter Nowak traded away key players such as Sebastian LeToux and Danny Califf. Nowak was fired, but not before making himself a thorough enemy of the fans. Interim Manager John Hackworth went on to become the permanent manager and steered the club carefully through the rest of its third season. This winter, the Union not only re-signed fan favorite Sebastian LeToux, but brought in former Colorado Rapids and U.S. Men’s National Team forward Connor Casey and Abington native Jeff Parke.
Another move that Hackworth made was the trade of Union player Freddy Adu to Brazilian club Bahia in return for the loan of Brazilian player Kleberson. Kleberson won a world cup with Brazil and will be a definite upgrade from Freddy Adu, who hadn’t played yet in the 2013 season because he did not work hard at practices or in games. Some fans had a hunch that Adu was going to be traded because his number was taken by Sebastian LeToux and he wasn’t listed on the Union’s Roster.
Also, 28-year-old defender from Mali, Bakary Soumare, has asked to be traded from the Union. People feel differently about this situation because the Union spent a lot of money that they were allocated by the league to get Soumare, who had a knee injury that kept him out most of last season. Some people ask why the Union should trade Soumare just because he wants to be traded. Others think he should be traded if he is unhappy. However, most people agree, that he has asked to be traded because he feels he isn’t getting enough playing time.
In a country where so many other sports are popular, soccer often gets overlooked. Some people even go so far as to put it down. Most people at GFS can’t name anyone on the Union, while many can tell you every player on the Phillies and how many home runs they have to boot. While it still has a way to go, soccer is gaining popularity, and one thing that could fuel that is that kids are playing at the youth level. If kids enjoy playing soccer then they may keep playing through college and at the professional level, or at least get into watching the game. When watching soccer, you don’t have to sit through it for three hours like a baseball game and unlike football, the only commercials are at halftime. So try it, watch a soccer game. After all, it’s called the beautiful game for a reason.
Article Sources: Brotherlygame.com and Extratime Radio
~ Illustration by Thea A-L