How to fake it: Philadelphia Union's championship quest
The Philadelphia Union has turned to Aretha Franklin to demand respect from the soccer world.
Driving the news: The song — played this weekend after the Union's commanding 4-1 season-opening home win over the Columbus Crew — was in response to shade thrown by a soccer executive who told The Athletic that all Union players do is “kick the sh– out of you,” rankling team manager Jim Curtin, who called the anonymous criticism cowardly.
Catch up quick: In case you need a refresher on Philly's disappointing year of sports, the Union suffered a heartbreaking loss to Los Angeles in penalty kicks during last season’s MLS Cup — a blow that came the same day the Phillies lost the World Series.
What they’re saying: Curtin says the team has gotten a lot of mileage out of playing the underdog card. But while the Union is an early favorite to return to the MLS Cup, the only way to erase all doubt is by winning a championship this season.
- “We’re in a big city,” Curtin told the Inquirer. “We’ve used this ‘Nobody respects us’ mantra to get us where we are, and now that we’re here ...”
Looking to put some respeck on the Union's name? Here's all you need to know to send haters packing:
Players to watch: Expect to see every starter from last year's championship squad back on the pitch, this season.
- Midfielder Daniel Gazdag led the team in goals while goalkeeper Andre Blake helped the team stay stingy, giving up the fewest goals in the league.
- The team added more depth in the offseason by acquiring midfielder Andrés Perea from Orlando, defender Damion Lowe from Miami and midfielder Joaquín Torres from Montreal.
Coach’s corner: Curtin believes his team’s most valuable asset is “continuity” with players knowing each other's tendencies, allowing them to exploit strengths and mask deficiencies on the field.
Fandemonium: If you’re looking to jump aboard the Union hype train, make sure you check out the team’s anthology to ensure you’re hip to all the chants and songs played at games.
- If you really want to impress your friends, memorize the lyrics to Scooter’s “Maria (I Like It Loud), or “Doop” as it's known to diehards. It’s played at home after every Union goal.
- Also, and this is another very important baseline, the Philadelphia Union play in Chester.
Games to watch: The Union plays New York City twice this year — on the road May 27 and at home July 15. Just remember this is the team the Union beat to get to the MLS Cup, and lost to the season before in the conference finals when their roster was decimated by a COVID-19 outbreak.
- The Union takes on Los Angeles on Sept. 23 in a highly anticipated rematch at home.
New this season: The Union’s enthusiastic fans inspired a “For Philly” jersey makeover that includes the club’s snake icon and a blue and gold camouflage pattern that looks like the smoke that “erupts from the River End on matchdays,” according to Philadelphia Sports Nation.
What's next: The Union is on the road next at Miami before returning home to face Chicago on March 11. Tickets: $32+
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