April 10, 2010
You know you’ve seen a lot of soccer when…
You know you have seen a lot of soccer when….
It’s your fourth inaugural game for a new soccer franchise in a city that’s not even your hometown, and when something happens in that game that no one else in the press box has ever seen happen before and you have.
Saturday’s Union home opener was the third time I’ve seen a Philadelphia franchise take its first kick. Way back in 1978, I was one of a lucky bunch of Cosmos employees who traveled to Philadelphia on a chartered train along with rock star Peter Frampton to see the inaugural game of the Philadelphia Fury. They were an expansion team that joined the North American Soccer League in the post Pele-boom. By 1981 they were playing in Montreal as Le Manic.
More than a decade later I was part of a group that put together the ownership of the first expansion team in the American Soccer League, a somewhat professional outfit that featured a lot of good players, but few wealthy owners. Although the Penn Jersey Spirit played in Trenton, they were officially a Philadelphia franchise coached by Philly native Dave MacWillilams, now the head coach at Temple.
Nearly a decade later, I was at the home opener of the Women’s United Soccer Association Philadelphia Charge, so Sunday will make the fifth inaugural game, as the Philadelphia Independence kick off their first season in Women’s Professional Soccer.
That brings us to the Union opener. A fantastic affair Nick Sakiewicz, Tom Veit and their staff put on, except perhaps for the Vice President getting in the way. We were fortunate, arriving more than three hours before game time. Others were not so lucky. Because of the stepped-up security, nearly half the 35,000 fans were still outside the gate at first kick.
Nevertheless, they were in their seats in time for an unusual occurrence, Jaime Moreno’s game tying goal in the 70th minute. Union goalkeeper Chris Seitz was getting ready to punt the ball up field. A quick-thinking Moreno got the ball away from him and sent it rolling into the net.
The reaction in the press box, from a fair number of people who have seen some soccer in their careers, was they had never seen anything like it. Even Seitz, who has been playing all his life, said he’d never seen anything like it and certainly never had it done to him.
It was Soccer Bowl 77 in Portland, between the Cosmos and Seattle Sounders. Pele’s last competitive game before his farewell exhibition tour.
Sounders goalkeeper Tony Chursky, after making a save, was preparing to send the ball back upfield. Chursky rolled the ball ahead of him in preparation for the kick, when Cosmos forward Steve Hunt charged in from the side, got a foot on the ball and sent it into the net as Chursky tried to tackle him.
If you see enough soccer, you might see anything. Even the birth of two franchises in one weekend.