Kelly Rule was just trying to help.
The celebratory woman on the street interviewed by Ruhl, a local news reporter, was great for TV, but paused as she named the Philadelphia sports teams that were “taking over” in addition to the Phillies, who had won the National League pennant tonight.
“The Union,” Rule suggested, only to have her subject wonder aloud, “Like the blue collars?”
– ESPN+ Viewers Guide: LaLiga, Bundesliga, MLS, FA Cup and more
But while the MLS Eastern Conference finalists may not break through with everyone, they certainly figure to be a crucial part of an exciting moment in Philadelphia sports: The Union are two wins away from the first-ever MLS Cup hosted by New York City FC in rematch of 2021 Eastern Conference final on Sunday night; The Phillies are in the World Series, four wins away from their own league title; and the Eagles are undefeated, starting the NFL season at 6-0.
“I think Philadelphia sports fans are having a great, great time,” Union outfielder Alejandro Bedoya said this week. “We welcome all new fans and it’s good to see that we’ve been getting some recognition across the city recently. We represent Philly with our team.”
Some fans in the city may not know they are represented by focusing on the Eagles on Sunday. Others may leave camp next weekend for Houston, where the NFC East leaders face the Texans on Thursday Night Football and a potential Game 6 and Game 7 World Series between the Phillies and Astros on the Gulf Coast. But the MLS club knows Subaru Park in Chester, Pennsylvania, will still be packed with fans supporting the Union on Sunday – and potentially for next Saturday’s final.
“It’s been interesting as a Union fan that has become my No. 1 fan for the last 12 years since the team has been around,” said fan Mike Thomas, who also supports the other teams in town. “It’s kind of overwhelming to be honest. For a while I thought this was going to be the Union’s time to shine, but then the Eagles and Phillies came out strong – no complaints!”
Neither does the Union, even in a crowded sports city where they compete for eyeballs with teams deeply rooted in the fabric of a city that values its history.
A host of local players who have come through the Union’s strong academy enjoy the success enjoyed by other teams in the city, and manager Jim Curtin is from Philadelphia. The 43-year-old said he hears comparisons to the early 1980s, just before his time, when the Phillies won their first World Series and the Sixers and Flyers won the NBA and NHL conference titles. His last three Instagram posts support other local teams.
He works to foster an atmosphere of cooperation among the city’s sports organizations, personally attending games and welcoming players from the NBA, NHL, NFL and MLB to Chester. Union goaltender Andre Blake hit the Liberty Bell cue that rings before Sixers games on Monday after Phillies employee Edmundo Sosa hit the Union drum before a 1-0 win against FC Cincinnati in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Curtin said it’s important to remember that his players are normal human beings affected by their environment, not “cyborgs” or “superheroes” without highs and lows. It is impossible for the manager not to have his team feel the energy around the city as Union and other teams enjoy success.
“When you see Bryce Harper hit that home run, our guys are like, ‘I want to be the guy who hits the big one so I can get the credit next time.'” In a team way — don’t get it wrong,” Curtin said in Thursday at a news conference. “It’s a great energy right now. The city is certainly bustling. When you walk around, it’s all about the Phillies, Eagles, Union. It’s really great to be a part of it.”
The coach is now recognized around town and says his players do, another sign that fewer fans are mistaking defender Jakob Glesnes or midfielder Jose Martinez for pipe fitters or welders.
“I think it certainly speaks to the growth of football,” Curtin said. “We’re the new team in town, let’s be honest, but to see it almost as equals now is something we’ve worked very hard for in this town and something I’m very proud of as a team leader. “
No one will want to provoke anything by thinking about parade days or what the city would look like if the Union took the MLS Cup on the same day the Fightins won the World Series in Game 7 (as many Union players predicted they would).
However, fewer and fewer fans need help identifying their football team. Philadelphia is a sports town that enjoys a dream run from its baseball team and a hot start from its football team. But the Union makes sure that they are also in the picture.