During unprecedented lows, Union and fans try to stay positive

The Philadelphia Union closed its Power Training Complex along the Delaware River in Chester back on March 12th, since no major sports have been played across the country. But the Union and their fans have tried to remain (somewhat) optimistic.

Mandatory Credit: James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

Despite the bleakest of news day after day as we continue to live through an unprecedented global pandemic, the Philadelphia Union and their fan base are remaining connected via social media.

The 2020 MLS campaign started on a sour note for Philadelphia Union after failing to score in a 2-0 loss at FC Dallas on leap day, February 29th. Fans were rightfully upset and some worry immediately crept in.

But the week 2 performance out west against MLS elites LAFC catapulted the Union into the league’s top 10 in power rankings. After a mind-blowing 3-3 draw on a late Sunday night back on March 8th, Philadelphia found themselves in national MLS discussions. Their epic performance sent a message to the rest of the league that 1) they can contend with anyone and 2) Jakob Glesnes is the real deal (see below).

But just as quickly as the momentum built for Philadelphia, it all vanished away during the late afternoon of March 12th.

Major League Soccer officials decided to postpone the season in light of growing concerns of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. It was a smart decision, and the postponement on both games and training have been extended since.

As of March 12th, MLS decided to place a 30-day hold on the season. Just one week later on March 19th, the league decided to take extra precautions and suspend the season until at least May 10th – thanks to sensible guidelines produced by the Center for Disease Control.

Training is now halted until at least April 3rd, which was announced last week and will most likely be extended once more considering the circumstances globally as well as nationally.

Both the May 10th and April 3rd dates are expected to be pushed back again. The exact time frames are still very much in the air.

However, during unprecedented times like these, mostly filled with depressing and hard-hitting news, the club decided to lean in and provide their fan base with brief moments of relief from the stress of our new normal.

Two days after the league decided to postpone play initial, the club decided to stick with their transparent ways by releasing a letter to Union fans from Front Office President Tim McDermott. He expressed sympathy for fans as well as some gratitude while trying to highlight the realty of the situation. It’s a move the club did not need to make yet they did so anyway.

Following the league’s announcement March 19th to extend the postponement, McDermott once again released a letter to the fans, further strengthening connections with the club and their fan base during difficult times.

In addition to remaining as transparent as possible, the club decided to grant fan requests revolving around re-airing old Union matches since no major sports are to be played.

March 15th, the club unveiled ‘Union Classic’ – an obvious shout out to the once great ESPN Classic channel that aired events from the past.

The club even reached an agreement with PHL17 to televise old matches as opposed to simply streaming them on the team website.

The full schedule was released on March 25th and so far fans have been able to enjoy two classic Union matches.

In fact, last night fans were able to enjoy a stellar 2-0 home opener win from 2018 against New England Revolution which featured former Union players like CJ Sapong, Keegan Rosenberry, Fabian Herbers, David Accam, and Haris Medunjanin.

The full schedule for Union Classic is below.

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In addition to re-airing some classics from the Union’s past, the club’s social media has been firing on all cylinders the past month. A new weekly Wednesday tradition allows fans to make requests of the social media team in hopes of seeing new team related gifs, pictures, videos, etc.

A few fans had oddly specific Phang related requests, and they were gladly granted.

In the weeks since, the club has routinely shared videos from the players either working out in their homes or chatting about the virus or sending messages to fans. All of these little ideas continue to help the fan base collectively move forward with no soccer as we adjust each day to a new normal.

The exchanges below with young Union fans via Zoom video chat are hopefully a glimpse of what’s to come from more Union players.

And despite all of the positives listed above, there is no bigger positive than the news of more than 200 part-time game day employees at Subaru Park being offered financial assistance during this hard time.

It was a touch and go process handled with delicacy. As other major sports teams announced they would be paying their game day staff despite no games, pressure seemed to mount on teams throughout multiple leagues to act and to act smartly.

McDermott and the Union front office may have moved slowly according to some, however they released word of a Gameday Employee Assistance Fund late last week.

The gameday employees cover a wide variety of services for fans each week. They include guest services, food services, security, and parking as well as others.

“This is an unprecedented situation in which our leadership and staff had to adapt very quickly,” said McDermott via email last week. “Spectra is an excellent partner and everyone was committed to help those workers who were affected. I am incredibly proud of our entire organization for being flexible and stepping up under the current circumstances.”

McDermott mentioned discussions occured almost immediately after MLS decided to suspend the season.

“We had calls with many other teams in a variety of leagues to discuss ideas,” said McDermott. “The front office employees, coaching/technical staff, players, full and part-time employees and fans are all part of the Union community.  We recognize that it’s a challenging situation.  We want to find ways to positively impact our community and help those who are in need.”

Those employees seeking assistance are encouraged to call (610) 859-3100.

“A representative will walk them through the process to receive assistance,” said McDermott. “We are also urging Spectra representatives to have conversations and provide information for additional counseling if needed.”

While many throughout the country and the globe are battling to adjust to a new normal while waves upon waves of negative news are flooding screens, some Union fans may be relieved to know the club they support is doing all they can to bring some small yet overwhelmingly positive, soccer-fueled moments back to the fore-front.

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Peace out Union fans!

Mandatory Credit: James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

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