Corey Furlan couldn't contain his excitement upon hearing the expansion Philadelphia Union had made yet another trade.
"That gives us three picks in the first round: No. 1, No. 6, and No. 7," he said Thursday morning as the Sons of Ben supporters' group laid in their preparations for the MLS SuperDraft at McGillen's Old Ale House, which opened for them at 9 a.m., five hours before the start of the show. "That tells you a lot about this team. They're already going for it."
Philadelphia acquired the No. 6 pick by sending allocation money to FC Dallas after it had swapped allocation places with D.C. United, in exchange for midfielder Fred, United's first-round pick, and allocation money.
Furlan, a drug and alcohol counselor, proclaimed he's been sober for five years amid more than 100 fans clad in Union scarves and shirts, many of them clutching pints of beer. He is the game-day coordinator/capo for the Sons of Ben, and his first official function will be to manage
the chants and cheers for Union supporters who will crowd into the Pennsylvania Convention Center Ballroom to observe the draft's activities, cheer the Union's selection, and perhaps get a head start in their rivalry with fans of D.C. United and Red Bull New York, who are coming into town.
"Philadelphia fans get a bad rap, that they're too negative," says Furlan, who along with about 50 other Union fans have bought tickets to the team's first match, March 25 in Seattle. "We're going to show people around the league that Philly has the best fans in the country and can support a soccer team."
About 100 D.C. fans signed up to take a team-sponsored bus to the draft, and as of Thursday morning, the team had received 58 confirmations. The Red Bulls are expected to have a contingent about the same size.
"We'll be chanting, we'll be cheering, we'll be in full voice giving everyone an idea of what they can expect once the season starts," added Furlan.
Union fans have been hearing the team's first match in its new stadium will be on July 4. It will play at least two "home" games at Lincoln Financial Field, and from six to eight n the road before MLS takes a two-week break for the first round of the World Cup in mid-June.
"I pass by it every day on the train on my way to work," says Sons of Ben co-founder and president Bryan James of the Chester, Pa., site on which the team is building a 18,500-capacity stadium that will include a special section and private entrance for the group.
"As hard as it's going to be to wait, it's going to be great. We want to make it the best stadium in the league."
He looked around the pub, where three years ago he helped found the Sons of Ben, and said, "Look at all these people and it's 11 o'clock in the morning on a week day. What a great group of crazies."
Added Furlan, "This sport is light years from where it was in the days of the [NASL] Atoms and Fury. It's definitely on the way up, and deserves to be supported along with the Phillies and Flyers and Eagles and the other teams. We'll show that Philly is soccer town as well."
About 40 minutes before the start of the draft, shouts and chants and cheers of "Union!" rang through the ballroom. Chants of "We all hate the Red Bulls!" and "Phil-a-del-phia!" followed.
The Sons of Ben had arrived.