Photo: Earl Gardner
Coming just over a week after the Supporters Summit, Sunday night’s River Cup was another shining example that there’s something a little bit special about the relationship between the Union and their fans.
The Union Front Office edged out the Sons of Ben by the final score of 2-0 in a match played for charity, with the proceeds going to the Philadelphia Union Foundation, whose mission statement says that it “provides opportunities for children through the power of relationships to offer transformational change in the areas of education, community, health and recreation.”.
On a beautiful night at PPL Park, the Sons of Ben fielded a team made up of a number of former college players that have reportedly been practicing for over a month. The Union team featured CEO/Operating Partner Nick Sakiewicz, interim head coach John Hackworth, assistant coach Rob Vartughian, Academy coach and former MLS defender Jim Curtin (who still looked to be in game shape), and Reading United head coach Brendan Burke.
The game itself was entertaining and generally good natured with the Union team on the front foot in the first half and the Sons of Ben controlling the game in the second. The scoring opened in the 18th minute with Nico Abelenda finishing into the far post from about 6 yards. A just lead after the Union staff dominated the early going.
After a halftime that featured two small-side games featuring players from the Philadelphia Union Foundation-supported Chester City United Soccer Club, the second half started much brighter for the Sons of Ben and they were awarded a penalty just minutes into the half. But Union VP of Ticket Sales Mike Quarino, who put in a Man of the Match performance, was down low to his right to make the save. Quarino would come to the rescue again just moments later, as a bouncing ball in the box was sent goalwards only to see Quarino push it aside.
Reading United Coach Brendan Burke would make the SoB’s pay for their misses, giving the Union staff a 2-0 lead in the 55th minute. Allowed room on the right side, Burke was able to side foot a right footed shot into the near post. Burke would unfortunately be the biggest casualty of the match as well when he was stretchered off for what word after the game said was a broken ankle. [UPDATE: Daily News reporter Kerith Gabriel tweeted on Monday that Burke suffered a high ankle sprain.]
The remainder of the game played out with those SoBs not on the field in good voice in the stands. They had a bit of fun with Phillies GM Rueben Amaro Jr, who was suited up for the Union FO, singing “Your trades are as good as ours” and “Layoff the sweets.” Most of the Union squad was in attendance and the SoB’s politely chanted, “Buy us a round.”
Overall, the night was a success for everyone involved. The players mingled with fans during the game and signed autographs. The Union staff edged out the SoB’s for another year of bragging rights. And most importantly, everyone came together to raise money for a good cause.
The Union FO defeated the SoBs 2–1 in the first River Cup in 2011.