Union Notebook: Torres return ignites warm ovation

Philadelphia's Roger Torres

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CHESTER, Pa. – In a game that featured three Philadelphia Union goals and many more exciting plays, the biggest cheers Sunday at PPL Park may have been saved for a player who logged just seven minutes and didn’t register a shot on target.

That’s just how much fans love Roger Torres, who made his first appearance since March 24. Torres, who replaced Michael Farfan late in Sunday’s game vs. Toronto FC, only recently returned to full health after undergoing knee surgery for a left MCL injury.

“I was so excited for that,” Torres told MLSsoccer.com of the loud ovation that greeted his return. “I don’t believe that. It’s crazy. These are things that I love and never forget.”

One of the only remaining franchise originals, Torres has been an important player for the Union over the past two-and-a-half seasons, often providing a spark off the bench. The 20-year-old Colombian has nine assists in his MLS career and quickly became a fan favorite for his offensive skills.

HIGHLIGHTS: PHI 3, TOR 0

He hurt his knee during a Reserve League match against New England on April 9, and although he admits he’s not yet feeling 100 percent, it was still a thrill to see his first live game action in more than three months.

“I had to wait a long time for this,” Torres said. “I can’t tell you happy I am right now.”

Haircuts & Hoppenot

Thanks to a new partnership, the Union’s sudden offensive revival is helping their fans look good.

Every time the Union score three goals in a regular-season home game, those in attendance are eligible for a free haircut at a local participating Great Clips. After Sunday’s 3-0 win over Toronto, which was capped by a late goal from Antoine Hoppenot, the team has now done that twice in the past two weeks.

“Great Clips is not going to like Antoine Hoppenot,” Union interim manager John Hackworth laughed. “He comes on the field and creates something and we get another third goal.”

Against Sporting Kansas City on June 23, Hoppenot also scored the final goal in a lopsided win. And in addition to his two league goals – in just 155 minutes – the reserve striker has drawn two penalty kicks and netted the game-winner in overtime in Philly’s US Open Cup win over D.C. United on June 5.

“He’s electric coming off the bench and today is a game when there’s a lot of tired legs out there and he has a lot of energy,” Hackworth said. “It’s fantastic to see.”

Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at djzeitlin@gmail.com.