This was a bonus game and a return to a ground I visited in May 2011. As I mentioned in my earlier blog post, I was visiting Philadelphia with my mother, sister and brother. As I was showing them the Commodore Barry Bridge next to the Philadelphia Union ground on Tuesday 14th May, I noticed a sign advertising a game between Philadelphia Union v LA Galaxy on 15th May. A chance to take in another Philadelphia Union game seemed to be too good an opportunity to miss.
So, after begging and pleading I got permission from my mummy to go to the game. Boy can I beg and plead with the best of them- well so Michelle says. Oh and no, I did not stamp my feet or pull my sulky face.
So 15th May saw my brother and I heading down to Chester, West Philadelphia to go to the PPL Park for the game. Martin, my brother had never been to a game in the USA before, so it was a new experience for him.
The first thing to note is the ground is around 20 miles from the centre of Philadelphia, but this is not unusual for US sporting teams. The ground is in one of the less salubrious parts of town and one I would not like to walk around at night alone. Parking at the ground is plentiful, and very profitable for the Union at $20 per vehicle. Put this into context, match tickets were only $25 each for excellent seats behind the goal.
After parking, we bought match tickets and then took a wander around the ground. Outside the ground there is what can only be designed as a fan zone, with a live band, lots of stalls advertising other events, and kids play areas as well as the obligatory food and alcohol stalls.
Martin commented on the number of female fans there were at the fan zone. He was right, there were indeed far more females than you see at an English game. The atmosphere was very friendly. There was non of the edge that you get at games across Europe. It was indeed a real family atmosphere.
We then had a wander round to the Sons Of Ben BBQ area. This is an area reserved for the Union supporters club who make lots of noise and have exclusive use in the ground of the Riverside End. They spend the whole game making lots of noise and providing passionate support to their team. Two years ago, I managed to gatecrash their BBQ and got free food, beer etc and purchased a couple of t shirts. This time with it being a night game, the BBQ etc did not take place. This was slightly disappointing, but understandable.
Continuing around the outside of the ground, I was explaining to Martin how their would be no away fans as LA was some 2,500 or so miles from Philadelphia. Just as I aid this we bumped into a group of around 50 or so LA Galaxy Fans who had flown to Philadelphia especially for this game and were then heading to New York for the game there on the Sunday.
These guys are amazing. We in England complain about a round trip of 500 miles. These guys are doing over 5000 miles for an away game, a midweek game at that. I had a few minutes chat with them. Inside the ground, this small band of fans gave fantastic support to their team for the whole 90 minutes despite being massively outnumbered. Its good to see such passion and loyalty amongst football fans has engulfed the USA.
Once inside the ground, it was no surprise to find that the stadium had not changed in the last 2 years. The ground is a very new ground and as good facilities as you will find anywhere.
The prices inside the ground were as expensive as in the English Premiership, with a pint of beer being $9.50 and a small bottle of lager $5. Food was equally as expensive. Premiership values? Not sure about that that, but definitely premiership prices for food and drink.
The teams come out behind the Stars and Stripes Flag and then the National Anthem is played before kick off. As always in the USA, the Anthem is respected.
The game itself saw LA Galaxy a goal up almost straight from the kick off. A route was looking likely. LA Galaxy had Robbie Keane upfront and Landon Donovan the USA captain and ex Chelsea keeper Carlo Cuddiccini playing. The next 10 or so minutes confirmed that it would be an LA Galaxy route, but slowly Union got back into the game and eventually equalised, but then just before half time conceded a 2nd goal.
The second half was largely even until Galaxy scored a 3rd and then a fourth goal. As back in England, the 3rd and 4th goals produced mass exoduses of home fans from the ground. This pleased me on a selfish level as it meant the car park was less busy when we left.
Despite the football, the Sons of Ben gave 90 minutes of loud raucous support.
Leaving the ground after the game, it was good to see that Martin had enjoyed himself. It was nice to spend a rare evening with him. Perhaps I can get him to come and watch Spennymoor with me- got to try recruiting people. It was also nice that my mother and sister had been able to had a night to themselves. So it had been a good night all round.
My thoughts on the game were as follows:
1. The standard of football was certainly top end of Championship if not Premiership standard
2. There was far less cheating and diving than in professional games in England.
3. The lack of dissent from the players to the officials was very noticeable
4. The support from the Sons of Ben and the away fans was passionate and never ceased for the full 90 minutes of the game.
5. The atmosphere in the ground was very family friendly with lots of females present
6. The Americans seem to be more obsessed by statistics than we are in England. This is a feature of all American sports coverage of all sports
7. The Americans still have, in general, to develop an understanding of the game in the same was as found in Europe.
Would I go back again? Definitely. I thoroughly enjoyed my 3rd MLS game and my 2nd visit to Philadelphia.