This year was a big year for soccer in Philadelphia. It was the first year of our professional teams. We hosted international friendlies here. And we saw a World Cup run like few others. That means a lot of cool, unique memories.
We polled PSP’s contributors for their best soccer memories of the year. Whether it was in Philly or elsewhere, we didn’t care. We wanted to hear them. Philadelphia Union, the U.S. national team and pickup soccer near Philly all make appearances.
We want to hear your best soccer memories of the year. Take a read through ours, and share yours in the comments below.
Texting my friend through the last thirty minutes of the USA v. Algeria match as he sat on a tarmac waiting to take off. It was easy to put the tension and build-up into words — but how do you text “Landon Donovan just scored to biggest goal in U.S. soccer history” while you are jumping up and down?
My best soccer memory of 2010 was Landon Donovan scoring against Algeria in the World Cup. I was there, with my wife, sitting in the first row of the second tier of the Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria. It was so amazing because at the moment we were resigned to our fate — another early exit, another massive disappointment. We all saw the movie before. But this time it was different. Landon Donovan sprinted behind the play, timed his run to perfection and slammed home the rebound. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I nearly fell over, literally (we were overlooking the first level). I started stomping on my seat. I grabbed the bald man next to me, a complete stranger, and put him in a bear hug while smothering his chrome dome with kisses. I grabbed his teenage son and nearly squeezed the life out of him. I grabbed a random woman sitting behind me and kissed her too. By the time I actually made it around to my wife, I think I was crying. As I looked up at the glowing red scoreboard it read the unbelievable, USA 1 – Algeria 0. Not only was it the best soccer memory of the year, it was the best of my life.
Some of my favorite memories this year are overhearing my kids tell their friends that their dad won’t be sitting with them during the Philadelphia Union game because he is a photographer and will be down on the field. Next to soccer, photography is my favorite recreation. I purchased my first real digital camera almost two years ago and thought it would be fun to take some pictures during the Union’s inaugural season. I posted some of the shots on my Flickr account and was surprised when I was contacted by the Philly Soccer Page. When they asked if they could use some of my work for their articles, I was honored and quickly agreed. It wasn’t long before I was on the sidelines taking pictures, thanks to my PSP press pass.
I still play soccer twice a week and since turning fifty this year, I started thinking my playing years were numbered. As a fullback, I rarely have an opportunity to be in position to get a shot on goal let alone score one, but I hit a full-volley blistering goal for my outdoor men’s team this year. It was such a good memory that I thought about retiring that day on a high note. I will however, stubbornly continue to play until my ailing back or other bodily part fails me.
With my experiences at Union matches and working with PSP, I have an optimistic feeling that, even if my playing days may be coming to an end, I might have found a new path to stay in the game.
May 29, 2010 – USA v Turkey, at the Linc. Had the grill set up four hours before a 2pm kickoff and was already surrounded by a great deal of the red, white and blue faithful. The 30 tickets I purchased went like wildfire amongst my friends, and it couldn’t have been a better, more exciting day for soccer fanaticism in Philly. Both sets of fans were in good voice, and the U.S. put on a great show, leaving for South Africa with a stylish victory.
My best memory was going nuts after Landon Donovan scored against Algeria. I was at the 700, the place was packed, and it was pandemonium. It was an amazing feeling. I felt like I was buzzing the whole day.
Hands down, Landon Donovan’s goal against Algeria. I was bartending at an absolutely packed 700. After that travesty of refereeing in the Slovenia match, there was so much tension leading up to the game. And as the game went on, so many teases as it seemed the U.S. would score, only for them not too. The entire bar was willing the U.S. to break through. With time running out, I think I was actually starting to rationalize the grieving process— ” I will survive a U.S. loss. Really, I’ll be fine. It’s only a game.”—when I knew I would be absolutely gutted.
And then it happened. And when it did, the bar — and I — erupted into the loudest, most primal and sustained sonic manifestation of joy (and relief) that I have ever experienced in my life. Ever. My voice was shot, my hands hurt from high fiving everyone around me. If I hadn’t had a bar full of very exultant people to serve, I honestly think you would have been running through the streets, screaming like a loon. Even now, I get goose-pimples and a little teary thinking about it. Because it wasn’t just that the U.S. was through and number one in the group. It was the manifestation of a lifetime of playing and following soccer in a country whose interest in the same was mercurial at best. I—and every fan around me—knew then that, not only had the US won, soccer had won in the U.S. Thank you, Landycakes.
If I had to choose one moment for my favorite soccer memory of the year, it’s clearly Landon Donovan scoring against Algeria. A raucous 700 Club crowd, spilling beer on each other, hugging each other and just generally going nuts. But overall, it was the entire World Cup that prevails as my favorite memory from 2010. To have so many of my friends (who are far from soccer fans) checking in with me daily to find out results was unbelievable. And whether it was the hype around the US team or the arrival of the Union in Philadelphia, there was definitely something in the air this summer, and soccer was the sport on people’s tongues.
The Union’s 2-1 home win over Toronto FC. I took my little girl, and she was falling asleep during the first half because she’d stayed up late the night before — and it wasn’t the best first half. Then Michael Orozco Fiscal scored on a header in the second half, and the place exploded. She came to life with this big smile on her face. The game was back-and-forth the rest of the way, with fans (including us) chanting and yelling throughout, till Sebastien Le Toux scored a last minute PK for the win and everyone went nuts. She loved it, and I loved watching her love it.
Close second: At 11:48 a.m. on June 23, I posted this on PSP’s Facebook page:
The Philly Soccer Page 4 minutes of stoppage time. Can we get a miracle goal?
At 11:49 a.m., this followed:
The Philly Soccer Page GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL!!!!! DONOVAN!!!!
Pure joy, funneled through social media. (Click on the dates above to see the actual posts, if you want.) And it’s difficult to type while having a joy explosion. I was jumping up and down, trying to stay quiet because I’d just started a new job and had watched the game on a bootleg site on my computer. Lesson learned: Never start a new job during the World Cup.
Le Toux’s second goal of the season: Standing in the supporters section after a slow, zombie shuffle towards the turnstile at Lincoln Financial Field that had me grumbling about voting Republican in 2012. On the way to my seat, I was assured the header I missed — the first Union goal ever — was “fucking brilliant,” the tone, the exuberance of the remark accentuating my Biden-based resentment. Then I dropped down the aisle into the supporter’s section, the Linc expanding around me, the atmosphere ensconcing me. The touch line lay only a few yards away. The pitch beamed at me in glorious high definition verdure. Jesus, this was going to be fun. And then, to ensure that all reservations had left me, Le Toux came flying in on goal, full charge towards the Union’s most devout, and with ease he struck home to send a mass of blue shirts mad with joy. The section jumpedsanghuggedchanted and I’ve never looked back.
First football in a year: “When it comes to eating without my glass of wine–I am nowhere,” one of Conrad’s characters says in Lord Jim. An ACL tear has similarly deprived me of a greater richness of life for the time being. A July 4th weekend pickup game in northeast Philly this past summer brought me back to some of what I have been missing, nearly a year to the day. Though a bit ill advised — my stability was still highly suspect — it was brilliant kicking the ball around, my efforts no doubt aided by being on the field with friends I’ve long played with and the frenetic energy of the World Cup. Sure, the match was a barbecue pickup, but there was still ample intensity. There was still recourse to feed runs, pop the ball over defenders, and brazenly – fuck trepidation! – pivot, turn, and slide my foot over the ball going one-on-one. For anyone who loves the game, they know it’s like music, the rhythm akin to a choice beat that moves you on a dance floor. For anyone who writes, there are few things other than soccer that evoke the same feeling, the powerful sense of surging ahead, charged by one’s creativity. It’s why I get out to the bar at 7:30 am to negate time zones and why I’ll be at the gym soon after writing this piece to continue my rehab.
Whole first season was quite an experience. Finally having an MLS team in Philadelphia for us soccer fans. That’s big. Especially the first match at PPL Park comes to mind. Fans, great atmosphere, just a big celebration of soccer.
My favorite soccer memory of 2010 is from September 1st. It was a rainy Wednesday and if I recall correctly Liverpool was in 21st place in the EPL. I was walking to my car when a random woman grabbed me about the shoulders and, with uncontainable excitement, screamed, “THEY RENEWED BOB BRADLEY!!!”
Actually, my favorite moment of the year occurred during the Champions League final. No, not the memorable second Milito goal when he deked DiMichelis so hard that Gordon Bombay let loose a duck call in admiration. It was the first goal of the match. An almost unbelievably direct score from a team that usually spent so much time on their build-up play that you would swear they were used to playing with LEGOs. Julio Cesar punted the ball upfield and Diego “Le Petit Prince” Milito somehow won a header sideways to the feet of Sneijder. Almost before he landed, Milito took off towards the goal at a full sprint. Sneijder laid a soft through ball into the Munich box which Milito finished with a cute lob into the near side of the net.
I was watching the match with one of my good friends, a “long-suffering” Inter fan who refused to consider a run of five Serie A championships anything worthy of praise (“Mourinho was brought in to win Europe. This team could win Serie A with a mediocre coach like Benitez,” he once teased). My friend is from Italy. Naples, specifically. Yet he is an Inter Milan fan. It’s a long story, but it means that he has always managed to be the subject of derision by locals. First by the Napoli supporters in his hometown, then by me when Inter somehow bungled their way to a second straight first-knockout round defeat by losing 3-0 on aggregate to Liverpool. He had endured endless taunting since The Special One, Jose Mourinho, had become manager, and he had just watched Inter play one of the most negative halves of soccer in recent memory as they defended a lead with ten men against Barcelona in the semifinal. He knows more about Inter history and Italian soccer than every American citizen combined – naturalized or not – would ever want to know. And to this day, I believe he fully expected Inter Milan to lose that final.
Remember, Inter hadn’t won a European Cup since 1965 when they defeated Eusebio’s Benfica (and came back from 3-1 down to beat Liverpool in the semi). So when Milito scored to put the Italians ahead, it was similar to the Red Sox going up three games to none over the Cardinals in 2004. It was impossible to let the fear of losing rule, and my friend leaped up and, unable to decide on a course of action, chose to slam the bases of his palms into my back at what Captain Kirk would call warp speed nine. When I came to my senses, my friend silently clenching and unclenching his fists while opening and closing his mouth and bending his knees in some strange, silent jig. It was a somewhat painful reminder of the joy soccer can spread.
My favorite World Cup moment was the Luis Suarez handball in the Uruguay. I didn’t even know much about Uruguay’s intense soccer history then, which is a testament to how the moment can stand on its own. Suarez, the second most in-form striker of the World Cup (behind his compatriot Diego Forlan) was red carded. Ghanian striker Asamoah Gyan stepped up to the penalty spot and carefully placed his shot… into the twelfth row. Miles, meters, acres, lightyears over the goal. It was a choke, but I will never, ever blame Gyan for it. I was still upset with him for owning the US in the previous match, but that was pressure that nobody should be expected to know how to handle.