October 12, 2010
By Charles Cuttone
PPL crowd is smallest to see MNT since 2006
CHESTER, Pa—In just their first season in Major League Soccer, the Philadelphia Union’s fans have developed a reputation for being passionate, supporting their team no matter, what, and being at times being a little bit R-rated in their chants.
The U.S. National team got only a small slice of that in their 0-0 tie with Colombia at PPL Park on Tuesday night, with an announced crowd of 8,823 on hand. The last time the U.S. played in front of that small a crowd was in 2006, when they played in front of 8,036 at Cary, NC, but that was in a stadium that seated only 6,000.
That the crowd at PPL was mostly supporting Colombia was also a bit of a surprise, given the enthusiasm for the team coming off the 2010 World Cup, and the fact that Philadelphia is not only among the attendance leaders in MLS, but is also now leading in petition signatures to bring the 2018 or 2022 World Cup to the United States. The final game before the U.S. left for South Africa was at Lincoln Financial Field, just up the road, and drew 55,407, larger than any of the crowds the team played in front of at the World Cup.
“I think it was extremely disappointing,” said Danny Califf, the captain of the Philadelphia Union, who earned 22 caps with the National Team between 2002 and 2009. “I think it was due to the fact that U.S. Soccer didn’t put a whole lot into it and the Union weren’t involved in selling it. So it was a bit of a weird situation. It was disappointing. The guys tonight deserved a better crowd. They deserved a Union crowd and they didn’t get it.”
Those sitting in the stands were not the only ones that noticed the disappointing turnout.
“I thought it was tough, a tough place to play,” said U.S. forward Jozy Altidore. “Maybe the advertising wasn’t the greatest. I still know we have a lot of strong fans out there, I’m not worried about when you have a game like this. It happens.”
Despite the fact that it was a pro-Colombian crowd, the U.S. supporters sitting on the stadium’s River End, usually reserved for the Sons of Ben during Union home games, made most of the noise, chanting and singing and playing instruments throughout the game. It wasn’t until the 16th minute that the Colombian fans started to chant for their team, but they didn’t keep it up as long, and were not nearly as loud.
Altidore said he’s not concerned that the U.S. doesn’t have a homefield advantage everywhere it plays.
“We go to places we have them, so I am not really worried about that.”