CHESTER, PA. – Seattle midfielder Pat Noonan goes into the record books as the first player to score a goal at Philadelphia’s new PPL Park.
But the Union goes in as the first winner on its home pitch, roaring past the Sounders for a 3-1 victory before a happy, chanting, sweaty, sweltering, sellout crowd of 18,755.
All of it – the 106-degree heat index, the crowd, the energy the Union drew from the crowd – were too much for the Sounders.
“It just wasn’t our day,” goalkeeper Kasey Keller said. “We can’t make excuses for ourselves or whatever else. There are definitely factors. I think we’ve trained one day in 70-degree weather, and we come into a day it’s about 95 with 90-plus humidity. We just haven’t seen it, and we kind of melted there at the end. But ... hats off to Philly for christening their new stadium, and to Sébastien for doing what he does.”
What former Sounder Sébastien Le Toux did was run and run and run like the place was air-conditioned – along the way scoring one goal, assisting another and setting up the third.
“There is lots of ambition because of the new stadium and all of the people that seem too crazy today behind us,” said Le Toux, who went to the Union in the expansion draft. “... Playing against Seattle was very special.”
Philadelphia (3-7-1) dominated from the start. However, Seattle scored first in the 44th minute as Steve Zakuani carried down the left wing, passed to Fredy Montero, who touched the ball on to Noonan, who finished.
That sent the Sounders into the locker room on a high. But 45 minutes later, Noonan said he took no joy in either his first goal as a Sounder or the first in the new stadium – especially after his missed second-half penalty kick was fingered by coach Sigi Schmid as the turning point.
“We lacked energy, and we let them back into the game,” Noonan said. “I had to get that PK in.”
Philadelphia had equalized on a Le Toux PK in the 54th minute after Seattle defender Tyrone Marshall was whistled in the penalty area.
However, a few minutes later, Montero also was fouled in the box.
Freddie Ljungberg later said that he wanted to take the kick, but Schmid selected Noonan.
The veteran midfielder shot low, about halfway between keeper Chris Seitz and the left post, and Seitz smothered it.
Philadelphia pulled away from there.
“Goals change games,” Schmid said. “... We should have scored a second goal off the PK, and we didn’t. Then, the game changes.
“They ended up (scoring) the goals they needed to win the game.”
In the second half, Nate Jaqua made his season debut after a series of injuries, and rookie Michael Seamon recorded his MLS debut.
However, nothing turned the tide as Philadelphia dominated to the final whistle, ending with 13 shots on goal.
Sharing the spotlight with the action on the pitch was the stadium surrounding it.
The game was the first played at PPL Park on the Delaware River in the city of Chester.
The game sold out within five minutes of tickets going on sale. Most notable was the Sons of Ben supporters group, which filled the river end of the stadium singing, chanting, waving banners and giving Ljungberg a particularly hard time.
That was leftover emotion from the Sounders’ season-opening 2-0 win over Philadelphia, when Union manager Peter Nowak had called out Ljungberg for dishonesty and complaining to the referee.
After the rematch, Ljungberg said that Nowak had apologized and that the incident was behind them.
The Sounders will fly home today with little time to relax. They will bus to Portland on Tuesday before opening the defense of their U.S. Open Cup title against the second-division Timbers on Wednesday.
Seattle (4-7-3) returns to league play Sunday, visiting the league-leading Los Angeles Galaxy.
“We’ve been frustrated about the consistence of inconsistency,” Keller said. “That’s frustrating. Last year, we were a consistently difficult team to beat. I want to go on a five-six-seven game streak without losing. We were hoping we were going to start that (Sunday). We’ll have to start it next game.
“... But you can’t do it by conceding three goals a game.”