Union ready for first kick

Philadelphia Union Defender Danny Califf (Philadelphia Union)

March 23, 2010 11:10:05 AM PDT
The preparation is virtually complete. The roster is basically finalized, even though the starters may not be named until Thursday. All the meticulous work done by Philadelphia Union's technical staff will be put into place when the club travels to Qwest Field in Seattle for First Kick Thursday against Seattle Sounders FC.

Yes, it's time.


A passionate fan base, which has been anxiously awaiting this game, will get to root for a hometown club.

Area bars will be hopping. Those fans who make the trip will be clapping, screaming and yelling.

"I love playing in Seattle," said Philadelphia Union midfielder Shea Salinas. "There are 30,000 people on their feet for 90 minutes. It's awesome. When they scored on us (San Jose Earthquakes) last year, I got the chills. You don't get tired in that type of game."

The club has been training to get ready for the regular season. The rigorous sessions began at The Healthplex in nearby Springfield and continued in snowy and cold Greensboro, N.C., then to Guadalajara, Mexico, and on to Tampa, Fla.

Now, it's gametime.

"I'm glad it's over," said goalkeeper Chris Seitz. "All the two-a-days are done. We can put in our normal work for the games. We have a game to play and it's a great opportunity to see where we're at week in and week out."

With an expansion team, it's difficult to tell how the season will unfold.

But the club knows this: it was put together from Day One with a specific purpose in mind ? to win.

"I don't play to lose," said defender Danny Califf. "I don't think anybody on this team does. I don't see why we can't win. We'll go out Thursday, roll up our sleeves and try to get three points. To me, that's very realistic. Maybe I'm naïve. That's what I feel like. I feel like we can win."

Forward Nick Zimmerman echoed similar thoughts.

"Come Thursday, we'll be ready to fire on all cylinders," he said. 'We'll be ready to play."

Philadelphia Union Team Manager Peter Nowak was asked whether he was ready to announce a starting goalkeeper and a starting lineup. He said both decisions are likely going to be made the day of First Kick.

"There are no guaranteed spots," said Nowak. "I want the players to be ready for any given day, even if it's for 30 seconds."

Nowak conceded that it's not easy to play for him and added that he was very pleased with the progress of the club.

"The work has been done," Nowak said. "The players have to go back to themselves and ask, 'What's my strength?' I think overall, we've been fortunate with this group because they have been working very, very hard. Everything on paper looks good right now. We have to go and play it on the field now."

To a man, they're sure ready to play.

"I think it's at an all-time high," Califf said of the club's confidence level. "We haven't had a lot of time together. ? The CBA is in place and we'll be ready for lift-off on Thursday. I think it's going to be fantastic."

It has been a long and winding road to get to this point. But it's here. In the present.

It's time for soccer.

"It's awesome," Salinas said. "I'm ready to play."

(Copyright 2010 Philadelphia Union. Reprinted by permission)