While I was walking down 2nd St. in Northern Liberties, someone ran past me and my girlfriend on their rush to The 700 Club. I already knew the time — it was 9:30 p.m. and the game was about to start.
Union signs ran in repetition around the windows. The smokers finished up and poured in after us, the bar area inundated with anticipation, a sea of expectant fans, all of this happening well into the evening rather than in the early a.m. or afternoon- previously the only time for soccer induced mania in Philadelphia. God Bless the Union for giving us the ability to enjoy the beautiful game in the evening like the rest of the world.
With many a familiar face — the 700 has a loyal following of studied regulars who turn out to watch European soccer — we awaited the unexpected 10pm start time, a giant “Up The Union” banner draped on the wall behind us. Besides the strong turnout by the Philadelphia Soccer Page — where do you think we found Ed and Ben? — there were several additional Casa Soccer League players on hand. Pretty much everyone at the PSP plays, including members of the Philly Soccer Firm and West Philly FC, clubs supported by 700.
Cheers went up when Union supporters out in Seattle appeared on the screen, with many fans at the bar similarly decked out in blue and gold. The early going raised the energy level as the Union appeared set to attack from the start.
The early goal from Seattle brought us back to reality — the groans weren’t too full of defeat, as we all knew what to expect, that we’re not going to have quite the same first season as Seattle did last year.
Of course, being Philly fans, we certainly didn’t give up, the crowd still retaining some optimism even after Toni Stahl was given an early exit near the 40 minute mark for an overly aggressive and ill-advised tackle. Philly was particularly poor in this area. Though their aggression needs to find a better outlet, it at least received some half-hearted appreciation: “That’s Philly,” one fan said, following captain Danny Califf’s clear hard foul in the opening seconds that quickly drew a yellow card.
The clock winding to 45, ‘New half, perhaps game’ was the tenuous hope as the conversation picked up once again, but the goal by Fredy Montero at the 43rd minute only confirmed what we already knew. Though the air was definitely cut and there was more room around the bar in the 2nd half, most fans stayed around hoping to see a sign of better things to come, while curious newcomers wandered in.
Since a Sebastien Le Toux offsides seemed the best our side could produce in the second, it didn’t seem a bad idea to step outside and juggle the ball around with the boys from the Philly Soccer Firm for a bit.
Stepping back in to check out the game, I saw even that diversion was ended in a manner befitting of the proceedings: a sudden rain. Of course, no one was too dour. The unusual arrangement put out by coach Piotr Nowak was one talking point that added a ray of hope for the next match, with hardly any deterrence added to anyone’s mettle.