CHESTER, Pa. -- Seriously, what are the odds? Think about how many times you've gone to a sporting event and complained about the performance of a player. It's something that comes with the territory of being a sports fan, although we do tend to forget that these athletic heroes we build up and then so eagerly tear down actually are human beings.
They're someone's son ... or fiance, as it turns out. Press sports editor Mark Melhorn and I found that out in rather uncomfortable-yet-humorous terms Saturday night at PPL Park. Mark and I met his father, Noel, at the match to take in Freddy Adu's debut for the Philadelphia Union against FC Dallas. Last year, our trio also attended the high-profile Union-Celtic friendly.
We had bought tickets online ... randomly ... in section 122 on Friday. Fighting heavy rain on the drive along Route 322 Saturday night, we arrived at the stadium, grabbed a few beers and settled in along with the other 18,811 fans. FC Dallas is a very good team, as evidenced by their appearance in the MLS Cup final against eventual winner Colorado last season.
And when FC Dallas player Maicon Santos scored the opener in the 7th minute to give his team a 1-0 lead, it looked like the Union was in for a long night. Santos took advantage of a miscommunication between Union central defender Carlos Valdes and goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon to slot home a soft goal. It was the kind of goal the Union weren't surrendering early in the year, but times have changed recently along the Chester waterfront.
After such a costly defensive mishap, Mark uttered a completely harmless statement ... something along the lines of "that's the kind of goal you would have expected to see Chris Seitz give up last year." Let's get one thing straight: Mark is not wrong. In fact, on the car ride up to the match, we were talking at length about how Mondragon has added a much-needed stability to the Union's defense. The team definitely has upgraded.
But, we certainly weren't prepared to see a blonde, twentysomething woman turn around from the seats directly in front of us and defend former Union keeper Seitz ... now a back-up on FC Dallas' roster ... with a passion. It turns out Katie Kavchok is Seitz's fiancee, and she wasn't about to countenance any criticism of her hubby-to-be without a fight. To make matters even more hairy for us, she was sitting next to Lindsey Rosen, who's Brek Shea's girlfriend.
Shea just happens to be FC Dallas' best player, and he just so happened to put in quite a shift for the United States men's national team at the Linc in Philly on Wednesday night. Shea assisted on Robbie Rogers' equalizer in the 1-1 tie with Mexico in that match, and the blonde bomber (Shea's haircut certainly is distinctive) also scored against the Union in first-half stoppage time to give FC Dallas a 2-1 halftime lead Saturday night.
All credit to the Union ... they fought back to earn a 2-2 draw on Sebastien Le Toux's second penalty-kick conversion of the night. Philadelphia could have won the game, but the acrobatics of FC Dallas starting goalkeeper Kevin Hartman kept it honors even. As for Mr. Adu? The one-time savior of U.S. soccer played 62 minutes, mostly tucked inside as an left midfielder. In the second half, he was moved out wider to the left, and throughout the game he consistently put good balls in via left-footed crosses.
Unfortunately, Adu's passes along the ground were inaccurate, but postgame quotes from Union manager Peter Nowak indicated Adu's fitness just isn't there yet. The Philly braintrust (Nowak and assistant John Hackworth) will find a role for Adu, and the fact that he was given a start Saturday means they see him as a true contributor to this team long-term. The "elephant in the room" is if the Union is serious in its rumored pursuit of L.A. Galaxy striker Juan Pablo Angel.
The Colombian forward who shone so many years for the New York Red Bulls may not have much left in the tank, but you have to think the Union would rather have him up top with Le Toux or Danny Mwanga in a playoff series instead of the still-green Jack McInerney. Everyone around the Union loves "Jack Mac," but the kid might not be ready for primetime just yet.
If the "U" is after at least a berth in the MLS Cup final this season, a move for Angel makes a whole lot of sense. But, hey, that on-the-field stuff is soooooooo boring when it comes to spending an evening trading good-natured barbs with Kavchok and Rosen. Once the women realized we were just harmless, normal, middle-aged guys with paunchy guts and serious eyesight problems, they warmed to our presence. They deserve a lot of credit.
And it's that kind of bonding in the stands and concourses that makes attending Union games so much fun. While the Union runs a slick operation, there's still not the corporate feel to proceedings yet. Just before kickoff, I was greeted by "Yewnyun Guy" Dave (Dave Winans) who I sat near last year. We are all in this for the same reason, and the camaraderie rises above a win, tie or loss any night. As we say ... Come on, the "U"!!!