CHESTER, Pa. – The cheers began when he was introduced, got louder when he began to warm up and reached a deafening crescendo when he entered the game.
For Philadelphia Union defender Carlos Valdés (above), Wednesday’s AT&T MLS All-Star Game at PPL Park was certainly a night to remember.
“I think this night has been,” Valdés said, “one of the best nights of my life.”
While the huge ovation from his home fans was expected, entering the game when Valdés did was not.
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The star center back was called into action earlier than planned when Sporting Kansas City defender Aurélien Collin needed to come out with an injury in the 36th minute. But Philly’s hometown hero adjusted well to his first All-Star appearance and made a few critical tackles to help the MLS side earn a thrilling 3-2 victory over Chelsea.
“You could make a case that he could’ve started,” All-Star coach Ben Olsen said. “He’s as good as any center back in the league.”
Philly fans got another dose of excitement later in the game when midfielder Michael Farfan, a last-minute addition to the team, was called upon to replace David Beckham in the 74th minute. What was it like for the second-year player to replace a soccer legend to the roar of the crowd?
“It was exciting,” Farfan said. “It was an amazing experience that I’ll never forget.”
“I can’t say enough about that kid,” said Philadelphia Union interim manager John Hackworth, an assistant coach with the MLS All-Stars. “He comes up and he’s class. His touch is good. He weights his passes good. He fits right in with this type of personnel.”
And for Hackworth, just seeing the reception for his two players made a special night at PPL Park that much more special.
“It gave me goosebumps,” the Union manager said. “It was incredible. It was great for our fans to see that and embrace Carlos and Michael. It was just fantastic.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.