For a night, living like the pros
Local game pits Penn against Villanova at PPL Park, home of MLS’ Union
September 8, 2011, 11:17 pm · Updated September 8, 2011, 11:25 pm·
Alexandra Fleischman | DP
Sunday night, as Penn women’s soccer prepared to shutout Delaware, the Quakers warmed up to a near-capacity 600 fans at Rhodes Field.
Now they’re trying to fill 18,500 seats at PPL Park. Home of Major League Soccer’s Philadelphia Union, the stadium will host Penn (2-0) and Villanova (4-0-3) tonight in the Red and Blue’s first game in a pro stadium since facing Loyola-Chicago at Toyota Park in 2007.
“It’s going to be awesome,” junior centerback Erin Thayer said. “We’re all really excited. It’s a tremendous experience.”
Coach Darren Ambrose said he would consider attendance over 1,000 a great success.
Penn Athletics has arranged for a bus to take students to the stadium — which is located 25 minutes outside Philadelphia in Chester, Pa. — for $10, a fee that includes a ticket.
Ambrose said Penn and Villanova have reached out to local clubs and youth organizations, and Thayer said the team has made a Facebook event.
Ambrose said the game will be a great opportunity not only for the team, but also for the community to see high-level women’s soccer.
He did not believe, however, that the expansive surroundings would have any bearing on the team’s performance.
“At the end of the day, [PPL Park] is a great field with two goals,” he said.
Both Thayer and Ambrose said playing in PPL Park did not affect the team’s approach in practice either.
“We’ve always tried to keep our focus,” Thayer said. “Not necessarily because it’s PPL, but for our own focus.”
The Quakers tried to arrange for a time to practice at PPL Park but were unable to because of scheduling conflicts, so game day will be their first time on the field.
Behind the goalkeeping tandem of junior Sarah Banks and senior Caroline Williams, the Red and Blue also enter the game with a clean sheet — the second time in program history that the team has posted two shutouts to open the season.
“They’re both playing awesome,” Thayer said.
She also credited the team defense in keeping the streak alive.
“It’s definitely not just our back line,” she said. “Midfield, forwards, all the way up I think are all working together really well, and hopefully we can continue that through the weekend.”