By Siobhan Nolan
How does one prepare for the most important game in a club’s history?
Did Sir Alex Ferguson ever dream that he would lead Manchester United to a treble? How seriously did Arsene Wenger believe in the possibility of going an entire season without losing a single game? Could Zinedine Zidane have predicted that he would go from being one of the most iconic soccer players of all time to a manager that won the Champions League three times? Jim Curtin overseeing the Union in the second leg of the Concacaf Champions League semifinals might not seem like it at all compares to the aforementioned achievements of other managers.
But to the Union faithful, it’s infinitely more important.
It’s cliche to describe any Philadelphia team as “gritty.” No Philadelphia fan wants to hear that their team plays aggressively, physically, and with a chip on their shoulder (something that this author is guilty of, unfortunately.) It’s all been said. However, it’s all true for the game against Club America.
It’s safe to say that nobody, maybe not even the Union themselves, thought that the Union would get this far. They’re the last MLS team standing in the competition. They’re facing off against the most successful club in this competition’s history. Sitting in Subaru Park, there are so many Club America fans that what should be a home game sounds more like an away game. It would be entirely too easy for the Union to get psyched out.
However, that’s never been the Union way. The odds, for the most part, have always been against them. (There’s literally a banner hanging in front of the Sons of Ben seating section that reads “Philly vs. Everybody”.) If the Sons of Ben had listened to everyone that said there’s no way a small group of fans could bring a soccer team to Philadelphia, the Union wouldn’t even be here. If Curtin had listened to everyone that said that the less-than-mediocre team he took over in 2014 wasn’t amounting to much, it’s doubtful that he would have won the club’s first major trophy when he did. The Union have never been about listening to the noise.
No matter what happens tonight, the Union can take pride in the fact that they made it this far. And if they crash out of the CCL tonight, they will do so in a blaze of glory. If they win against Club America, they will go down in the history books, and they will send every yellow shirt in this stadium home in a fit of tears.
The time is now. The stage is set. Regardless of the result, the Union have come this far. Only time will tell if they’re destined to go all the way.