Union-Celtic: The ultimate WTF game

(Published on the Philly Soccer Page on July 15, 2010.)

You know those pseudo-intellectual, semi-respectable, journalistic (and probably pretentious!) types of posts I often write here about the Union, their tactics and the future?

Yeah, well, this isn’t one of them.

This is a look back at a night that was basically my ultimate WTF game. Just a bizarre night for so many reasons. Here’s why.

This is the traffic jam 15 minutes before kickoff. (Photo: Patrick Martin)

I found the true River End, and it’s not occupied by Sons of Ben. No, it’s actually Route 291, the main road into the stadium, which flooded to the point that water apparently reached as high as my car door handle, according to the guy directing traffic there. I sat in traffic for 45 minutes (with a guy in a Celtic shirt in the car behind me) before finally getting to the place where the traffic herders set up and veered me away from the flood. Yes, rather than set their people up by the exit ramp or the traffic light where they could have rerouted hundreds or thousands of cars BEFORE they sat in an unmoving line for 45 minutes, they just let us sit … and sit … and sit. We got to the stadium 30 minutes into the game. WTF?

I was rejoicing over the traffic jam as the game went on without me. (Photo: Patrick Martin)

Suggestion to the Union: Use your awesome social networking skills to notify people via Twitter or Facebook if you hear of biblical traffic messes like that. (And yes, Union employees knew. One mentioned it to me.) The failure to do so isn’t the fault of the Union, because these first games are a learning experience. But now we know.

Eduardo Coudet? Eduardo Coudet? We were dying in traffic at game time, and my buddy gets a Facebook message on his cell phone indicating some guy named Coudet is starting. Coudet? Coudet? They snuck another one in?  WTF?  Supposedly he’s played outside midfield for much of his career, but he was deployed at center midfield Wednesday. Looks like he can play, and that cartoon hair style has serious comedic potential. But seriously, make an announcement about a new player or something. I mean, a journeyman midfielder isn’t a state secret. WTF?

Brian Perk makes a brilliant save against Celtic. (Photo: Nicolae Stoian)

Brian Perk is a damn cat. Did you see those saves? That guy was everywhere! Fearless, acrobatic, quick as Bruce Lee, he secured the win with several brilliant saves in the last 15 minutes. Chris Seitz has been playing well, but don’t be surprised if Union fans start calling for Perk if Seitz starts struggling again. (Heck, this is Philly. They might call for him after every goal.) The guy was just brilliant. His style of goalkeeping is based on quickness and aggression, and it has to be, as he doesn’t even break six feet. Just awesome. WTF?

Toni Stahl, thanks for joining us, we have some nice parting gifts for you. Wow, another red card in less than a half of play. Terrific. Yep, don’t think we’ll be seeing him in a regular season game too soon. Most teams are actually better when they play with 11 men instead of 10. Dave Myrie and Shavar Thomas await. Sure, the second yellow card was pretty questionable, but WTF?

Yeah guys, you brought enough to smoke out the whole stadium. (Photo: Nicolae Stoian)

It’s not Scottish soccer unless some idiot fans are getting arrested.Yeah, thanks for the flares, guys. You let off so much smoke that it basically put a haze over the whole field for about 10 minutes. Hope security didn’t rough you up too much there as they dragged you out. Real classy too to toss entire beers into the air at Union fans in section 120 after your team scored. We really enjoyed watching the ref wave that goal off. We know you like your team, but WTF?

The Union won’t let me put my season ticket in my own name. So a friend reserved our tickets so we could ensure we had all three seats in one place. (Yeah, I can get press credentials to a game, but on Saturdays, I like to kick back and enjoy a game like anyone else – in the stands.) But when it came time to pay for them, I paid for the tickets with my credit card. Now I can’t switch the tickets to my name. It means I can’t get whatever benefits come with being a founding member.

A Union ticket rep explained to me the logic behind it Wednesday  night, that it’s to prevent someone from going in with a friend just to snag a boatload of tickets and cut the line of reservations. Sure, I can see theoretically how that would work, and the guy was a nice guy so I can’t be mad at him for a policy. (To be clear, I can get pretty good access to the team if I want it thanks to the Union’s solid PR staff, so it’s more the principle — and the recognition that others likely have similar situations but no press credential.) But what’s more likely: That, or that people simply didn’t want to have to coordinate the times of their reservations to ensure they got to select seats consecutively later on? This one has to change. We’ll give this a toned down, lowercase WTF in anticipation of the generally smart Union brass making the right call to change this in the offseason: wtf?

I watched 45 minutes of crappy soccer until the last few minutes.Yeah, the flood kept me out so that I missed the goal and most of the Union regulars. Then I watched both teams kick the ball around and do nothing for most of the second half. At least some of the regulars looked good, like Califf, Orozco, Jacobson (very poised) and Arrieta (great showing). Union Jack showed a little hop in his step, and Nick Zimmerman actually got more than five minutes in a game. But that was some boring, boring soccer for a while there. This Celtic team? Yeah, it’s preseason, but they’re such a pale shadow of what this club used to be that I was just like, WTF?

That last sequence was insane. Two brilliant saves by Perk. A great block of a shot by a defender (either Arrieta or Califf, I think, but I forget who). Boom, boom, boom. My buddy’s 12-year-old nephew isn’t a soccer fan, but we brought him to the game because we had an extra ticket. He said he loved it. It was the atmosphere in part, but that last sequence definitely helped. Absolutely brilliant. WTF!