Where are they now? Looking back at the Union’s first-ever starting XI

On February 28th 2008, it was finally announced that after years of thwarted attempts and significant opposition from a franchise that would later be bought out by a reasonably successful energy drink company, an MLS franchise was coming to Philly. Just over two years later, the first Philadelphia Union team took to the field in Seattle against the Sounders, who have sadly become a mainstay in the latter stages of the MLS Cup playoffs.

In a foreshadowing of the disciplinary problems that would blight the early part of the 2010 season, it took just 33 seconds for the Union to receive their first-ever yellow card. Not to be outdone, a Finnish midfielder by the name of Toni Stahl would pick up two yellow cards in 39 minutes and be sent from the field. It was his first and last 39 minutes in a Union shirt. The ten men of Union put up a brave fight but were outclassed by Seattle and went down 2-0. More than 10 years on from that day, what became of these pioneers of soccer in Philadelphia that started that day? 

GK- Chris Seitz

A promising and at 23 still young goalkeeper at the time, Chris Seitz got off to an underwhelming start in his first season as a first-choice keeper. Having conceded a hatful of goals, he lost his place in the starting 11 to Brad Knighton later that season. He was not retained for the next year, and ended up at Dallas, where he again played second fiddle until 2016, his most successful season to date, when the Texan franchise would lift both the Supporter’s Shield and the Open Cup.

His most commendable accomplishment was arguably off the field in 2012, an MLS Humanitarian of the Year award received for risking his career to donate bone marrow to a stranger, an act that proved to be life-saving. Now 33, appearances in MLS have been hard to come by in recent years, and he is currently a backup option at DC United. 

DR- David Myrie

Union picked the Costa Rican defender in the Expansion Draft, after he was released by Chicago Fire. This inaugural game would be his only game for the club, as he was released at the end of that month. He has since played his domestic football almost exclusively in his native Costa Rica, save for an ill-fated spell at Norwegian club Fredrikstad. Internationally he has won 24 caps for the Central American nation, and even appeared once at the 2014 World Cup, having been added to their roster at the last minute. 

DC- Danny Califf

The captain and most senior player in this lineup, Califf was one of the most recognized and accomplished defenders in MLS in the first half of the 2000s, racking up over 100 appearances for LA Galaxy and 26 caps for the US men’s national team. For Union, he would be a stalwart in the defense until 2012, and would then round out his career at Chivas and Toronto before eventually retiring from soccer in 2013.

He now runs a soccer academy in his hometown in California, working alongside other former professional players. 

DC- Michael Orozco

Orozco was loaned to Union for the start of the 2010 season, with an option for the fledgling franchise to purchase the defender permanently from parent club San Luis at the end of the season, which ultimately was not taken up. He appeared for San Luis in the Mexican top-flight 106 times before turning out for Puebla and Tijuana, becoming a household name in the Mexican domestic game while finding success in the national team when the US brought the Gold Cup home in 2013. Now in the twilight of his career at 34, he plays in the USL Championship for Orange County SC. 

DL- Jordan Harvey

The only player in this lineup to have appeared in every single game of the Union’s first season, Jordan Harvey has been a regular in MLS for his entire senior career. He carried on with Union until the midway point of the 2011 season when he was traded to the Vancouver Whitecaps.

He became part of the furniture north of the border, staying in the first team for seven years, and now plies his trade with LAFC, having joined in 2018. At 36, his minutes now need to be managed, but he can look back on a long career in US soccer’s top tier, culminating in a Supporter’s Shield trophy with the Black and Gold last year. 

Continued on the next page below.

Photo Credit: Philadelphia Union

Leave a Reply