PPL Park Opener: A dream opening for the Union
Opening night at PPL Park had everything – a fire alarm scare (Chickies and Pete’s to thank for that one), fireworks, a packed house of 18,755 Union faithful, an electric atmosphere, fans spelling out “UNION” in blue, gold, and white seat cards, and Baldomero Toledo in the middle of the field (as you never know what will happen when the red card king himself is around). Nothing compared, however, to what all Philadelphians crave for…a win.
At 2-7-1, the Union came into this needing PPL Park to be somewhere safe to go. A home to grab much-needed points and momentum. The atmosphere didn’t disappoint and neither did the squad Union fans came to see as Seb Le Toux and Alejandro Moreno took charge once again and delivered a 3-1 win.
The first half was all Union as Fred and Stefani Miglioranzi dictated the pace of the game, getting everyone involved. Roger Torres didn’t shy away from tackles and the back four stuck together in the few attacks Seattle mustered up. Regardless, it wasn’t until the 27th minute that Le Toux delivered the first real shot on goal. After a nice one-two with Alejandro Moreno, Le Toux was able to unleash a right-footed shot that almost found its way past former US national Kasey Keller. Not to be outdone, rookie Danny Mwanga provided the second attempt as he took a Fred feed at the top of the box and tried to curl it into Kasey Keller’s side netting. The strike was clean but missed wide. Fans, however, were fooled applauding what they thought was the opening goal.
None of it mattered. Seattle struck first against the run of play as Fredy Montero found some space right before the whistle and rocketed a shot. Danny Califf deflected it but it fell to the onrushing Pat Noonan who had the easy task of placing the ball under a diving Chris Seitz. With that, the Union went into the locker room down a goal.
In what was a passive-aggressive first half, the second half broke wide open. The Union still dominated in possession but lapses, probably due to the heat, came fast and furious. The Union found there equalizer after Alejandro Moreno was chopped down in the box by Seattle centerback Tyrone Marshall, a clear consequence of peppering the penalty box early and often with crosses. Sebastien Le Toux stepped up and converted the Union’s first ever goal at PPL Park and penalty kick in club history. It was his 6th of the season. The Sounders, though relatively unthreatening, took advantage of some space between Salinas and Arrieta by way of Fredy Montero. The Colombian split the two and found his way into the box forcing Arrieta to make an untimely challenge. Penalty given. It was up to Chris Seitz, who had very little to do up until this point, to come through for the Union. Chris Seitz. Pat Noonan fired the ensuing penalty kick at Seitz and the momentum from then on out had shifted permanently into the Union’s favor.
The Union continued pressing the issue and they weren’t very discrete about it. As we hadn’t seen in previous games,the Union attack were happy to fire from long range. Fred was even able to test Kasey Keller from outside the penalty area. The final finish eluded the Union, however, until the 79th minute when Sebastien Le Toux found some space in the corner and curled a ball far post. Two Union attackers missed it before it found a home on Fred’s boot at the far post. Fred’s first sunk the Sounders as the heat and humidity took it’s toll. “It’s a lot easier for a team to train in heat and go play in cold weather than to train in cold weather and go play in heat” said Seattle coach Sigi Schmid. From then on, it was all Union. Fred left the pitch to a standing ovation in the 81st minute after his brightest appearance in a Union jersey yet this season, replaced by Amobi Okugo. Only three minutes later, Danny Mwanga earned his first non-extra time goal of the year, capping off a beautiful one-two by Moreno and Le Toux before a square pass found him wide open. Kasey Keller saved the first opportunity but the youngster Mwanga followed up, grabbing his fourth goal of the season. After Mwanga earned his curtain call, the Union continued to attack, wearing down an already ragged Seattle defense. The whistle blew and a new Major League ‘fortress’ was confirmed.
The Union looked nothing like the team that lacked invention vs. Kansas City or the team that knew little of each other at MLS First Kick vs. Seattle. Lincoln Financial Field was opened in distinct Philadelphian style and PPL Park one-upped it. The 3-1 win solidified something we all knew. When on point, this team can play an impressive brand of soccer. Now let’s see if they can do it on the road…
Much more to come from the PPL Park Opener…pictures, quotes, quips, etc.
SEA — Pat Noonan 1 (Fredy Montero 5, Steve Zakuani 3) 44
PHI — Sebastien Le Toux 6 (penalty kick) 54
PHI — Fred 1 (Sebastien Le Toux 4) 79
PHI — Danny Mwanga 4 (Unassisted) 84
SEA – Patrick Ianni (caution; Reckless Tackle) 20
Philadelphia Union Starting XI
Le Toux——————Miglioranzi—————–R. Torres
Seattle Sounders Starting XI
Ljungberg —Vagenas ————Ianni—————Zakuani