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Philadelphia Union players make first appearance at Tir Na Nog


A crowd of close to 500 anxious Philadelphia Union  fans waited eagerly in anticipation of the first public appearance of the Philadelphia Union "Sons Of Ben" cheer on the Philadelphia Unionsoccer team at Tir Na Nog  on Arch Street Tuesday night. The club doesn't play their first game until March 25th, 2010 against the Seattle Sounders in Seattle. The home opener for the team is April 10th at Lincoln Financial Field against DC United. The club will play several games at the Linc as their brand new stadium nears completion. However, you may want to buy your tickets as as soon as possible if you want to catch the club in person this summer. They are going extremely fast as the club further inches towards their goal of 12,000 season tickets.

The buzz surrounding this club was never more prevalent than Tuesday night. Where for several hours, the fans had a chance to meet and greet the players on their new home town team for the very first time. A fact that was not lost upon Midfielder Stefani Miglioranzi.

"It's really exciting and a real honor to come to a city with so much history, and I'm very happy that city is going to embrace soccer the way that Philadelphia will. I can tell that right now just being here tonight," Miglioranzi says.

Miglioranzi also gave kudos to the Philadelphia Union organization for bringing a team to Philadelphia and for welcoming him with open arms. "Everyone from the organization is very excited about bringing a team here and have made me feel very welcomed."

Philly2Philly also spoke with Goalkeeper Chris Seitz, who was recently acquired from the MLS Cup Champion Real Salt Lake.

"I think the whole championship was an amazing experience for Real and I was very honored to be a part of a team like that," Seitz notes. "But Philadelphia Union Goalkeeper Chris Seitz signs autographs for the fans at Tir Na Nogwhen I heard I was coming here and that I would be playing for someone like Peter Nowak, I was more than excited. I went to the Olympics with him. Players love to play for him. I'm excited to be here, I'm excited for a new start, to be part of a franchise in their opening year, and to help build this (franchise) into something special, because we all know it can be."

Seitz is also looking forward to experiencing and meeting the already loyal fan base of the Union.

"This is my first trip to Philadelphia, but from what I've heard from the guys who have played for the US National Team, the support from the fans is second to none. Everyone was talking about them. I think events like this are very important to go out and meet these fans."

When asked about his chances of becoming the starting Goalkeeper, Seitz remained humble, yet confident.

"There's no such thing as expecting to start, especially in this league. I expect to go into the pre-season, have a good competition, and in the end we'll see what happens."

While some players are looking for a new start, Forward Nick Zimmerman is happy to be a part of the Union, but also looks forward to scoring a goal against his former team, The New York Red Bulls. "It's gonna be a good feeling. It's gonna be a very good feeling," laughs Zimmerman.

Union President Tom Veit  was ecstatic regarding the impressive turnout for the evening in support of the team he helped bring to Philadelphia. "Look around, it's great. And now it's for real!," exclaimed Veit.

Despite this being the inaugural appearance for the team, the Philadelphia Union are also staunch supporters of their local community.

"We plan on working with a lot of community-based projects. Not just this time of year, but all the time," notes Veit. "We're involved with the Bernardine Center in Chester to help them with a canned goods food drive. It's our responsibility to the community. Because if the community is strong, we will be as well."

The "Help Kick Hunger" food drive in support of the Bernardine Center is spearheaded for the third year in a row by Sons of Ben, an independent fan club of the Union. Bryan James, one of the founders of the group, was also there to support the Union. Needless to say, he is ecstatic beyond belief that his dream of having an MLS team in his own backyard, has now become a reality.  Philadelphia Union Team Manager Peter Nowak introduces his players for the very first time

"It's pretty amazing," states James. "I've always respected Peter Nowak, and for the team to incorporate the light blue that we took from the Philadelphia city flag is just amazing. I'm thrilled."

As the night drew to a close, Nowak introduced his players to the general public for the very first time. To say the crowd went into a frenzy was a vast understatement. And afterwards, the players didn't leave until they signed every autograph. On this night, it was safe to say that no fan of this team went home disappointed. What more can you ask for from a brand new sports team in Philly with ownership who stresses the importance of community support? It's safe to say that after Tuesday night, the Philadelphia Union are scoring before they even take the field.

Countdown to first kick is just three months away.

For Aileen Bannon's COMPLETE LENS Gallery of the event, click HERE